Brothers confess to killing Dutchman missing for four years in Galicia

The two men were members of a family involved in a dispute with Martin Verfondern

One of the arrested brothers, his head hidden beneath his jacket, arrives at court.
One of the arrested brothers, his head hidden beneath his jacket, arrives at court.NACHO GÓMEZ

Martin Verfondern, the Dutch environmentalist who went missing in the small Galician community of Santoalla in 2010, was killed by a gunshot wound to the head.

Two brothers arrested on Saturday have confessed to the crime and a search carried out in the municipality of Petín, where the hamlet is located, on Monday revealed a pistol that Ourense province Civil Guard officers believe is the murder weapon.

The two suspects explained the details surrounding the death and how they moved the body to a pine wood in A Veiga, a little over 20 kilometers away along forest paths. They said Verfondern was killed by a gunshot.

The remains of a man thought to be the Dutchman, along with his vehicle, were uncovered in the spot by Civil Guard officers in June of this year. Owing to his large size and the long distance his body was carried to be hidden, investigators had always believed that more than one person had been involved in the Dutchman’s death.

It still remains to be determined who pulled the trigger and whether more people are involved in the crime

It still remains to be determined who pulled the trigger and whether more people are involved in the crime, whether directly or by helping to cover up the death in the four years that the investigation remained stalled because of the lack of a body or evidence.

According to investigation sources, Juan Carlos Rodríguez González, 47, who has an accredited mental disability, was the first to confess to the crime on Sunday, followed by his older brother, Julio, 51, the next day.

The Civil Guard confirmed the information in a statement released on Tuesday, just before they were arraigned by the examining judge in O Barco.

The two brothers were members of a family who were involved in a dispute with Verfondern and his wife over property rights on the huge hillside that overlooks the village.

The 52-year-old Verfondern was reported missing in January 2010 after leaving his home in Santoalla. A German-born, naturalized Dutch citizen, he had moved to the tiny community from the Netherlands in the mid-1990s with his wife, Margo Pool, where he set up an organic farm. He initially made friends with the only other year-round residents of the hamlet, the Rodríguez family, who run a farm. But over the years, he gradually fell out with his neighbors.

Talking to EL PAÍS months before his disappearance, he said he never left his house without a video camera “on standby.” He reportedly came to blows with the family patriarch, Manuel Rodríguez, on several occasions. The family say that Verfondern once hit Rodríguez’s wife, and also attacked and injured Rodríguez.

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