NICOSIA, Cyprus — The police in Cyprus have been searching for more victims of what is believed to be a serial killer, in a case that has horrified the nation and led to accusations that the authorities have bungled the investigations and failed to adequately investigate when foreign workers were reported missing.
A 35-year-old National Guard captain who has confessed to killing seven women and girls and has been in custody for a week is facing multiple homicide charges. He was to appear in court on Saturday for a hearing, but has not been identified because he has not been charged.
The apparent scale of the crime has shocked this country of just over a million people, where multiple killings are rare. The police chief, Zacharias Chrysostomou, told reporters last week, “This is a form of crime unprecedented for the norms of Cyprus.”
Hundreds of people held a vigil on Friday outside Cyprus’ presidential palace to mourn the dead. The organizer used a bullhorn to read out the victims’ names as well as those of other missing women, as others shouted, “Where are they?” Some participants held placards decrying “sexist, misogynist and racist” attitudes about women who work as housekeepers or in low-paying service jobs.
The discovery of a Filipino woman’s body in an abandoned mine shaft triggered the investigation that led to the captain’s arrest. The police identified her as Mary Rose Tiburcio, 38. Ms. Tiburcio and her 6-year-old daughter had been missing since May last year. Investigators say they believe that the missing 6-year-old was also killed.
Investigators zeroed in on the captain as a suspect and arrested him after scouring Ms. Tiburcio’s online messages. In court hearings, the police said the army officer was suspected of having approached women on an online dating site.
Cyprus has a sizable Filipino population. At the vigil, a group of tearful Filipino women held lighted candles and bowed their heads in prayer for the Filipino victims.
“I felt obliged to do something for these women, all the missing women, all the killed women,” the protest organizer, Maria Mappouridou, said. “I think deep down, all that we want, what everybody wants, is justice.”
Ester Beatty, the chairwoman of the Federation of Filipino Organizations in Cyprus, said she hoped the event, and the tragedy of the deaths, raised public awareness about migrant workers. “Right now, it’s really difficult for us to accept what has happened, what is going on,” Ms. Beatty said. “We still need a lot of answers.”
Campaigners say the police had ignored fears expressed for the safety of Ms. Tiburcio and her child when they went missing last year. One campaigner, Louis Koutroukides, said the police had questioned his motives and suggested that the missing woman and her child might have moved to the north of the divided island.
“If they believed me when I went to the police things would have turned out differently,” he told state TV.
While investigating Ms. Tiburcio’s death and searching for her daughter, the police found another body in the flooded mine shaft 20 miles west of the capital, Nicosia. The Cypriot news media have identified that victim as Arian Palanas Lozano, 28, also from the Philippines.
On Thursday, the suspect told the police about four more victims and gave them directions to a military firing range. The body of another woman, who according to the suspect was of Nepalese or Indian descent, was found buried there.
The suspect’s statements and other information have led the Cypriot police to believe that a 31-year-old Filipino woman who has been missing since December 2017, Maricar Valtez Arquiola, and a Romanian mother and daughter — identified by news outlets as Livia Florentina Bunea, 36, and Elena Natalia Bunea, 8 — are also among the victims in this case. They have been missing since September 2016.
President Nicos Anastasiades said on Friday that he shared the public’s revulsion at “murders that appear to have selectively targeted foreign women who are in our country to work.”
“Such instincts are contrary to our culture’s traditions and values,” Mr. Anastasiades added in a statement from China, where he was on an official visit.
The police in Cyprus have faced criticism from immigrant rights activists who said they did not act quickly enough to find the victims. The country has 80 unsolved missing-persons cases dating to 1990.
A police spokesman, Andreas Angelides, on Friday defended the force’s tactics in dealing with missing-persons reports. He said investigations would have been more effective if lawmakers had taken the department’s recommendation to give law enforcement agencies the legal authority to gain access to a missing person’s personal data, phone records and emails.
Chief Chrysostomou said that a three-member panel had been assigned to review whether officers followed correct procedures in handling of recent killings.
Investigators have intensified the search for bodies of victims at the firing range, the reservoir and a man-made lake near the abandoned copper pyrite mine. Five British law enforcement officials — including a coroner, a psychiatrist and investigators who specialize in multiple homicides — were headed to Cyprus to help with the investigation.