“He was planning his strategy to have his children disappear”

Police and judicial reports reveal the extent of José Bretón’s plotting

José Bretón handcuffed following his arrest last year.
José Bretón handcuffed following his arrest last year.F. J. VARGAS

Almost 11 months after the disappearance of six-year-old Ruth and two-year-old José Bretón in Córdoba new investigations seem poised to bring the tragic case to a close. Although their father, José Bretón, maintains he lost the children in a park, new forensic evidence uncovered recently points to the reality of the suspicion that Ruth Ortiz, the youngsters’ mother, has always held: that her estranged husband killed the children in revenge for her request for divorce. The following is based on police investigations, court reports and published information.

Separation. While the divorce was being processed, Bretón was restricted to seeing his children every other weekend. The first weekend he was to look after them he took them to an unknown address in Córdoba and, according to court reports, “told them it was a surprise and the whole family, including Ruth Ortiz, would live there together.”

Revenge. Despite Bretón’s plans, the investigating judge believed Bretón was planning some sort of revenge if Ortiz went ahead with the divorce. A “significant episode” came when Bretón told members of Ortiz’s family that “he was going to cause serious harm to his wife.”

The plan. The judge said Bretón visited Las Quemadillas at least 11 times between “September 15 and the weekend of 7 and 9 October.” A neighbor testified to seeing a light on several nights in a row. “He was planning his strategy to have his children disappear, either on his own or with the unproven participation of third parties.”

The journey. Despite Ortiz suggesting they change the weekend, on October 7 Bretón picked up Ruth and José and placed suitcases in the front seat of the car. This, according to the judge, was “to hide the array of objects needed to carry out his atrocious criminal design.”

The alibi. Returning to Córdoba, Bretón suggested to his family a visit to a children’s play park the following day, Saturday October 8. He said he was going for lunch with friends first, the judge said, “to make himself untraceable throughout the early afternoon to prepare his plan, while also selecting the place to simulate the disappearance of his children: the Cruz Conde park.”

Disappearance. Returning to Las Quemadillas with the children, Bretón turned off his internet phone to hide his location. Between 1.48pm and 5.30pm there is no evidence that his car left the estate and the magistrate believes he spent the time laying false clues. He later returned to the Cruz Conde park where he placed an emergency call at 6.41pm saying he had lost his children.

Arrest. Twenty days after Ruth and José vanished, Bretón was arrested. The police never trusted his version of events and suspect the children never arrived at the park, where Bretón is captured on security cameras. No witnesses report seeing Ruth and José in the park. Bretón takes part in a reconstruction and attends searches of Las Quemadillas. He is eventually remanded on suspicion of kidnap and faking a crime.

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