Police said on Monday that a reporter, accused of brutally murdering elderly women in cases he covered for his newspaper, was found drowned in a bucket of water, in a prison bathroom.
Charged with two murders and suspected a third, Vlado Taneski, 56, died several hours after being placed in prison custody, police said.
“I did not commit these murders”, said the note that was found in Mr Taneski’s prison cell, under the bed pilllow.
The victims were all elderly cleaners, found strangled with telephone cable, after being beaten and sexually abused. Their naked bodies were then dumped in garbage bags.
The killings took place between 2005 and earlier this year in the town of Kicevo, where the journalist lived and worked, about 120 kilometers southwest of Macedonia’s capital, Skopje.
DNA was found
Police were also investigating whether Taneski may have been involved in the disappearance of a fourth elderly woman in the area.
Police said that Mr Taneski emerged as a suspect after reporting details of the murders in the national daily Utrinski Vesnik that had not been made public. Then, his DNA was found on the bodies of two of the victims and on Friday he was arrested in Kicevo.
While researching for his articles and as a well-known reporter in the area, Vlado Taneski had visited the family homes of his alleged victims and spoken with relatives.
The journalist was found early Monday by prison wardens, drowned in a bathroom, said Ivo Kotevski, police spokesman. After Mr Taneski failed to return from the bathroom, other inmates alerted the wardens.
“He was found dead with his head in a bucket of water”, Ivo Kotevski told The Associated Press. He added that a preliminary inspection of his body did not suggest his head had been forced into the bucket.
He also said that the bucket and its content were sealed for forensic examination, as the body, which was being transferred from the prison outside the city of Tetovo to the capital for an autopsy.
On Monday, police continued to search Mr Taneski’s house in Kicevo and a vacation home nearby.
His alleged victims were : 65-year-old Zivana Temelkoska, whose body was found this year ; 56-year-old Ljubica Licoska, found dead in 2007, and Mitra Simjanoska, 64, found in 2005.
A 78-year-old woman, missing since 2003, is also being searched for by the police, who believe that her disappearance may be linked to the other killings.
Mr Taneski had been charged with the murders of Ms Temelkoska and Ms Simjanoska.