Cyprus court sentences serial killer to 7 life terms

35-year-old Greek Cypriot army officer Nicholas Metaxas, who murdered five women and two children, was handed seven life sentences today in a serial killing case that has shocked the Mediterranean island. (AFP/Facebook page of Nicos Metaxas)
Updated 24 June 2019
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Cyprus court sentences serial killer to 7 life terms

  • The army captain was sentenced to 7 life terms in prison after pleading guilty to kidnapping and murdering 7 foreign women and girls
  • The 3-judge panel said the serial killer ‘didn’t even hesitate to kill children’ over a 2-and-a-half-year period

NICOSIA: A Cyprus criminal court on Monday sentenced an army captain to seven life terms in prison after he pleaded guilty to the premeditated murder and kidnapping of seven foreign women and girls.
In handing down the sentence, the three-judge panel said that Nicholas Metaxas appeared to have mounted a “campaign of murder” in choosing defenseless women, most of whom came to Cyprus looking for work.
The judges said Metaxas “didn’t even hesitate to kill children” over a 2½-year period during which prosecutors said he sought out many of his adult victims on online social networks using the handle “Orestes35” and had sex with them.
Five life terms will run consecutively, while two will run concurrently. The judges said there could be no mitigating circumstances in such a case.
Earlier, Metaxas pleaded guilty and tearfully apologized to the families of his victims for the “unjust pain” he has caused them.
Reading from a prepared statement, Metaxas said he doesn’t “have any clear answers” why he committed the killings and that he has “struggled” to figure out the “why and how.”
The 35-year-old officer said his cooperation with police investigators was the least he could do to ease the pain he caused to the families of the victims and his own family. Metaxas killed four Filipino women and the daughter of one of them, as well as a Nepalese woman and a Romanian mother and her daughter.
“I cannot go back in time and undo what I have done,” Metaxas, clad in a bulletproof vest and surrounded by armed police, told a packed courtroom.
He asked authorities for a scientific panel to interview him in order to delve into his psyche and find the reasons for his actions in what’s believed to be the east Mediterranean island nation’s first serial killer case. He did speak of unspecified events in his past “decades ago” that he tried to forget.
He looked down throughout his court appearance as a state prosecutor said six of the victims died of strangulation and the seventh of a massive head injury.
The case came to light on April 14 when the decomposing body of Mary Rose Tiburcio, 38, from the Philippines, was found by chance down a flooded mineshaft that was part of an abandoned copper mine.
Four days later, the body of 28-year-old Arian Palanas Lozano, also from the Philippines, was pulled out of the same mineshaft. Investigators homed in on Metaxas after scrutinizing the online communications of both women.
Metaxas, a divorced father of two children aged 6 and 9, initially refused to cooperate with investigators. But as the evidence increased, he buckled and confessed in a 10-page handwritten note to the seven killings.
His victims included Romanian Livia Florentina Bunea, 36, and her 8-year-old daughter Elena Natalia; Maricar Valtez Arquiola, 31, from the Philippines; Ashita Khadka Bista, from Nepal; and Tiburcio’s daughter, Sierra Grace.
Metaxas led police to where he disposed of his victims’ bodies; the bound remains of Bunea, her daughter and Arquiola were placed in suitcases and thrown into a toxic lake that was part of the same abandoned mine. Bista’s skeletal remains were found down a dry well inside an army firing range. Tiburcio’s daughter was found in another lake, wrapped in a sheet and weighed down by a rock.
Metaxas had told investigators under questioning that what prompted him to strangle Tiburcio and Bunea was his “hatred” of them and desire for “vengeance” over his suspicions that they prostituted their daughters. He said he choked the children to death as they slept “so that they would no longer have to suffer.”
Prosecutors said investigations found that both mothers were very loving and cared for their children.
Metaxas also told investigators that he strangled Maricar and Lozano as he climaxed during sex with them. He said he killed Bista, who died of a head injury, in anger after she spat at him for videoing their sexual encounter.
All Metaxas’ victims except Bista had been reported missing to police shortly after their disappearance. The disappearance of Bunea and her daughter in October 2016 was the subject of an investigative report by a local TV reporter, who said police claimed they had good reason to believe that the mother and daughter had crossed into the breakaway north of the ethnically split island.
Police failures to probe those missing persons cases resulted in the resignation of the justice minister and the firing of the police chief. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said lives could have been spared had police acted swiftly in investigating those initial reports.


US imposes sanctions on Myanmar commander in chief over Rohingya abuses

This file photo taken on July 19, 2018, shows Myanmar's Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the Myanmar armed forces, saluting to pay his respects to Myanmar independence hero General Aung San and eight others assassinated in 1947, during a ceremony to mark the 71th anniversary of Martyrs' Day in Yangon. (AFP)
Updated 10 min 39 sec ago
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US imposes sanctions on Myanmar commander in chief over Rohingya abuses

  • A 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar drove more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh
  • A United Nations investigator said this month that Myanmar security forces and insurgents were committing human rights violations against civilians that may amount to fresh war crimes

WASHINGTON: The United States on Tuesday announced sanctions on the Myanmar military’s Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing and other military leaders it said were responsible for extrajudicial killings of Rohingya Muslims, barring them from entry to the United States.
The steps, which also covered Min Aung Hlaing’s deputy, Soe Win, and two other senior commanders and their families, are the strongest the United States has taken in response to massacres of minority Rohingyas in Myanmar, also known as Burma. It named the two others as Brig. Generals Than Oo and Aung Aung.
“We remain concerned that the Burmese government has taken no actions to hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations and abuses, and there are continued reports of the Burmese military committing human rights violations and abuses throughout the country,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
Pompeo said a recent disclosure that Min Aung Hlaing ordered the release of soldiers convicted of extrajudicial killings at the village of Inn Din during the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya in 2017 was “one egregious example of the continued and severe lack of accountability for the military and its senior leadership.”
“The Commander-in-Chief released these criminals after only months in prison, while the journalists who told the world about the killings in Inn Din were jailed for more than 500 days,” Pompeo said.
The Inn Din massacre was uncovered by two Reuters reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who spent more than 16 months behind bars on charges of obtaining state secrets. The two were released in an amnesty on May 6.
The US announcement came on the first day of an international ministerial conference on religious freedom hosted by Pompeo at the State Department that was attended by Rohingya representatives.
“With this announcement, the United States is the first government to publicly take action with respect to the most senior leadership of the Burmese military,” said Pompeo, who has been a strong advocate of religious freedom.

“GROSS VIOLATIONS“
“We designated these individuals based on credible information of these commanders’ involvement in gross violations of human rights.”
A 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar drove more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. UN investigators have said that Myanmar’s operation included mass killings, gang rapes and widespread arson and was executed with “genocidal intent.”
The State Department has so far stopped short of calling the abuses genocide, referring instead to ethic cleansing and a “well-planned and coordinated” campaign of mass killings, gang rapes and other atrocities.
“He (Pompeo) has not come to the point at which he has decided to make a further determination. Generally our policies are focused on changing behavior, promoting accountability, and we have taken today’s actions with those goals in mind,” a senior State Department official told reporters, asking not to be named.
The military in Myanmar, where Buddhism is the main religion, has denied accusations of ethnic cleansing and says its actions were part of a fight against terrorism.
A declaration of genocide by the US government could require Washington to impose even stronger sanctions on Myanmar, a country with which it has competed for influence with regional rival China.
The senior State Department official said Washington hoped the latest steps would strengthen the hand of the civilian government in Myanmar in its effort to amend the constitution to reduce military influence in politics.
“Our hope is that these actions ... will help to further delegitimize the current military leadership, and can help the civilian government gain control of the military,” he said.
The Trump administration had thus far imposed sanctions on four military and police commanders and two army units involved in the abuses against the Rohingya and had been under pressure from US Congress to take tougher steps.
A United Nations investigator said this month that Myanmar security forces and insurgents were committing human rights violations against civilians that may amount to fresh war crimes.