Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Tragic Case of Marta de Castillo

Receiving heavy news coverage here in Spain, but not in the rest of Europe, is the disappearance of a seventeen year old girl from Sevilla named Marta del Castillo Casanueva. The facts are as follows:

On the 24th of January 2009 at five o'clock in the afternoon, she left her house to meet a friend and never returned. Her parents, worried sick, called the police and a search commenced, leading to the arrest of her twenty-year old ex-boyfriend known as Miguel C.D and his friend Samuel on February 14th. Four hours later he confessed to murdering her with an ashtray during a heated argument at his apartment. End of story, right? Not quite.

The lack of a body made proving the murder charges more problematic, so based on Miguel's testimony (now in prison without bail) the search moved from the crime scene (where the suspect said he loaded the dead body onto his mother's wheelchair before putting her on the back of a scooter) to the Guadalquivir river.

The case quickly became a national obsession, as it brought to light Spain's rather lenient sentencing that currently have no such thing as life in prison. In response, the leaders of the two political parties took to the airwaves and met with the distraught victim's parents, promising to study the law and amend the constitution. Meanwhile, as the days turned into weeks, an anxious Spanish public and the victim's distraught parents watched divers fruitlessly scour the muddy river bed for Marta's remains.

The arrest of two other boys – one the older brother of the accused (Javier D.M.) and a minor also called Javier, but known as El Cuco (The Cukoo) – revealed discrepancies in the original story. Confronted with this, Miguel, citing police pressure for lying, offered a new theory - Namely, that he and his friends had wrapped Marta's body in a rug and loaded it into a car to be taken to the river as his brother cleaned up the apartment.

The river search a month old, new bombshell hit the airwaves on March 17th, and the case took another twist. Miguel had again changed his story, along with his lawyer, and now says that El Cuco was in fact the murderer and the body was in a trash container; and the search moved to the city dump. The parents, outraged at the waste of time and effort, pleaded for the killer of their daughter to stop lying and come clean. They offered him forgiveness, if only he would tell them where she was. A day later, he said: he had only raped her, but not killed her, and his second lawyer resigned.

The disappearance of Marta now two-months, the accused decided to attempt suicide with his shoelaces as a third lawyer took up his defense and promised collaboration. All the while, the parents of the Marta still don't know where their little girl is or what truly happened to her. And so, the case continues.

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