CRIME

Search continues for evidence linking parents to murder of 12-year-old

Body of Asunta was found just five kilometers from family’s country property

Rosario Porto is escorted to her apartment in Santiago by the authorities.
Rosario Porto is escorted to her apartment in Santiago by the authorities.ÓSCAR CORRAL

The divorced parents of a 12-year-old girl who was found dead in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia at the weekend were taken in handcuffs to the apartment of the girl’s mother on Thursday morning. The arrival of the pair, who are the main suspects in the ongoing murder inquiry, caused a stir in the neighborhood, with some onlookers shouting insults at the former couple. The Civil Guard took them to the property to continue their search for evidence.

The body of Asunta — who was adopted from China by the couple — was discovered by walkers in woodland on the outskirts of Santiago on Sunday, shortly after she was reported missing by her parents. The child’s remains were located just five kilometers from a country property in Montouto used by her mother, Rosario Porto.

The authorities took Porto into custody on Tuesday shortly after the young girl was cremated based on inconsistencies in her story.

On Wednesday, Porto’s ex-husband, journalist Alfonso Basterra Camporro, was also arrested on suspicion of murder.

According to sources close to the investigation, urine tests have revealed that Asunta was given a strong dose of a drug to render her helpless before she was tied up. The cause of death is being reported as asphyxiation. The same sources said on Thursday that the authorities are trying to “find physical evidence” connected to the homicide, something that, they say, is proving to “be very difficult.” The same sources also confirmed that there has not as of yet “been any confession.”

Investigators have determined that the young girl’s mouth and nose were covered, causing her to die from asphyxiation. The killing is thought to have taken place at around 9pm on Saturday night, around the time that her mother, Rosario Porto, was seen leaving the country house in A Póboa, Montouto.

The authorities believe that the luxury property could hold the key to the motive for the young girl’s murder. Sources close to the family have reported that Porto was the benefactor of the considerable estate of her father. News agency Efe, however, has suggested that the inheritance was in fact left to Asunta, and that this may be the motive for the crime.

On Thursday, sources from the investigation told EL PAÍS that neither the Civil Guard nor the investigating judge, José Antonio Vázquez Taín, have yet investigated whether the youngster did indeed receive an inheritance from her grandparents.

The country property was searched on Wednesday by the authorities. The girl’s father, Alfonso Basterra Camporro, and her mother were present as officers searched the property, which is set back somewhat from the other houses in the area, and is protected by high walls and a lot of vegetation. After the search, the pair were taken to Lonzas, where they spent the night in police custody.

Porto has told the police that she left her daughter in her apartment in the center of Santiago to go shopping. She then said that she traveled to her house in A Póboa, which is located six kilometers from the Galician capital.

Some of her neighbors in the area have told police that they saw Porto leaving the house in a hurry at around 8.45pm, telling them that she was going to “collect” her daughter. Investigators have found rope in the property that matches that discovered in the forest where the girl’s body was found.

When she returned to the city, she claimed to have found Asunta missing from her apartment.

The suspicion of the authorities was raised in particular by one part of Porto’s story. The former lawyer told detectives that in the middle of July a man broke into her downtown apartment while her daughter was asleep, but that she never filed a police report about the incident. She explained that she didn’t want to cause her daughter any distress, although she admitted the youngster had sensed an intruder and screamed.

“At about 2.30am I heard my daughter cry out and I got out of bed and saw a man, about 5’ 3” tall, well built, wearing dark clothing and latex gloves and running away down the hallway,” Porto said. She added that the break-in was probably the result of her accidentally having left her keys in the door.

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