NICOSIA, Cyprus -- Cyprus' new police chief on Tuesday apologized over the handling of the country's serial killer case amid accusations of negligent police work that may have allowed the suspect to claim more victims.
Kypros Michaelides offered the apology to the families of seven foreign women and girls who an army captain has confessed to killing. He said that police had failed to protect the victims, adding that those who failed to properly investigate their disappearances will be held accountable.
"We fully understand the public's justified reaction," Michaelides said at a ceremony marking his appointment.
"I'll do whatever is humanly possible...to restore the ground we lost, to restore the public's trust in the police," Michaelides said, adding that the force operates without prejudice, racism or sexism.
Last week, President Nicos Anastasiades fired Michaelides' predecessor while the justice minister resigned amid strong criticism that police failed to properly investigate initial missing persons' reports that could have tracked down the 35-year-old suspect before he could kill again.
Among the victims were a 36-year-old Romanian woman and her 8-year-old daughter who disappeared in 2016. But police apparently told people who inquired about the whereabouts of the mother and daughter that they had good reason to believe both had absconded to the breakaway, Turkish Cypriot north of the ethnically divided country.
Five of the suspect's victims disappeared after that. The bodies of two Filipino women were discovered by chance last month in an abandoned mineshaft, sparking the investigation.
The suspect told investigators he dumped three of his victims — the Romanian mother and daughter as well as another Filipino woman — in a toxic lake after placing their bodies in suitcases.
Divers have so far recovered two suitcases from the lake, including a small bag that authorities believe contains the remains of the 8-year-old.
The suspect also led police to the decomposed body of a woman believed to be from Nepal down a pit in a military firing range. Authorities are also looking in a reservoir for the body of the 6-year-old daughter of Mary Rose Tiburcio, 38, who was found in the shaft.
Visiting the toxic lake Tuesday, Michaelides said police will spare no effort until the case is fully solved.
"We've dug in our heels and that's why we're here and we'll stay here until the very end," he said.
This story has corrected the spelling of the new police chief's last name to Michaelides, not Michailides.