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CRIME

Spain reels as police search for missing toddler feared killed by father

Spanish rescuers continued trawling the seabed for the body of a toddler in waters off Tenerife on Monday after investigators said they believed she -- like her sister - had been killed by their father.

anna and olivia missing tenerife
Sisters Anna and Olivia, aged one and six, were reported missing on April 27th. Photo: Handout

The case has shocked Spain, and on Monday crowds demonstrated at town halls across the country to protest domestic violence after similar gatherings over the weekend.

The girls, aged one and six, were reported missing on April 27th after being taken away by their father, Tomas Gimeno. Investigators fear he abducted and killed them.

On Thursday, the body of six-year-old Olivia was found at the bottom of the sea off Tenerife wrapped in a bag that was weighted down with an anchor.

The investigating magistrate said it was “most likely” that Gimeno had killed both his daughters at home then dumped their bodies at a depth where they were unlikely to ever be found.

In her nine-page statement, the magistrate said when Gimeno had taken the girls, he wanted “to kill them in a planned and premeditated manner”.

READ MORE: How the death of six-year-old Olivia is exposing Spain’s cruellest gender violence

“He aimed to inflict on his ex-partner the greatest pain that he could imagine, an inhuman pain,” she said.

On the day the girls went missing, Gimeno was seen loading several bags onto his boat, witnesses told investigators.

An autopsy carried out on Friday morning found Olivia had died a “violent death”, the court said, after a gag order was lifted over the weekend.

 ‘Monstrous act’

The case has gripped Spain, where 39 minors have been killed since 2013 by their fathers or by a partner or former partner of their mothers.

And so far this year alone, 18 women have been killed as a result of gender violence. The overall number of victims now stands at 1,096 since records first began on January 1, 2003, government figures show.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Friday “the whole of Spain is in shock” over the case, which has been passed to a Tenerife court specialising in gender violence.

The court magistrate said the worst was feared for Olivia’s sister Anna.

“Although only Olivia’s body has been located so far the most probable hypothesis regarding Anna is, unfortunately, the same,” she said.

The suspected abduction and murder of the two girls came a year after the girls’ mother, Beatriz Zimmermann, broke up with Gimeno.

He sent her “offensive and insulting” messages after the break-up, especially when she found a new partner, the magistrate said.

“The defendant’s desire was to leave his ex-partner in the dark as to the fate of Olivia and Anna,” she wrote.

In a searing open letter published on Sunday, the girls’ mother wrote that it was “the most monstrous act a person can commit: killing their own innocent children”.

“When they told me the news, the world came crashing down on me, and as hard as it is, at least now I can mourn their loss,” she wrote.

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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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