• Spain's news in English

Camino killer cut off the hands of American pilgrim Denise Thiem

Fiona Govan · 17 Sep 2015, 11:18

Published: 17 Sep 2015 11:18 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Miguel Angel Muñoz Blas, 39, has been remanded in custody pending trial after confessing to the murder of the 41-year-old woman whose body was discovered on his land last Friday.


Police are still searching for some of her body parts including her hands which had been cut off by the killer, reportedly to hinder her identification, according to a report in Spanish newspaper El Pais.

The lawyer for the accused appeared on Spanish television TVE morning programme on Wednesday to discuss the case. He described how his client had given a full account of the crime.

The accused claimed that she appeared on his property "lost and asking for help to find her way back to the pilgrimage route," said his lawyer, Vicente Prieto.  

"He claims she asked him to show her the way, then got nervous and somehow, and this has not been made clear, it ended with him hitting her."

Police have already said that they believe the accused may have painted fake yellow arrows used to mark the pilgrimage route to divert unsuspecting pilgrims off the official track towards his house.

Prieto told ‘La Manaña’ programme that his client had hit his victim with a stick and when she fell to the ground was hit on the head with a stone.

"After determining that she had stopped breathing he then buried her in front of his house," said Prieto.

But Muñoz later dug her up and carried her to a more secluded area of farmland and reburied her. "She was naked, I am not sure why," said the lawyer. "He burned her clothes and her backpack." 

Police investigators believe the killer may have removed her hands in an attempt to hinder her identification and possible forensic traces of her attacker that may have been under her fingernails after the struggle.

The accused led the police to the body on Friday after being arrested for the crime.

DNA tests have confirmed that the remains were those of Thiem and the post mortem report stated that Thiem had received a blow to the head that had most probably caused her death.

Crowds gathered for the memorial held at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela Photo: Chayo / Help us find Denise / Facebook

On Wednesday evening a funeral mass was held for Thiem in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the final destination of those undertaking the pilgrimage and the site where the relics of the Saint James the Apostle are said to lie.

Story continues below…

Some members of her family attended the memorial posting photographs and a message on the Facebook page "Help Us Find Denise"  thanking people for their support.

"We will always be grateful to the people of León, and especially Astorga for all that you have done to help us in our effort to bring Denise home," said the message.

"We all wish we could have attended the beautiful memorial for her today. Thank you for the touching words and prayers. It has been very comforting to Denise's friends and family to see you celebrate her life together. Todos somos Denise."

The memorial held at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela Photo: Chayo / Help us find Denise / Facebook

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Fiona Govan (fiona.govan@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Russia withdraws request to refuel warships in Ceuta
The aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov was due to dock in Ceuta

Russia has withdrawn a request for its aircraft carrier group to be refuelled at the Spanish port of Ceuta, authorities confirmed.

Bulls replace guard dogs at scrap yard in Valencia
Two bulls will be patrolling the scrap yard in eastern Spain. Archive photo: AFP

Guard dogs were not proving enough of a deterrent to thieves at a car breakers yard in eastern Spain so the owner has brought in a pair of fighting bulls.

Two-headed shark born in Spanish laboratory
Scientists are studying the rare find. Photo: IBIMA / University of Malaga

Scientists at the University of Malaga found the embryo of a shark with two heads and just one body.

Spain under pressure to stop refuel of Russian warships
Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is due to arrive in Ceuta. Photo: Mil Ru / Wikimedia

Spain is facing international pressure to refuse permission for a Russian warship flotilla to refuel in Ceuta en route to continuing airstrikes against the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Most wanted: Fugitive rapist arrested in Tenerife
Mohammed Jahangir Alam was arrested n Tenerife. Photo: Crimestoppers.

Mohammed Jahangir Alam, one of Britain's most wanted fugitives, who fled the country in 2008 after allegedly raping a woman, was found working in Tenerife.

Spain's Rajoy says king has tasked him with forming govt
Photo: AFP

Spain's king on Tuesday tasked Mariano Rajoy with forming a government, taking the acting conservative prime minister a step closer to power again after a 10-month political deadlock.

Two imams arrested in Ibiza resort over 'Isis support'
The men were arrested in the resort of Sant Antoni de Portmany. Photo: Jose A / Flickr

Two Moroccan imams at a mosque on the Spanish resort island of Ibiza were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of backing the Islamic State group and inciting jihad.

Balearic Islands choose to keep summertime forever
The islands will have longer evenings during winter. Photo: AFP

The Balearic Islands want to keep summertime when the rest of Spain turns the clocks back on Sunday.

  Brazilian had 'uncontrollable desire to kill': Spain police
Francois Patrick Nogueira Gouveia has been charged with murdering his uncle, his wife and their two children. Photo: Guardia Civil.

A Brazilian teenager accused of dismembering his uncle and aunt and killing their two young sons in a grisly crime that shocked Spain had an "uncontrollable desire to kill", police said on Monday.

Man rescued from bin after climbing in to find old clothes
Photo: Policía Local Murcia

Police were called after passersby reported hearing a man calling for help from within a rubbish bin in the Vistabella neighbourhood of Murcia, southern Spain.

Analysis & Opinion
Out of the dark: Five years on from Eta ceasefire
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Spanish 'La Mafia' restaurants banned after Italian complaint
Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Hunt launched for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Napflix: Spaniards launch very boring TV channel for siestas
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
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
jobs available