CRIME

An “old school lawyer” who died because she wouldn’t break the rules

A policeman is accused of killing Rosa Cobo after she refused to fabricate a case

Police inspect the scene where Cobo’s Citroën was found, with her body in the trunk.
Police inspect the scene where Cobo’s Citroën was found, with her body in the trunk. MIGUEL ÁNGEL MOLINA

On September 20, Rosa Cobo Román stayed late at her office on Constitution Avenue in downtown Granada. The 51-year-old lawyer had decided to clean out her desk and file some important cases in boxes. She was a meticulous woman, and a very experienced trial attorney specializing in real estate crimes. But she handled all types of other cases too.

Araceli del Castillo, a fellow colleague whose office was on the same floor, recalls that on that day they had a conversation about the questionable practices some lawyers use to defend a client at all costs. “That night she repeated a phrase that she always used: ‘We are here to defend those who commit crimes, not to fabricate cases’.”

Cobo had used this phrase with Del Castillo in the past when they spoke about Miguel Folgoso’s case. Folgoso, a local policeman and former client, has been charged with murdering Cobo that very night.

Since the murder, which has shocked the entire legal community in Granada, details of the case — including the alleged motives of the suspect — have emerged. After leaving her office late, the petite Cobo drove to her home, which is located on Cádiar Street in the Juventud neighborhood, sometime after 10.30pm. She parked her Citroën C4 in the building’s garage but when she entered she noticed that the doors were open — someone appeared to have broken in.

According to the investigation, Folgoso, 37, was waiting for her, hunched down in the darkness between two vehicles. He attacked her, beating her about the head and the rest of her body with a blunt object. He then threw her inside the trunk of her Citroën, leaving blood stains on the pavement and the papers she was carrying scattered around the scene.

About 500 meters from her home, on a road called Camino de las Vacas, he stopped the vehicle, set it on fire and promptly fled. Firefighters put out the blaze at around 11.20pm, before the flames reached the trunk. According to forensic officials quoted in the local paper El Ideal de Granada, Cobo died as a result of inhaling the burning gasoline fumes caused by the fire that Folgoso started.

Separated from her husband, Cobo left behind two children.

Police and the Civil Guard went on an area-wide manhunt for Folgoso, who was considered the prime suspect because of the trouble Cobo had previously had with him. The following day at around 2.30pm, Civil Guard officers found a blue Volkswagen Golf parked on an exit ramp along the A-92 highway near Purullena. Inside they found Folgoso unconscious and foaming at the mouth, according to police sources quoted in El Ideal. He had tried to commit suicide by swallowing a handful of barbiturates; his clothes were covered in blood.

It is difficult to determine exactly when Folgoso became obsessed with Cobo. “There are versions of this story in the press that say that this case was all about an unsatisfied client, without giving any further details,” said an angry Del Castillo. “But the fact is he was asking her to do illegal things and she dropped him as a client.”

Sometime near the end of 2010, Cobo began handling Folgoso’s divorce. He wanted joint custody of his daughter, but the lawyers representing the couple were unable to reach an agreement. The attorney for Folgoso’s former wife recently told colleagues that he had never seen a lawyer fight so hard for her client.

As a last resort, Folgoso insisted that Cobo prepare false allegations against his wife, something that he could use in a court of law. She refused and immediately dropped him as a client without charging him a fee.

The decision infuriated the police officer, who filed one ethics complaint against Cobo with the Granada Bar Association and another with a local court. Neither of them prospered, but the entire episode angered Cobo, says Del Castillo.

Sometime later, she found the windows of her vehicle broken as well as scratches on the side of her car. Fearing for her safety, Cobo installed cameras inside the garage and at the entrance to her home. According to her colleagues, she wanted some sort of proof so she could file a complaint against Folgoso.

As this entire tragedy has unfolded, little has been reported about Folgoso. The local police officer has been divorced twice, from wives who both filed restraining orders against him. His in-laws from his second wife in 2011 pressed charges against him for allegedly setting fire to their garage. As a result, the police arrested him at his headquarters and confiscated his firearm.

The case was later dropped by the court for lack of evidence, but Folgoso saw himself as a victim. In a May 8, 2011 opinion piece published in Diario de Alcalá, a columnist tells the policeman’s side of the story under the heading “Two terrible stories,” using a statement Folgoso had provided. “They cornered me without looking at the contradictions in the sworn statements and the motives for the complaints,” Folgoso wrote.

“This entire process has been riddled with lies. I have been a victim of burglaries; I’ve been insulted and reported for gender violence; blatant lies have been told about me in official documents, even saying that I am a scrap dealer, that she lives with me, that I am a drug addict and that I have become self-destructive, even damaging my own apartment.”

The past few weeks have been very difficult for Cobo’s colleagues, who remember her as being meticulous and professional. “She wouldn’t let anyone intimidate her easily,” said local lawyer Pablo Luna. “In any case, she was reserved when it came to her personal life. She feared for her life but we never found this out, even though we spent a lot of time with her.”

“She lived for her work,” said Del Castillo. “She was killed for doing it well, and because she wasn’t willing to break the rules. She was an old-school lawyer.”