BUCHAREST, Romania — Bulgarian police are investigating the rape and slaying of a female television reporter whose body was dumped near the Danube River after she reported on the possible misuse of European Union funds in Bulgaria.

Authorities discovered the body of 30-year-old Viktoria Marinova on Saturday in the northern town of Ruse near the Romanian border.

Police said she had been raped, beaten and strangled and her body was found in a park near the river.

Marinova was a director of TVN, a small TV station in Ruse, and a TV presenter for two investigative programs.

Journalists’ groups and foreign officials expressed shock. Harlem Desir, the media freedom representative for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, demanded a “full and thorough investigation” of Marinova’s slaying.

A Bulgarian investigative online media site went further, calling for an independent international inquiry and saying corruption could compromise an investigation by Bulgarian law enforcement.

Bulgarian Interior Minister Mladen Marinov insisted Monday there was no evidence to suggest the killing was linked to Marinova’s work.

“It is about rape and murder,” he said.

Chief Public Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov, on a trip to Ruse, said authorities had no new leads on a motive.

“At this stage, let’s be careful, not because we don’t have anything to say, but because every word uttered loosely could damage our work,” he said.

Bulgarian police said they were considering all possible scenarios and examining both Marinova’s personal and professional lives for leads.

Hundreds of Bulgarians turned out Monday night for vigils to honor Marinova.

In Ruse, mourners, some tearful, placed candles, her portrait and roses – the national flower– at the foot of a monument.

In the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, mourners gathered outside a church.

One participant, Kristina Petkov, said Bulgarians now had “zero” trust in authorities.

“Whatever results the investigation (into Marinova’s death) shows, people won’t believe them,” she said.

Corruption is endemic in Bulgaria, a Balkan nation that joined the EU in 2007 and was ranked 71st on Transparency International’s corruption list last year. Joining the bloc opened an enormous spigot of possible new EU funding for Bulgarian infrastructure projects or other programs designed to bring the nation up to EU standards – funds that were very attractive to both government officials and criminal networks.

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