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CRIME

DNA clue leads to arrest over brutal murder of teenage girl 18 years ago

The mystery of who murdered 16-year-old Eva Blanco Puig in Madrid almost two decades ago appeared to be solved thanks to DNA profiling resulting in the arrest of a man in France.

DNA clue leads to arrest over brutal murder of teenage girl 18 years ago
Photo: Guardia Civil

The brutal rape and murder of the popular high-school student as she walked home after a night out with friends in the quiet Madrid suburb of Algete on April 20th, 1997, had shocked the local community and made headlines across Spain.

Eva was raped, stabbed in the back and then dumped in scrubland near a roundabout on Madrid’s M-100 highway and the police made it a priority to find her killer, pursuing more than 100 lines of inquiry in the intervening years.

Police initially took DNA samples of dozens of men in the area including relatives, friends and acquaintances of Eva and her family but to no avail.

Repeated appeals had over the subsequent years done little to further investigations until three years ago when advances in DNA profiling matched semen found inside her body to someone likely to have his origins in North Africa.

Then in September after exhaustive comparison to more than 2000 samples of DNA  taken during the investigation alongside a crosschecking of all those of Maghrebi origin known to be in the area in 1997 the police came up with a gentic profile that led them to their suspect.

 The accused is reported to have lived for a short time with his brother in Algete around the time of Eva's murder and worked in construction where he may have come across Eva’s father, who had a crane company.

On Thursday a 52-year-old man Ahmed Chelh was arrested on a European Arrest Warrant in Pierrefontaine-les-Varans, a town in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France near the Swiss border.

The man, of Moroccan origin with Spanish nationality was married with children and had left Spain in 1999.

Eva’s parents were informed of the arrest on Thursday bringing an end to 18 years of anguish.

“It was a very emotional moment; the captain also got emotional when he told us about the arrest. He started to cry,” Olga Puig, Eva’s mother, told El País.

“Now I hope that justice will be done and that this man pays for everything he did to my daughter.

“It looks like God has heard me and given me some joy after so many years of suffering,”

Both her and Manuel Blanco joined the Interior Minister at a press conference on Friday to congratulate police on the arrest.

 
 

CRIME

Spain investigates mysterious ‘needle spiking’ attacks on women in nightclubs

Spanish police are investigating a string of cases of women being injected with possibly spiked syringes in crowded clubs, following similar incidents in Britain and France. However, no chemical trace has been found yet in the victims.

Spain investigates mysterious 'needle spiking' attacks on women in nightclubs

The worrying trend of ‘needle spiking’ (pinchazos in Spanish) in bars and nightclubs that has been seen across Europe in recent weeks has reached Spain.

The strange attacks, the first of which reportedly happened in October 2021 in the Scottish city of Dundee, can cause sudden dizziness, memory loss and then, usually the morning after, bruises caused by what experts believe are needle pricks.

In Spain, the first reports of these needle spiking attacks have been in the Basque Country, Catalonia, Andalusia, Aragon and Cantabria.

The Ertzaintza (Basque police) are investigating as many as a dozen neede spikings in bars and restaurants across the northern region in the last two weeks alone, while national police in Andalusia are investigating two women claiming to have been victims of ‘chemical submission’ due to needle spiking in a nightclub in El Puerto de Santa María in Cádiz.

Catalonia and the Basque Country are the regions where the largest number of cases have been reported so far, and the complaints are familiar: young women who feel a prick or sharp pain while dancing or waiting at the bar in a cramped environment, and then feel dizzy and disorientated and have a physical injection mark on their body.

Often the needle pricks are accompanied by memory loss.

Social panic

Worrying though the attacks are, it must be noted that scientists have only detected one case in Spain (in the northern region of Asturias) where the victim’s body was found to have a toxic substance present.

The victim in question was a minor, so it is unclear if they were in a bar or nightclub at the time. The 13-year-old girl reported a sharp pain in her leg, and later tested positive for liquid ecstasy after analysis at the Cabueñes Hospital.

But this seems to be the exception.

Physical needle pricks without any chemical or toxic traces have been the case in almost every other case across Europe.

By January 2022, in Britain there had already been already 1,300 complaints about needle attacks. Of these, zero cases were confirmed with chemical evidence.

In France, of 800 or so reported needle spiking cases, not a single chemical trace was found in any of the victims tests.

In the medical analysis of Spanish victims, according to police sources, no traces of toxic substances have been found besides the single case in Dijon.

Mireia Ventura, head of analysis at Energy Control, said in the Spanish press this week that “we do not deny that there are aggressions with something sharp, but this story that they [the victims] are inoculated drugs with a syringe in nightclubs sounds fanciful to us, there are several pieces that do not fit in.”

Not a single syringe has been found on any premises nor have any culprits been identified.

None of the dozens of recent victims in Spain have tested positive for toxic substances in medical tests, nor have they suffered sexual assault, harassment or theft.

As sociologist Robert Bartholomew wrote in ‘Psychology Today’, “anyone who believes she was drugged while on the go must be taken seriously and her claims thoroughly investigated. However, a recent wave of news involving syringes has all the characteristics of a social panic.”

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