The tireless search for the families of two girls who mysteriously disappeared 30 years ago | Spain
Virginia Guerrero’s mother is 84 years old and refuses to change the landline of her house in Aguilar de Campo (Palencia) in case her daughter, who disappeared 30 years ago, finally calls her. Elderly woman Trinidad Espejo doubts that her home number will be preserved if she replaces her old device with a more modern and wireless one. She hopes that one day the voice on the other side of the device will be that of her daughter, who the earth swallowed on April 23, 1992, with her friend Manuela Torres as they returned from nearby Reynosa (Cantabria). Virginia was 13 and Manuela was 14. They were last seen hitchhiking in the Cantabrian town to return to Aguilar. They never arrived.
The absence fills the conversation with pain with Virginia’s brother, Emilio Guerrero, 56, who goes on to describe three decades of horror. The man, thin and with deep blue eyes, has embraced caution after so many years of false leads, supposed news about the girls, failed contacts and only one conclusion: nobody knows anything about them. The man spoke while sitting on a park bench in Aguilar, where young people used to go “to eat a pipe, chat or smoke.” Also the missing ones. “Most likely they’re dead, but we’re not sure, we have to be objective and assume the worst…but also the best, as they might be alive,” he says with the discretion of a man who has become used to suffocating illusions.. “You have to learn to live with it, it sounds like you’re talking like a bike is gone, but if not, you’re going crazy.
The event marked the life of a town of 6,800 people where “generations and generations” of young people resorted to “hitchhiking” to go to celebrations in nearby towns. Nothing had ever happened until it happened. The teenagers’ relatives are now fighting in court to get search resources that didn’t exist before. The case is now finally filed after the provincial court confirmed in September the dismissal of the case issued by the Cervera de Pisuerga (Palencia) court in June. Both instances rejected the discovery of procedures that had not been carried out at the time, explained Carmen Balfagon and Ramon Chipiras of the legal criminology service, which handles the applicants. “We will go to the Constitutional Court and, if they don’t approve, to the European Court of Human Rights,” said the experts, who want a cave in the area, which the Civil Guard saw in a 1995 report as “suitable” to got rid of corpses, but he admitted that he did not have the “technical means” for analysis. Today the lawyer and the criminologist rule, yes, it could.
The testimonies gathered during these 30 years show that the teenagers boarded a white Seat 127 on Castilla de Reinosa Avenue, where they arrived by train, 37 kilometers from Aguilar. The car was driven, the lawyers said, by “a man aged between 20 and 25, dark-haired and well-dressed”, according to witnesses. Police investigations of suspects and the tracking of thousands of cars of this model did not yield results, even when a year ago, after a television report about Virginia and Manuela, a woman revealed that something similar had happened to her at that time and with this car, but he succeeded to escape and escape. The investigation also yielded no news.
Exhaustion is evident in the voice of those who have suffered close to the occasion. Chari Mendia, 45, has been living a “30-year nightmare”. The Toledo-based woman confirms that on the day of the events, the girls offered her to join Reynosa’s plan. refused. He still believes that if he had accepted, nothing would have happened. “If I had gone…” he surmises. His father tried to dispel his guilt months later, when in Alcacer (Valencia) three girls of a similar age were killed in the same circumstances. It didn’t matter if there were two or three. At least their bodies were found and there was no “hypothetical nightmare” like the one rocking Mendia, who went to squat in Madrid, where the Palencia women were rumored to be staying. This, like so many other foreshortened clues, yielded no results.
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The woman first cried about this ordeal when in 2017, skeletal remains found in Aguilar Dam were linked to the girls. DNA testing ruled out that they were theirs, again preventing their relatives from mourning their loss. Guerrero believes investigators have been able to act “with more coordination” in those 30 years, although he says there is no malice or recrimination, other than his insistence that the search for his sister continue. Manuela’s mother, contacted by EL PAÍS, directs the legal criminology service that is handling the case.
Guerrero, a biscuit factory worker like so many others in Aguilar de Campo, finds solace in talking about movies or the drought-ravaged swamp he leads journalists to. He cites, as a source of optimism, other episodes of juvenile disappearances that years later have happy endings. Chari Mendia or her mother clings to that thread of hope, which she prefers not to expose to the media. “We lived in the same house, but we didn’t know each other, we were in very different times. It was like I didn’t have time with her… but I couldn’t know what was going to happen,” says the elder brother. Her other sister named her daughter Virginia, making the memory of the teenager even more vivid.
Emilio Guerrero is the father of an only daughter, 12 years old. He had to tell her about the family drama when he was only seven years old, when the child saw drawings in the library of a certain Virginia with the same last name. When the subject came up, his father could tell he was aware of it. “You know something by the look on your face,” he told her. “How do I explain this to a seven-year-old girl?” wondered Guerrero, who clarified all her daughter’s doubts and asked her to inform him about everything she was told in the city. She reacts silently to the question, but “she’s not stupid, luckily,” says the father. He admits to some anxiety when his daughter makes plans for Aguilar. He knows nothing should happen, but he takes her by car so he doesn’t have to drive down a long, deserted boulevard on the way home. Just in case. She is a year younger than the age her aunt disappeared.
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