GREEK   -   Cyprus has been left stunned after a man confessed to killing seven women and girls, all of foreign descent, in what is thought to be the island’s first serial killing. The authorities are facing accusations of not fully investigating when the women were first reported missing.

So far, the bodies of three Filipino women have been found and two lakes are being combed for further victims. The suspect, a 35-year-old Greek-Cypriot army officer, is in custody. Crime rates are low in Cyprus and violence against women on this scale has not been seen outside of wartime. It has a population of about 890,000.

The Mediterranean island is split between a northern part run by a Turkish Cypriot government and the internationally recognised government in the south run by Greek Cypriots. The search is focused southwest of the capital of Nicosia. In a statement, President NicosAnastasiades said he was “shocked by the revelation of so many shameful murders against innocent foreign women and young children”. News website Kathimerini Cyprus issued a letter of apology to the victims’ families and said it was a “crime against the country, carried out by an assassin” but “perpetrated by a state and society constantly developing xenophobic tendencies and racist behaviours”. How did it all unfold?

Earlier this month, the bodies of two women, Marry Rose Tiburcio, 38, and Arian Palanas Lozano, 28, both from the Philippines, were discovered. hey had been reported missing last year. After tracking Ms Tiburcio’s online messages, an army officer was arrested on suspicion of murder.

Fire-fighters and investigators are searching the Red Lake in Mitsero using robotic equipment to navigate its toxic water

He at first denied killing a third Filipino woman, MaricarValtezArquiola, 31, who has been missing since late 2017, but then changed his testimony and confessed to the murder of seven women and girls over the past three years.

Following the arrest, the suspected murderer showed investigators to a well at an army firing range where the unidentified body of a woman of Nepalese or Indian descent was discovered.

Authorities are now scouring two lakes in the south for the bodies of a Romanian mother and her young daughter.

A search is also underway for Ms Tiburcio’ six-year-old daughter, who the suspect has also confessed to killing.