Latin America & Caribbean

Panama 'serial killer' case: more bodies recovered

William Holbert in chains being escorted off a plane in Panama
Image caption Mr Holbert was arrested in Nicaragua

Panamanian authorities say they have recovered three more bodies on the property of a US man accused of murdering fellow American expatriates.

The bodies of a man, a woman and a child were found buried in the grounds of a hostel owned by William Holbert in the Bocas del Toro archipelago.

Two other bodies were found there last month, sparking a search for Mr Holbert and his wife.

They were arrested in Nicaragua last week after fleeing Panama.

Prosecutors say Mr Holbert, 30, has confessed to killing five people to steal their money and property, and has been giving them information about where to find the bodies.

"He has explained what he did, how he did it and why he did it", assistant prosecutor Angel Calderon told the Associated Press.

His wife, Laura Reese, 27, has also been charged over the murders.

Mr Holbert is also the main suspect in the disappearance of two Panamanians.

Murder in paradise

The case began when the authorities found the bodies of a man and a woman buried behind Mr Holbert's hostel on a small island in Bocas del Toro, a Caribbean archipelago popular with tourists and US expats.

The woman has been identified as Cheryl Lynn Hughes, from St Louis, Missouri, who had been living in Panama for 10 years but has been missing since March.

The man was identified as Bo Icelar, who has been missing since November and is thought to be from New Mexico.

Prosecutors allege Mr Holbert befriended Ms Hughes and Mr Icelar by posing as a potential investor before murdering them and taking over their properties - a hotel and a house.

Mr Holbert and his wife went on the run after the bodies were discovered, but were arrested by Nicaraguan police as they tried to enter the country from Costa Rica, and extradited to Panama in chains.

The three bodies found on Tuesday are thought to belong to another US man, Mike Brown, and his wife and son.

Prosecutors allege Mr Holbert - known to his neighbours as "Wild Bill" - befriended Mr Brown before shooting him and his family in the head after discovering they had a lot of money in bank accounts.

The couple were using false documents in Panama and living under the aliases William and Jean Cortez, police said.

Mr Holbert is also wanted in the US for allegedly selling a house that did not belong to him in the state of North Carolina, as well as for alleged car theft.