Nicosia: A Greek Cypriot army officer pleaded guilty on Monday to seven counts of premeditated murder in a serial killing case that has shocked the Mediterranean island.
Nikos Metaxas, 35, was led into a Nicosia court under heavy security and stared grimly at the ground as a prosecutor read out a string of charges, including kidnapping and the killings of five women and two of their daughters - all foreigners.
Holding back tears, he pleaded guilty to the accusations one by one.
After the prosecutor read a long document detailing his crimes, Metaxas, who faces life in prison, read out a short handwritten statement apologising to his victims. Cyprus court handed 7 life terms to this 'first serial killer'.
Metaxas, who is expected to be sentenced later Monday, said he could not explain why he had carried out the killings.
"Cypriot society will be wondering how one of its members reached this point. I have also asked myself why; I have not yet managed to find an answer," he said in a wobbly voice.
I have committed hateful crimes.
It is the first time in Cypriot legal history that a defendant has faced seven counts of pre-meditated murder.
Metaxas carried out the killings between September 2016 and the summer of 2018.
Relatives and friends of the five women - from the Philippines, Romania and Nepal - along with two of their daughters, have accused authorities of neglect over the cases.
The police's failure to follow up on reports of women going missing has sparked outrage and led to the dismissal of the police chief and the resignation of the justice minister.
Accusations of racism
Protesters have accused the police of racism, saying the searches had been botched because the missing women were foreigners.
President Nicos Anastasiades criticised the police for "apparent negligence and dereliction of duty" and acknowledged that better initial investigations could have prevented some of the killings.
The trial comes after a two-month search for the bodies of the victims.
The killings went undetected for nearly three years, coming to light when tourists spotted a body brought to the surface of a mine shaft on April 14 by unusually heavy rains.
That sparked a manhunt that led to the army captain's arrest four days later.
He then directed investigators to the sites where he had dumped the other bodies, including in a toxic lake near the capital Nicosia.
Authorities spent weeks searching the lake with help from Israeli and British experts before finding the body of a child believed to be the killer's seventh and final victim.
State radio said the child's body was found by divers wrapped inside a carpet with a cement block attached to it to it.
Police had previously recovered six other bodies, including remains dumped inside three suitcases found at a different site known as the Red Lake.
The Cyprus government has agreed to cover the funeral costs of all seven victims.