CRIME

Suspected killer of two Cuenca women arrested in Romania

Police used fugitive’s cellphone signal to track him from the French border at Portbou

Sergio Morate, the main suspect in the death of two women in Cuenca, in a Facebook photo.
Sergio Morate, the main suspect in the death of two women in Cuenca, in a Facebook photo.

Sergio Morate, the suspected killer of two young women who disappeared in the city of Cuenca, central Spain, last week and whose bodies were found on Wednesday, has been arrested in Romania.

Investigators had been tracking him from France, after he crossed the border at Portbou, Girona province, and allegedly turned on his cellphone, according to sources close to the investigation.

Morate was arrested by Romanian police, acting on information provided to them by the Spanish authorities, at around 6.30pm (CEDT) on Thursday at the house of a Romanian friend in Lugoj, Timis province.

Morate was arrested at the house of a Romanian friend he knew from prison in Lugoj, Timis province

The friend Isban, whom he had met during a year’s stay in prison in Cuenca for kidnapping and assaulting a former girlfriend, was also arrested, along with another man. None of the three put up any resistance, according to the Spanish Interior Ministry.

Morate’s extradition to Spain is now being processed.

The 30-year-old Morate disappeared last Thursday at the same time as his former girlfriend Marina Okarynska and her friend Laura del Hoyo also went missing.

The dead bodies of the two women, aged 26 and 24 respectively, were found on Wednesday evening in a pool by the source of the River Huécar, near the village of Palomera, where Morate’s family owned a home.

Autopsies carried out on Thursday found that both women had suffered a “violent” death.

The bodies reportedly showed burn marks caused by the quicklime in which they had been covered, police said.

The two women had last been seen on their way to Morate’s home on Thursday to pick up some articles that Ukrainian-born Okarynska had left behind.

Police suspected from the first moment that Morate, who had an international arrest warrant out against him, was trying to leave Spain. According to investigation sources, the suspected murderer had been traveling around Soria, Aragon and Catalonia in the last few days until he crossed the border into France at Portbou on Tuesday.

Everything pointed to the fact that he was headed for Romania, where his friend Isban lived. Spanish authorities alerted the Romanian police to be on the lookout for the green Seat Ibiza car that Morate was believed to be traveling in, which they subsequently located in a street in Lugoj, around 2,100 kilometers from Portbou. Spanish police requested that their counterparts in Bucharest surround the area, where they made the arrest.

The facts that quicklime was used to dispose of the bodies and that a few days before Morate had told people close to him that he was thinking of going to a country that did not have an extradition treaty with Spain point to the crime being premeditated.

Morate’s own family, who have cooperated with police searches of their properties, have condemned him.

In a statement made public on Thursday, before his arrest, they told him: “Hopefully they will lock you up soon and indefinitely so your disturbed mind can recover and be conscious of what you have done. You have not only killed some girls but also what was your family.”

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