Cypriot army captain sentenced to life for killing 7

A Greek Cypriot army captain has been sentenced to seven life imprisonment terms after pleading guilty Monday to killing five women and two children in a three-year murder spree in which he preyed on his victims online.

Nicos Metaxas murdered women and children in killings that have had political fallout

A motorcyclist police officer escorts and guards the police van carrying Nicholas Metaxas from the court to the Cypriot central prison in capital Nicosia, Cyprus. Metaxas tearfully apologized to the families of seven foreign-born women and girls after pleading guilty to a dozen charges of premeditated murder and kidnapping. (Petros Karadjias/Associated Press)

A Greek Cypriot army captain was sentenced to seven life imprisonment terms on Monday after pleading guilty to killing five women and two children in a three-year murder spree in which he preyed on his victims online.

The case, involving the worst peace-time atrocities against women in Cyprus in memory, has triggered outrage and horror on an island where serious crime is relatively rare, and forced the resignation of the justice minister and sacking of the police chief.

Nicos Metaxas, 35, pleaded guilty to 12 charges relating to the premeditated murder and abduction of the seven — who came from the Philippines, Romania and Nepal — between September 2016 and July 2018. The two children, aged six and eight, were daughters of two of the women.

The sentence passed down by the Assizes (Criminal) Court is the toughest ever imposed by the Cypriot justice system.

Metaxas was taken under heavy security on Monday to a courthouse in the capital Nicosia wearing a bullet-proof vest, and appeared without a lawyer.

He broke down in tears as police read the indictment against him.

"I have committed abhorrent crimes," he said, expressing condolences to the families of the victims.

The picture of a young Romanian girl, one of the victims of the Cypriot 'serial killer,' sits on her coffin during her funeral in the village of Arediou, near the capital Nicosia on June 13. - (Iakovos Hatzistavrou/AFP/Getty Images)

Police say the accused, a divorced father of two, met the women online. The victims were mostly employed as housekeepers on the island and disappeared between September 2016 and August 2018.

The police chief was sacked, and the justice minister resigned following accounts of bungled investigations by police who didn't take the disappearances seriously because the women were foreign.

The first victim was found dead by tourists taking pictures at a mining shaft in late April, unraveling the macabre killing spree. The last victim discovered, the six-year-old child, was found in a lake on July 12.