On the afternoon of her death, Asunta Basterra could not have been in two places at the same time.
But at the Monday session of the trial over the 12-year-old’s death, which began on Thursday, her father’s defense noted that Asunta had been placed in different spots by two different sources.
Basterra’s defense attorney insisted that her client was in fact at home at the time one of Asunta’s classmates said she saw him
The main testimony against Alfonso Basterra – the chief suspect along with his wife in the death of the 12-year-old girl – places him on the street with his daughter around the same time that his ex-wife Rosario Porto was driving to the family’s country property in Teo, outside of Santiago de Compostela.
Surveillance cameras captured images of Porto’s green Mercedes headed for the home where the child is believed to have died of suffocation after being heavily sedated. Prosecutors claim that her adoptive parents had been planning her death for months.
An image taken at 6.21pm at a gas station shows Porto at the wheel and another person – presumably her daughter – sitting next to her.
A mysterious death
Asunta's body was found close to the family's country home, located near Santiago, on September 21, 2013. Investigators believe that her parents had spent months planning to kill the child.
Asunta was born in China and adopted by her new Galician parents at the age of one. The family had been viewed as close-knit, and no clear motive for the murder has yet been established.
The autopsy showed that Asunta had not been sexually assaulted, and subsequent tests determined that she had been drugged for months with lorazepam, a powerful sedative used by her mother to treat her own anxiety.
Since the girl's body was found, the high-profile investigation has been in the media spotlight partly as a result of her mother's background – she was a lawyer and former honorary French consul, and was well known in Santiago society circles – as well as because of Basterra's job as a journalist.
But one of Asunta’s classmates stated on Monday that she saw Asunta and her father walking on the street shortly after she herself had stepped out of a store after buying a pair of running shoes. A sales ticket recently obtained by the Civil Guard shows the time of purchase to be 6.22pm. The child said she did not walk up to Asunta to say hello as she only saw her from the back.
Until now, investigators believed that this encounter had taken place earlier in the day, which would have made it possible for Asunta to have been with her father first, then in the car with her mother.
Basterra’s defense attorney made note of the contradictory versions regarding Asunta’s whereabouts at the time, and insisted that her client was in fact at home preparing food and reading a book.
During the seven-hour session, the court also heard testimony from neighbors who live near the accused couple’s country home in Teo, and from one of the two men who found the body in the middle of the night on a dirt track near the house.
The neighbors reported seeing three cars from their window that night – none of which belonged to Rosario Porto. One of them was a white Volkswagen Golf with a sun roof.
It was the occupants of this vehicle who alerted the police to the presence of the body. The pair, it later emerged, had been drinking and were on their way to a brothel via the dirt track rather than the main road because the driver had had his license revoked.
Only one of these two men has given testimony, as the other is seriously ill. This witness, who has a criminal record, was initially targeted by the police, who suspected the car might have accidentally hit and killed the child.
But police officers found no scratches on the vehicle, and ropes found near the child coincided with rope later found at the country home, suggesting that the victim had been tied up before her death.
The next-door neighbor had seen the mother leaving the house in her car at around 8.45pm, when he was taking his dogs out for a walk. He exchanged a few words with Porto, and says he saw no large objects inside the car, nor did his dogs show signs of smelling anything to suggest that the child’s body might be inside, about to be transferred to the dirt track as investigators suspect was the case.
English version by Susana Urra.