After DNA tests, Cyprus police think 3 further gang rape suspects fled to Israel

Officers reportedly to fly to Israel to check travel agency lists of hotel guests at time of alleged attack on British tourist, request DNA samples

Israeli suspects cover their faces with their shirts as they arrive at the Famagusta courthouse in Paralamni, Cyprus, July 26, 2019 (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Israeli suspects cover their faces with their shirts as they arrive at the Famagusta courthouse in Paralamni, Cyprus, July 26, 2019 (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Police in Cyprus believe three more individuals may have been involved in an alleged gang rape of a teenage British tourist in a hotel room last week, following analysis of DNA samples collected from the scene, Hebrew-language media reported Friday.

The three new suspects may have fled to Israel, according to the reports.

Cypriot police officers are expected to fly to Israel and request travel agencies hand over lists of tourists who stayed in the hotel at the time of the alleged attack, Channel 12 news reported. DNA samples will then be taken from those tourists and checked against the crime scene evidence.

According to the report, they will work in coordination with the Israel Police.

Police in Cyprus said Friday that statements had been taken from 36 witnesses in the investigation. Testimonies from a further 20 individuals will be taken.

Suspects cover their faces with their shirts as they arrive at the Famagusta courthouse in Paralamni, Cyprus, July 26, 2019 (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

A court in Cyprus on Friday remanded for six more days seven Israelis arrested in connection with the alleged attack, a day after other five suspects were released from custody.

One or two of the suspects in detention may be offered immunity from prosecution if he provides information on suspects still being sought, Channel 13 news reported Friday evening.

The 12 Israelis were arrested in the resort town of Ayia Napa last week on suspicion that they took part in the gang rape of a 19-year-old British tourist. Some have reportedly admitted to having consensual sex with the woman, while others are thought to have possibly just been present in the room at the time.

During Friday’s court hearing, local police revealed the results of the examination of DNA samples obtained from the scene, saying one sample matched a suspect who has thus far denied having sexual intercourse with the victim.

Three other DNA samples did not match any of the detained suspects, indicating that more people had been involved.

The prosecution had requested an eight-day remand, but both sides eventually agreed on six days.

Of the five freed teenagers, three have already returned to Israel. One of them told Channel 12 that he was released thanks to an alibi provided by his girlfriend, who showed police photos of him sleeping next to her at the time the gang rape allegedly took place.

Another teen who arrived at Ben Gurion Airport said, “I prayed every day to come here. It was hard, an Israeli kid who doesn’t know English, doesn’t know anything. It’s fun returning to Israel.”

According to Hebrew media reports, the release may be connected to the results of DNA tests of samples taken from the scene of the alleged rape, which came in earlier in the day.

“I’m not guilty, everything is alright,” one of the freed teens told the Ynet news site. Asked about the other suspects who remain held, he said: “I don’t know what’s going on with them. I don’t know what they did, if they did. I don’t know anything.”

The British woman filed a police complaint last Wednesday against the Israelis, ranging in age from 15 to 18, who were staying at the Pambos Napa Rocks Hotel, on the island nation’s southeastern coast.

The woman apparently — according to Cypriot media reports — had a previous relationship with at least one of the suspects. But on the night in question, she reportedly said others helped hold her down forcibly in a hotel room at the resort and more than one person may have raped her before she escaped.

Some of the suspects reportedly filmed some of the events on their phones, which police have confiscated.

In this file photo taken on September 7, 2017, tourists sunbathe at the beach in the resort town of Ayia Napa in southeastern Cyprus. (Florian Choblet/AFP)

According to Cypriot media, the top police investigator in the case said that the versions of events offered by the main suspects are extremely similar to each other, and that he suspects that they coordinated their statements before their arrest.

All the suspects, for example, reportedly urged investigators to check lobby security footage showing the woman hugging and kissing one of them in public.

According to Israeli reports, the investigation has focused on three of the Israelis, one of them the youth, who had initially invited the woman to the hotel room. The three main suspects have been interrogated repeatedly in recent days, and have insisted the sex was consensual and offered cellphone video footage they said proved it.

Channel 12 reported last Saturday that the woman told the police two of the suspects held her down by the arms as she cried to be let go. She said that their friends then raped her, taking turns, and that several beat her.

“I do remember that until about 1 a.m., the friends I did not know raped me, some wore a condom, and some didn’t. They hurt my whole body… one of them held me down, and then I saw at least 12 faces … for an hour or so, one after the other,” she told police, according to the report.

“After they let me go I fainted, and then I ran out of the room, met friends and they took me half-naked to the clinic,” she said.

Haaretz reported that police found five used condoms and 13 condom wrappers in the room where the alleged rape occurred.

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