• Spain's news in English

'You have nothing on me'

Steve Tallantyre · 11 Jul 2013, 10:02

Published: 11 Jul 2013 10:02 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Who is José Bretón?

Bretón, born in Córdoba in 1973, is an unemployed former army driver currently on trial for the murder his own children.

He is accused of killing them with sleeping pills then burning their bodies in a bonfire that he had converted into a high-temperature 'kiln' oven to destroy the evidence.

Why is he the Spanish face of the week?

Bretón was arrested 10 days after he reported the children missing on October 8th, 2011 and hasn't been out of jail – or the headlines – ever since.

This week, however, could be the apex of his public visibility.

He faces up to 40 years in prison if the jury finds him guilty.

Why does the case have such a high profile?

There has been a frenzy of media interest around the case since day one and a series of twists and turns have gripped the public's attention.

Bretón had custody of his children Ruth, aged six, and José, aged two, for the weekend. 

Their mother had announced 23 days earlier that she was separating from him and wanted a divorce.

Bretón told police that he lost the children in a park.

But the police immediately felt that Bretón's demeanour was unusually cold and calm for someone whose children had just disappeared.

They also felt that there were inconsistencies in his story and he was arrested as a suspect.

Since then every aspect of his past and personality have been pored over on a daily basis by columnists, bloggers, experts and TV chat-show circuit polemicists.

His unusual physical appearance – short and slight with an intense, piercing stare – has added a compelling visual element to the drama.

Even the prosecutor was eventually moved to warn the jury against being influenced by the public hysteria and media sensationalism surrounding the case when the trial began in June this year.

Why has it taken nearly two years to get to this point?

Burnt remains were found on a property belonging to Bretón's parents but initial forensic evidence suggested that they were of animal origin, not human.

This slowed proceedings to a crawl for almost 11 months until further examinations determined that the teeth and bones were indeed human and belonged to a child aged about six, and a child aged between two and three.

The extremely high temperature of the oven destroyed all DNA evidence.

Bretón has denied all charges since being arrested and told officers, "You have nothing on me."

His defence lawyer has questioned the evidence and suggested his client may have drugged his children but then handed them over to someone else "because he wanted to hurt his wife".

During the trial the press has reported on family drama – Bretón's parents took the stand but refused to speak – and the testimony of over 100 people including forensic experts, psychologists, prison cellmates and police officers.

There have also been anguished appearances by Ruth Ortíz, the children's mother who filed a private prosecution that has run parallel to the public one.

She once described Bretón in a letter as "jealous (pathologically so), envious, obsessive, sexist, intolerant, not at all understanding".

Story continues below…

"He is not affectionate," the letter went on, "he is not thoughtful, he does not make nice gestures toward others, he clearly perceives other people's weaknesses and shortcomings and highlights them."

Bretón was accused of intimidating witnesses at one point in the trial by staring at them.

He was eventually ordered by the judge to look away.

Reporters have seized upon psychologists reports describing Bretón as "highly intelligent" – he has an IQ of 121 – and as showing "signs of being excessively manipulative" and "exceptionally clear minded".

"Outside I'm a nobody, but at home I'm the boss," he told police. 

At one point he claimed he was on hunger strike – just after buying a packet of chocolate biscuits.

Bretón has at times been on suicide watch because of fears he might repeat an attempt he made on his life many years ago.

The jury is expected to return its verdict in the case this week.

Editor's Note: The Local's Spanish Face of the Week is someone in the news who - for good or ill - has revealed something interesting about the country. Being selected as Spanish Face of the Week is not necessarily an endorsement.

Steve Tallantyre (news@thelocal.es)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Spain worries about tourism future
Photo: Josep Lago / AFP file picture

After basking in its best tourist summer season in 15 years, Spain now sees dark clouds on the horizon as popular destinations reach saturation point and holidaymakers are more thrifty, industry experts say.

Spain’s Socialists lift veto on conservatives
The Socialists have decided to lift their veto on the minority conservative government or not. Photo: Gerard Julien/ AFP

Spain's embattled Socialists on Sunday voted to lift a long-standing veto that has prevented the conservatives from forming a minority government, in what should finally end a ten-month political impasse.

Spain's 'Napflix' aims to bore viewers to sleep
Photo: Screengrab/ Napflix

A Spanish video platform called Napflix, designed to put people to sleep with dull content, was launched this week and its founders are on the lookout for more "monotony and repetition."

Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Brit 'paedo' held on Costa del Sol after Most Wanted appeal

One of Britain's most wanted fugitives was arrested on the Costa Del Sol following a tip-off from an expat just hours after his face appeared on a public appeal.

Spain's parliament approves deficit reduction measures
Photo: Images Money/Flickr

Spanish lawmakers approved on Thursday measures to reduce the public deficit and keep it under the target agreed with the European Union.

'Cubism and War' show opens at Barcelona Picasso Museum
Pablo Picasso Harlequin and Woman with a Necklace. Photo: MP

Barcelona's Picasso Museum unveiled an exhibition on "Cubism and War" on Thursday depicting how one of the most influential artistic styles of the 20th century survived the First World War.

Why this bionic limb pioneer doesn't believe in disability
Hugh Herr has been award Spain's top science prize. Photo: FPA

The Local speaks to Hugh Herr on winning Spain's top science prize and how being an amputee doesn't make him disabled.

Dine in the buff at Spain's first nudist restaurant
A buffet of organic food will be served on "human tables". Photo: Innato / Facebook

Spain's first naked dining experience is to arrive on the island of Tenerife following the success of a similar venture in London.

Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Photo: AFP

Spain's Constitutional Court on Thursday cancelled a bullfighting ban in Catalonia in what is likely to exacerbate tensions between Madrid and the separatist region, and between animal activists and fans of the tradition.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
Forgotten Voices: What Brits in Spain think about Brexit
One dead and 14 injured in blast at Spanish resort
Game of Thrones want extras 'with muscles' to film in Spain
Thousands march in Madrid to push for bullfighting ban
jobs available