Cyprus probes 'unprecedented' killings by serial killer suspect

ATHENS (Reuters) - Police in Cyprus are probing the actions of a possible serial killer after two women were found murdered and dumped in a mine shaft and a third, a six-year-old child, is still missing.

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The victims were discovered in the space of a week at an abandoned mine about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) west of the capital Nicosia.

One has been identified as a 39-year-old woman from the Philippines who disappeared in May, 2018 along with her six-year-old daughter.

A second victim, found late on Saturday, is thought to be a 28-year-old from the Philippines who was also reported missing last year, though has not been definitively identified.

A 35-year-old career officer with the Cypriot army is in custody on suspicion of killing all three.

“This is a form of crime unprecedented for the norms of Cyprus. It’s premature to assess the extent of this crime,” police chief Zacharias Chrysostomou told reporters.

There was an intensive search at the mine shaft, which is submerged in water, and at a reservoir in the area on Monday morning.

Both women had worked in Cyprus, which has a sizeable Filipino population.

In court hearings, police said the army officer was suspected of having approached the women on an online dating site.

Campaigners say police ignored fears expressed for their safety when they went missing last year. One campaigner, Louis Koutroukides, said police questioned his motives and suggested the 39-year-old and her child may have moved to the north of the divided island.

“If they believed me when I went to the police things would have turned out differently,” he told state TV.

Chrysostomou said police had “every intention” of investigating any perceived shortcomings and would assign responsibility where due.

Reporting by Michele Kambas, editing by Ed Osmond