Cyprus police chief fired over serial killer case

Cyprus' Justice Minister Ioanas Nicolaou talks to the media after a meeting with Cyprus' president Nicos Anastasiades at the presidential palace in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, May 2, 2019. Nicolaou has resigned over the case of a serial killer who has confessed to killing seven foreign women and girls amid mounting reports that police had bungled their investigation when some of the victims were initially reported missing. (AP Photo/Philippos Christou)
A diver is lowered into a man-made lake to search for suitcases containing the bodies of three victims, near the village of Mitsero outside of the capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, May 2, 2019. The justice minister in Cyprus resigned amid mounting criticism that police bungled their investigations when some of the seven foreign women and girls slain by a serial killer were initially reported missing. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
A diver is lowered into a man-made lake to search for suitcases containing the bodies of three murdered victims, near the village of Mitsero outside of the capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, May 2, 2019. The justice minister in Cyprus resigned amid mounting criticism that police bungled their investigations when some of the seven foreign women and girls slain by a serial killer were initially reported missing. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA, Cyprus — The president of Cyprus fired the small island nation's police chief Friday, saying botched missing person investigations might have allowed a self-confessed serial killer to claim more victims.

President Nicos Anastasiades' action came the day after Cyprus' justice minister resigned amid intensifying criticism of police for mistakes in following up on the disappearances of some of the seven foreign women and girls a 35-year-old army captain has told authorities he killed.

In a letter to Police Chief Zacharias Chrysostomou, Anastasiades said the head of any organization must take responsibility for the actions of subordinates.

The "apparent negligence or failure of police personnel to carry out an investigation on missing persons" possibly contributed to the "abhorrent crimes that have shaken Cypriot society," the president wrote.

The suspect told investigators he disposed of his victims' bodies in an abandoned mineshaft, a poisonous lake and a pit at a military firing range. The oldest killing was in 2016/

Immigrant rights activists have accused the police force of not investigating when foreign workers are reported missing. The victims include three Filipino women and the 6-year-old daughter of one of them, a Romanian mother and daughter, and a woman believed to be from Nepal.

Earlier Friday, Anastasiades met diplomats from the Philippines, Vietnam, India and Sri Lanka to "offer an apology on behalf of the state and the Cypriot people" about the crimes, government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said.

Prodromou said the president told the representatives that foreign worker complaints about rights and living conditions will be handled by the Ombudsman's Office.

The diplomats acknowledged the killings as an "isolated incident" that doesn't correspond with the generally good experiences in Cyprus of workers from their countries, he said.

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