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

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.


‘Clear risks’ for stability in China’s Pacific lending, Australian think tank warns

Updated 39 min 1 sec ago

‘Clear risks’ for stability in China’s Pacific lending, Australian think tank warns

SYDNEY: China’s financial largesse in the Pacific carries “clear risks” for stability if left unchecked, a Sydney think tank warned, while saying allegations of “debt-trap” diplomacy are so far overblown.
In a study released Monday, the influential Lowy Institute warned that fragile Pacific nations risked borrowing too much and leaving themselves exposed to demands from Beijing.
China has repeatedly been accused of offering lucrative but unserviceable loans to gain leverage or snap up strategically vital assets like ports, airports, or electricity providers.
While Lowy said allegations that China was engaged in “debt-trap” diplomacy in the Pacific were overblown, the trend was not positive and countries like Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu were dangerously exposed.
Between 2011 and 2018, China committed loans to the region worth $6 billion — around 21 percent of regional GDP.
A majority of that money, $4.1 billion, was earmarked for Papua New Guinea.
Only a fraction, less than $1 billion, has so far been dispersed but China is still the single largest creditor in Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu.
“The sheer scale of Chinese lending and the lack of strong institutional mechanisms to protect the debt sustainability of borrowing countries mean a continuation of business as usual would pose clear risks,” the report said.
The South Pacific has become a forum for intense competition for influence between China, the United States, and Australia in recent years.
The island nations sit on a vital shipping crossroad, contain vast reserves of fish stocks, and provide a potential base for leading militaries to project power well beyond their borders.
Beijing has stepped up engagement in the region through a series of high profile visits and no-conditions lending via its Belt and Road Initiative.
The Solomon Islands and Kiribati recently announced they would switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing after a long courtship by the country’s Communist leaders.
Six Pacific governments are currently debtors to Beijing — the Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu.
Lowy said many of China’s loans carry a modest two percent annual interest rate.
But it warned that China would need to adopt formal lending rules if loans were to be made sustainable as natural disasters like earthquakes, cyclones and tsunamis can quickly upend countries’ ability to pay back loans.
“Three small Pacific economies — Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu — also appear to be among those most heavily indebted to China anywhere in the world,” it said.