CRIME

Suspected Cuenca double murderer “not sorry,” says Romanian friend

The two victims were buried in hole dug for just one person

Istvan Horvath, the Romanian citizen accused of hiding Morate in his home in Lugoj.
Istvan Horvath, the Romanian citizen accused of hiding Morate in his home in Lugoj.Bota Dragos / EFE

Sergio Morate, who has been arrested in Romania on suspicion of killing his ex-girlfriend and a friend of hers in Cuenca province last week, is now being questioned by Romanian police in Lugoj, the small town where he was detained with Istvan Horvath, a Romanian friend he met in prison.

Romanian police say they questioned the two men over their versions of events after Morate fled Spain last week. Horvath, who has been released on bail, told reporters after seeing Morate during a face-to-face confrontation in court on Monday that: “He doesn’t look as though he is sorry. He looks normal, indifferent, he hasn’t shed a tear. He’s the same old Sergio.”

The autopsies carried out on the bodies show that both women were strangled

Morate, aged 30, was arrested on August 13 in Romania after investigators tracked him from France, when he crossed the border at Portbou, Girona province, and allegedly turned on his cellphone, according to sources close to the investigation.

The Spaniard was staying at the house of a Romanian friend in Lugoj, Timis province. He met Horvath during a year’s stay in prison in Cuenca for kidnapping and assaulting a former girlfriend. Horvath was also arrested, along with another man. None of the three put up any resistance, according to the Spanish Interior Ministry.

Horvath told Spanish news agency EFE on Saturday that Morate had told him that he had killed his Ukrainian-born ex-girlfriend Marina Okarynska, but that he did not believe him. “He’s always played the tough guy in front of people, saying things but never doing anything. He and Marina fought sometimes, she would provoke him,” he said, adding that he had traveled to Hungary to pick Morate up, but did not call the police.

He’s ruined my life. I have a family, but now I am in trouble with the police” Romanian Istvan Horvath

Spanish police are still investigating the site where the bodies of Okarynska and her friend Laura del Hoyo were found last Wednesday night, which is about two kilometers from the village of Palomera, close to the Huécar river, in Cuenca province. They say the suspect dug a single grave for one body, but was forced to try to fit both corpses in the hole, which he then covered with quicklime in a bid to speed up decomposition. But a passer-by noticed the grave and notified the police.

The authorities in Spain said they believed Morate originally intended to kill Okarynska, but that when she turned up at his house with Del Hoyo, he decided to kill both.

The autopsies carried out on the bodies show that both women were strangled. Police say a plastic restraint had been used on Okarynska, aged 26, and that Del Hoyo, 24, had bruising to the face, but have not said if she died in the same way. So far, it has not been established where the young women were killed.

Horvath told reporters on Saturday after he was released on bail: “He’s ruined my life. I have a family, but now I am in trouble with the police.” The Romanian authorities are still trying to establish his possible involvement in the murders.

Police say they suspected that Morate, who had an international arrest warrant out against him, was trying to leave Spain. According to investigation sources, the suspected killer had been traveling around Soria, Aragon and Catalonia after the murders until he crossed the border into France at Portbou on August 11.

So far, it has not been established where the young women were killed

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, a small town in the west of the country, around 40 kilometers from Timisoara. Spanish police asked their counterparts in Bucharest to 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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