A local resident of Crete was charged with murder and rape Tuesday after admitting he assaulted an American scientist who disappeared on the Greek island while attending a conference, police said.
Suzanne Eaton, 59, disappeared July 2 while jogging, setting off a massive search that ended five days later when her battered body was found in a cave that had also served as a WWII bunker.
Crete police chief Lt. Gen. Constantine Lagoudakis said the investigation had been helped by footage from closed-circuit cameras. Authorities were awaiting the results of forensic tests, he added.
“A particularly important element of our investigation was the discovery of recent tire tracks near the (tunnel),” he said. “This, in conjunction with the position of the body when it was found, suggested that it had been transferred to the site.”
More: American scientist Suzanne Eaton found dead in Greece
Lagoudakis said the suspect initially contradicted himself during questioning, then broke down and confessed when confronted with overwhelming evidence of his crime.
Chania Police Director Paris Chinopoulos told the Athens News Service the suspect said he was “trying to find someone to have sex with” and randomly selected Eaton when he saw her jogging along a road.
Crete Police spokeswoman Eleni Papathanasiou told reporters the man told police he twice hit Eaton twice with his car, covered her mouth, forced her into the trunk and took her to the bunker. He said he then sexually assaulted her before tossing her into the cave, Papathanasiou said.
Papathanasiou said forensic evidence showed suffocation as a cause of death.
“The body had many broken ribs and facial bones and multiple injuries to both hands,” she said.
Eaton was a molecular biologist at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Germany, where she performed research and taught at the Biotechnology Center of the TU Dresden.
“Suzanne was an outstanding scientist and a wonderful human being,” said Martin Stratmann, president of the Max Planck Society. “She has been a key person, an essential pillar of the Institute.”
The suspect, who also was charged with a weapon offense, acted alone and faces a hearing Friday, authorities said.
Contributing: The Associated Press