A 27-year-old man has been arrested on murder charges on the Greek island of Crete after the body of American scientist Suzanne Eaton was found in a tunnel formerly used as a storage site during World War II.
Police said a Greek man from the island had confessed to the “violent criminal act” and sexual assault, using his car to hit and abduct the 59-year-old while she was out for a hike.
The suspect, who has not been identified in accordance with Greek law, was taken to a public prosecutor’s office for further questioning and was expected to be formally charged later Tuesday.
Easton, a molecular biologist, was attending a conference near the port of Chania and was last seen on July 2, when her relatives said they believed she had gone for a hike. Her body was found six days later after an extensive search.
Police Major Eleni Papathanasiou, a spokeswoman for the Crete Police, said a coroner’s examination indicated that Eaton died of asphyxiation on the day of her disappearance and had “many broken ribs, and facial bones, and multiple injuries to both hands.”
“The suspect reported that on July 2, 2019 ... motivated by the intention to commit sexual assault, he hit her twice with his car to stop her,” she said.
“According to his claims, he placed the victim, unconscious, in the trunk of his car and transfer her to a ventilation drain in the wartime storage (tunnel), where after raping her, abandoned her there.”
Crete Police chief Lt. Gen. Constantine Lagoudakis told reporters the investigation had been helped by footage from closed-circuit cameras and questioning other people in the area, and that authorities were awaiting the results of additional forensic tests.
“A particularly important element of our investigation was the discovery of recent tire tracks near the (tunnel). This, in conjunction with the position of the body when it was found, suggested that it had been transferred to the site,” Lagoudakis said.
Eaton, from Armonk, New York, was based in Dresden, Germany, where she worked at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics.
Police said she was visiting the island for the fourth time.