Syrian brothers plead guilty in double murder trial

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Syrian brothers accused of the double murder of two Russian women they buried in a ditch last year pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors for lesser charges.

Initially charged with premeditated murder, the main suspect, a 33-year-old Syrian, pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter.

After a conspiracy charge was withdrawn, his 44-year-old brother pleaded guilty to interfering with a police investigation.

They were arrested for murdering two Russian women, Mariia Gazibagandova, 33, and Alraeesi Khaiat, 43, whose bodies were found on the grounds of a mountain cottage in Kardama, Limassol, in 2021.

The women were 18 days after they had gone missing, at the holiday home where the main suspect had been carrying out repair work.

They had been staying in Larnaca on a tourist visa and went missing in mid-November last year.

Police had gathered incriminating evidence against the two suspects, including DNA.

The main suspect is described as a Cypriot national of Syrian origin and father of two married to a Greek Cypriot woman.

He confessed to shooting the two women from 10 metres after returning from a hunting trip in the morning on 17 November.

He said he shot the women after losing his temper when he heard the victims talk disparagingly about him outside the cottage.

But evidence suggested at least one of the women had been shot at close range.

Police have been criticised for how they handled the investigation and the time it took before finally finding the women on 5 December, several weeks after they had been murdered.

Officials said delays in locating the burial site, discovered in the cottage grounds after police had left the area following multiple searches, were due to weather conditions and the terrain.

AKEL MP Irene Charalambides sent a letter to the Chief of Police, urging him to investigate any criminal networks linked to the women’s disappearance and murders.