The crimes committed by Bilbao’s bogus kung fu master Juan Carlos Aguilar, which have left the Basque city in a state of shock and revulsion, on the face of it have been solved: the confessed killer is in custody, although the search for victims goes on. The Ertzaintza regional police force also has to profile the kind of killer Aguilar is. It remains unclear if the 47-year-old with a narcissistic and arrogant personality is an opportunist who murdered Mauren Ada Ortuya, a 29-year-old Nigerian, and Jenny Sofía Rebollo, a 40-year-old Colombian, or whether the women’s deaths form part of the grim work of a serial killer.
The investigation will now focus on Aguilar’s past, in particular the 1997 death of his brother, who was supposedly crushed by an elevator at the same gymnasium that is now cordoned off as a double murder scene. Was it genuinely accidental? The missing persons database will also be scrutinized by police for cases in the Bilbao area. The search will focus primarily on women, but investigators are conscious that Aguilar may have sought vulnerable victims who leave little documented trace, including prostitutes and immigrants.
Jenny Sofía Rebollo was reported missing a few days after she had died. The Colombian community in Bilbao closed ranks around her, but other testimony indicated she had been moving in increasingly marginalized circles.
Profiling Aguilar is the authorities’ top priority. “We came across this killer by chance,” says a member of the homicide department. “It was not the result of an investigation. In that case we would have been under intense pressure in the knowledge that there was a killer out there and that we had to track him down. We are calm because he is in custody and cannot kill anyone else, but we have to look into his past and find out when he first killed and whether he did so on more occasions. We are not in a hurry: we are going to take our time over this.”
The Ertzaintza is confident of finding useful information on the hard drive of Aguilar’s personal computer and those at the offices of his company. The timescale for the clues being sought begins in 1994 when Aguilar returned from China, where he claims to have trained at the Shaolin Temple in Henan. On his return Aguilar embarked on a 20-year career in martial arts in which the commercial aspect superseded the spiritual.
In 1996 he tried to set up a franchise in Berlin in partnership with, among others, kung fu master Thomas Beyse. From there Aguilar was determined to be considered the representative of the Shaolin Temple in Spain. It was during this period that Aguilar’s brother, who according to testimony introduced Aguilar to kung fu after discovering an affinity for the martial art during a visit to the US, died at the gymnasium Aguilar owned on Máximo Aguirre street in Bilbao.
It was after his brother’s supposed accident that Aguilar’s business began to flourish and his became a familiar face on television, in newspapers and specialist magazines. He began to enjoy great popularity within martial arts circles but also sparked controversy among his closest disciples. He demanded obedience and money from people who had trained under him but wanted to go their own way. He became more and more difficult to deal with and his sense of self-importance grew and developed into a studied mysticism that did not endear him to many within the kung fu sphere. Aguilar changed his name to an Orientalized version — Huang. C. — and began to style himself as a Shaolin master.
However, Shaolin Temple Spain, the only center in the country that is recognized by the Shaolin Temple in China, has confirmed that Aguilar is neither a Shaolin master nor a monk. Shi Fu Carlos Álvarez, a master and instructor at Shaolin Temple Spain, said that Aguilar “lacks all of the requisites to be a monk. Unfortunately, many Chinese certificates are obtained in an irregular manner,” he added.