Police clash with protesters at Spanish court as suspects in Mari Luz Cortés death arrive
Santiago del Valle García had previously been found guilty of abusing his own daughter and another young girl. The autopsy reports confirmed Mari Luz was suffocated to death, though Santiago claims that it was an accidental homicide [she had a fall down the stairs].
VIDEO Protestors outside the court in Huelva yesterday
Santiago del Valle, the man arrested in connection with the death of five year old Mari Luz Cortés, arrived at the court in Huelva shortly after 5 on Thursday afternoon, where a crowd of some 600 people had been waiting outside since the early hours of the morning. The angry crowd shouted "Asesino!"[murderer] and hurled bottles and stones as the detainees, Santiago and his sister, arrived in police vans. The security fences that were serving as a barrier between the public and the court were used like throwing weapons. The police, who had send to the place several intervention teams, were forced to move against the crowd, with shots to the air and using their batons, trying to keep the order and disband the crowd , who were, besides throwing stones, doing fires in the streets and vandalizing several parked cars.
During the uproar, two Spanish journalists, who were covering the story, were slightly injured. Izidro Huete, a cameraman from Cuatro Television [Channel 4], was hit in the head with a stone and had to be carried to a hospital to receive medical treatment. As well, a journalist from the radio Onda Cero was injured in the arms, in the middle of the crowd clash.
The first one breaking the orders from the police was the grandfather of Mari Luz, Juan José Fernandez, a fact that gave more strength to the protesters. ‘You criminal murderer, you have to pay for what you did! The prison is not enough for you!’ this was one of the various sayings directed to Santiago del Valle the confessed killer of Mari Luz.
Between the screams and pushes, the rage of the relatives and neighbours mixed with a will of provoking chaos by a group of young persons from the El Torréjon district forced the authorities to expand the perimeter of security, closing all the streets that had a connection to the court.
Movie of the Day
09h00 – The hour predicted for the arrival of Santiago and Rosa, his sister at the Court of Huelva. However, at this time they were still coming out from the police station in Cuenca.
17h10 - Two vans – with Santiago and Rosa – arrive at the Huelva Court. Suspects enter through a small side door while the crowd is angry and provoking confusion.
18h20 - The Police charges against the crowd using batons and rubber bullets. The traffic is cut in the surrounding streets to the building of the Court.
24h00 - The tranquillity returns to the area of the Court and the streets are reopened to the traffic. Strong security was maintained in the place, at the time while Santiago was still being heard.
Mari Luz was "touched"
According to the site of the Spanish newspaper ABC, Santiago del Valle, confessed to the police that he "touched" Mari Luz on the day of her death. There are no official confirmations on the details of the confession, however, judicial sources advance that the suspect confessed to be obsessed with the girl. Mari Luz was lured to the house of Santiago with a toy and then he touched the 5 year old girl in the buttocks.
Santiago got rid of the Body
Rosa del Valle was living with the brother Santiago and his wife, Isabel, in the district El Torrejón up to the date of the disappearance of Mari Luz (13th of January). Rosa is detained by suspicion of having transported the body of the girl in her blue Hyunday. Compromising evidences were found in a wet cardboard that was in the luggage of her car. The neighbourhood in Huelva thinks that she was ‘weird’. They say, for example, that she had the routine of washing her car in the night. After his arrest on Tuesday, Santiago del Valle said he had invited the child into his house and attempted to abuse her, but she struggled and accidentally fell down the stairs and was killed. He also admitted that he had put his hand over her mouth to keep her quiet. The post mortem showed that she had died of asphyxiation. Frightened and with fear of being incriminated, he launched Mari Luz body to the river Huelva.
It was reported that del Valle had a pending prison term of more than two and a half years for the sexual abuse of his young daughter, who was the same age as Mari Luz when the abuse took place. He was originally sentenced in 2002, and the sentence was confirmed by a higher court at the end of 2005.
It’s understood that his wife, who was released with charges in the Mari Luz investigation, was also sentenced in that previous case, and that the couple tried to blame a gym teacher for the abuse suffered by their daughter.
There was no warrant out for his arrest in connection with the sentence, Europa Press reports, but a Seville court had issued an order in March 2006 to locate his whereabouts after ruling that he should serve the term. Juan José López Garzón, central government delegate for Andalucía, told the news agency that del Valle has been under watch by police since the beginning of the investigation into Mari Luz’s disappearance. National Police have also confirmed that they received no warrant for his arrest, and noted that there was insufficient evidence to charge him when he was originally questioned in the investigation.
Del Valle was sentenced by another court in Seville for abusing a nine year old girl, and received a two year suspended sentence in that case.
Update: Court Sentence
Santiago del Valle García, has been ordered to prison without bail by the judge in the Court of First Instance in Huelva on charges of murder of Mari Luz and and against sexual freedom.. The judge told him that he must also serve the two years and nine month sentence handed down against him in 2006 by the Court of First Instance in Sevilla for abusing his own daughter.
The judge also ordered prison without bail for Rosa del Valle, his sister who had also been arrested along with his wife and a brother. The wife, Isabel García, was released with charges after making her statement to the Instruction judge and is now reported to be staying outside the Huelva province. Santiago and Rosa left the Huelva Court at a quarter to one this morning, bound for the jail in Huelva.
Meanwhile the General Council for Judicial Power (CGPJ), the body which oversees the judiciary in Spain has opened an investigation as to why the alleged killer of Mari Luz had not served a single day in jail, despite two prison sentences against him. The latest was the 2 year 9 month sentence handed down against him by the Court of First Instance in Sevilla for the sexual abuse of his own five year old daughter. There was a second earlier sentence also, for two years in jail, handed down for the sexual abuse of a nine year old girl who he surprised on the stairs of her home, which he also somehow escaped serving.
It appears the official reason was that his ‘whereabouts were unknown' and had also appealed against the second sentence which had allowed him to avoid being placed inside. He had claimed that it was a gymnastics teacher who had abused his daughter, and not him, presenting a fake medical report at the time to support his case.
The court documents from Sevilla at the time make dramatic reading. Público quotes them as saying ‘On several occasions the accused, dropping his trousers, would make his daughter touch his member with her hands, and on other occasions he would masturbate while he touched her genital region. The mother was often present while this took place, and despite the opposition of the child who complained to her father that it hurt, never did anything to stop it taking place’. The court documents note that the mother, Isabel García, has an I.Q. of only 47, and she was clearly under the manipulative influence of her husband. The Sevilla court documents also indicate that Santiago del Valle suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, but also that the judge considered that when he abused his daughter he knew exactly what he was doing. The couple’s son and daughter, now aged 9 and 15, are in the care of foster families.
There is also a third case of a 13 year old girl in Gijón, against whom he was handed down a distancing order after he had been chatting to her on the internet and proposed sexual relations. The girl’s mother discovered the plan and informed the police in that case.
The Government Delegate for Andalucía, Juan José López Garzón, commented that it was not for the police or the government to comment on the situation, and he was not going to make a judgement. He called for calm from the local population. However López Garzón did not deny that there was a search and capture order in place against Santiago del Valle since 2006.
It appears that the Police investigators into the Mari Luz case knew nothing of this however, and were unaware that he lived less than 100 metres away from where she disappeared. However the local residents of this tight-knit community did know about Santiago del Valle’s past, and a few hours after Mari Luz vanished they had informed the missing girl’s parents.
El Mundo reports that several people from the neighbourhood, including Mari Luz’s father, Juan José, and some of her uncles, forced their way into Santiago del Valle’s home, taking some papers on the same day that the child had vanished, knocking down the door in search of the youngster. This led the man who is now charged with the child’s murder to call the police for help. The police went to the home and initially thought it was a simple case of breaking and entering, deciding to put off making full enquires until the next day. When they returned, Santiago del Valle and his family had gone, and it was only some time later that police joined the dots in the case and realised that they were dealing with a known paedophile with a previous record.
Sources: Correio da Manhã, Tipically Spanish, El Mundo, Video from SIC Portuguese News Channel