NICOSIA: A Greek Cypriot army captain was sentenced to seven life imprisonment terms on Monday after pleading guilty to killing five women and two children in a three-year murder spree in which he preyed on his victims online.
The case, involving the worst peace-time atrocities against women in Cyprus in memory, has triggered outrage and horror on an island where serious crime is relatively rare, and forced the resignation of the justice minister and sacking of the police chief.
Nicos Metaxas, 35, pleaded guilty to 12 charges relating to the premeditated murder and abduction of the seven - who came from the Philippines, Romania and Nepal - between September 2016 and July 2018. The two children, aged six and eight, were daughters of two of the women.
The sentence passed down by the Assizes (Criminal) Court is the toughest ever imposed by the Cypriot justice system.
Metaxas was taken under heavy security on Monday to a courthouse in the capital Nicosia wearing a bullet-proof vest, and appeared without a lawyer.
He broke down in tears as police read the indictment against him.
"I have committed abhorrent crimes," he said, expressing condolences to the families of the victims.
Police say the accused, a divorced father of two, met the women online. The victims were mostly employed as housekeepers on the island and disappeared between September 2016 and August 2018.
The police chief was sacked and the justice minister resigned following accounts of bungled investigations by police who did not take the disappearances seriously because the women were foreign.
The first victim was found dead by tourists taking pictures at a mining shaft in late April, unravelling the macabre killing spree. The last victim discovered, the six-year-old child, was found in a lake on July 12.