NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) – Cyprus’ justice minister on Thursday 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.
A Cypriot army captain has admitted to killing seven foreign women and girls as police continue the search for the bodies of three of the victims.
Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said that he was stepping down as a matter of “conscience and principle” because the killings that authorities have described as “unprecedented” have deeply shaken the east Mediterranean island nation of just over a million people.
But said that he bore no responsibility in how police handled the missing persons’ reports, adding that law enforcement authorities never informed him about them.
Nicolaou said it was “completely unfair” to apportion blame either to himself or the government for any investigative lapses in the missing persons’ reports because a minister “doesn’t get involved nor should he get involved” in such investigations.
Among the reasons that led to his resignation was that the repercussions of the killings extend beyond the police and touch society’s own “attitudes and perceptions that honor none of us.”
He urged the public to continue showing trust in the police force and that he would ask the police complaints commission to proceed with its own independent probe into the police handling of the case.
“We’ve all gone through difficult days because of this unprecedented case. It’s human,” Nicolaou said, reading from the written statement after a two-hour meeting with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades.
“On a personal and family level we’ve been tortured greatly, but not whether I would submit my resignation or not. Rather it’s about the innocent victims and their families who are the ones paying the heaviest price of this criminal act. My conscience and principles demand my resignation.”
President Anastasiades said he accepted Nicolaou’s resignation with “deep regret” because he would miss the services of one of his closest collaborators, praising his “political ethos.”
Anastasiades repeated that he shares the public’s shock and revulsion over the killings.
“I want to assure of the government’s determination to solve these abhorrent murders and also these actions or omissions regarding missing persons reports,” Anastasiades said in a written statement.