Cyprus has dropped criminal prosecution against 15 police officers for allegedly botching investigations into the disappearance of seven women and children, later found murdered by serial killer Nikos Metaxas.
On Monday, the office of Attorney General George Savvides said that after looking at the evidence, it could not “prove beyond reasonable doubt” that the officers deliberately neglected their duty.
The 15 police officers faced criminal prosecution for hampering the investigation of the seven missing foreign women and children following an independent investigation last year.
“If they had failed to realise that the cases concerned the possibility of murder, it does not in itself imply willful and deliberate dereliction of duty,” said the AG’s office.
It said, from the evidence gathered, there was no apparent negligence or misconduct, to a greater or lesser degree depending on the case.
“It is clear from case law that ‘error, however serious, negligence, stupidity, inadequacy, or incompetence’, do not meet the level of a reckless act required for an offender of the crime of Neglect of Duty,” the statement said.
Army captain Metaxas, 35, was sentenced to five consecutive life terms in prison after pleading guilty to premeditated murder and kidnapping his seven victims in June 2019.
Savvides did criticise the police for a “series of systemic problems” related to its organisation, training, and ability of its members, but “also an underlying racist perception by some officers.”
He said the public outcry over the crimes and the serious police shortcomings was justified.
“The sense of justice is certainly a factor that is taken into consideration when deciding a criminal prosecution, but it cannot be the only one.
“Under the circumstances, disciplinary action against members of the police force will more effectively serve the public interest.”
The Attorney General has handed over the case file for the police complaints authority to decide on disciplinary measures.
An independent inquiry said the police did not just bungle the investigation but showed negligence in not taking the missing reports of foreign women and children seriously.
Last year, the previous attorney general Costas Clerides said the evidence indicates that police actions “went beyond any possible disciplinary offences” that could be explained by oversight or workload.
The enquiry was ordered amid a public outcry that some of the victims could have been saved had police done their job.
The case involving the worst peace-time atrocities against women in Cyprus triggered outrage and horror on an island where serious crime is relatively rare and forced the justice minister and the police chief to resign.
Several of the victims were reported missing by friends or relatives who said police had failed to take them seriously.
Metaxas abducted and murdered his seven victims – who came from the Philippines, Romania, and Nepal – between September 2016 and August 2018.
The two children, aged six and eight, were daughters of two of the women.
Police said Metaxas, a divorced father of two, met the women online, four of whom were employed as housekeepers.
The first victim was found dead by tourists shooting pictures at a mining shaft on 14 April 2019, unravelling the macabre killing spree.
The last victim discovered, the 6-year-old child, was found in a lake on 12 June 2019.