American scientist Suzanne Eaton was sexually assaulted before she was killed on the Greek island of Crete, authorities confirmed Tuesday.
Speaking at a press conference in Chania, police spokesperson Eleni Papathanassiou, told reporters that the 27-year-old man arrested for murder Monday allegedly killed the molecular biologist “with the motive of her sexual abuse.”
A second spokesperson confirmed to PEOPLE the man allegedly admitted to raping Eaton.
Eaton — whose body was discovered by amateur cave explorers in an abandoned World War II shelter on July 8 — suffered multiple fractures to her face and injuries to her hands in what police described as an unprovoked attack that began when the suspect saw her on a coastal road near the Cadet War Monument in Kolymbari.
The suspect allegedly rammed her twice with a car “to immobilize her,” then “placed her in the trunk and carried her to the well of the war shelter,” Papathanassiou added.
The suspect then allegedly sexually assaulted and suffocated her. An autopsy listed the official cause of death as “suffocation”, Papathanassiou told reporters.
“He then repositioned a pre-existing pallet in her mouth and headed to an adjacent cemetery where he thoroughly cleaned the car’s trunk to eliminate any traces and evidence,” she added.
Despite this, Greek police were able to obtain blood samples and other evidence from the area and seized the car and clothing of the suspect for laboratory analysis.
“A particularly important element that guided our research was the discovery of recent traces of vehicle wheels on a parcel that leads to the well of the shelter,” Major General Constantine Lagoudakis, the police director of Crete, told reporters.
Scientist Was Killed on ‘Her Usual Run’: Police
Greek police provided further details of the last moments of Eaton, who had arrived in Chania on June 30 to participate in a conference at the Orthodox Academy of Crete.
“At noon on the 2nd of July, immediately after lunch, she went to her room, changed into sports clothes and went out for her usual run, leaving her cell phone and other personal belongings in her room,” Papathanassiou said.
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Her disappearance was officially reported to the police two days later, on the morning of July 4, when the organizer of the conference visited the police station at nearby Platanias.
Extensive searches were then carried out across the surrounding area involving the police, Air Force, Fire Department, Coast Guard, and a small army of local volunteers — a group of whom reported the discovery of a woman’s body on July 8.
Following an autopsy and forensic investigation, the body — which showed signs of “violent crime and potential sexual abuse,” said Lagoudakis on Tuesday — was officially confirmed as Eaton.
The suspect was brought in for questioning on July 15. “Under the weight of the data we had collected [he] admitted his act,” said Lagoudakis.
The Times of London reports the suspect allegedly described his crime as “an act of despair” that was partly triggered by watching pornography to enliven his “miserable life.”
He allegedly also told police that he acted on impulse after spotting Eaton running.