Surveillance cameras debunk story offered by Asunta’s mother

Galicia child murder trial features key testimony from Civil Guard officers covering case

Rosario Porto and Alfonso Basterra, the two main suspects in the murder of their daughter Asunta.
Rosario Porto and Alfonso Basterra, the two main suspects in the murder of their daughter Asunta.lavandeira jr (EFE)

In a session extending over 10 hours at the Santiago court overhearing the trial over the mysterious murder of 12-year-old Asunta Basterra, Civil Guard officers provided a reconstruction of events that debunks the tale given by the victim’s mother, a prime suspect in the case.

Officers explained on Tuesday that detailed analysis of 33 surveillance cameras in Santiago de Compostela showed no sign of Rosario Porto’s green Mercedes along the routes she claimed she followed on the afternoon of September 21, 2013.

Instead, the vehicle is clearly seen at a gas station at 6.20pm, with Porto at the wheel and someone else sitting next to her. The mother had initially claimed that she was alone in the car and on her way to the family’s country house in Teo, located six kilometers away.

The investigation did not pursue the hypothesis that a third party may have been involved in the crime

This is the place where Asunta, who was adopted in China at the age of one by Porto and her husband Alfonso Basterra, is believed to have been suffocated after being heavily sedated with lorazepam, a drug used by her mother to treat her own anxiety.

Basterra is also a main suspect in the case. The couple, who divorced in February 2012, is believed to have planned their daughter’s death for months.

Following her arrest shortly after the crime, a judge informed Porto that a camera had caught her with someone else in the car. That was when the mother changed her version of events, and claimed that Asunta was in fact with her, but that she took her right back to Santiago after arriving in Teo because the child wanted to do her homework.

After that, Porto claimed to have driven to a branch of the Decathlon sporting goods chain to buy an item for Asunta’s ballet class – but failed to go inside after discovering she had left her purse back in Teo. After allegedly collecting her purse, she then went to a gas station to fill the tank – but failed to do so after realizing she had forgotten her special discount card.

These alleged trips cover the time that investigators believe Porto really spent inside the country house with her daughter, who was found dead late that night on a nearby dirt track by the occupants of a car on their way to a brothel.

The Civil Guard investigator told her not to touch anything at the scene, but Porto went straight for a wastepaper basket

Rather, the law enforcement officers in charge of the case think that she arrived in Teo just after six and did not leave again until after 9.30pm, around the time that Asunta died.

A Civil Guard officer who testified on Wednesday said that he had reviewed footage from 33 cameras in banks, stores and public buildings along the mother’s alleged routes, but that her Mercedes 190 E in two shades of green did not show up in Santiago again until 9.30pm.

This same officer admitted that the investigation had not pursued the hypothesis that a third party may have been involved in the crime. This theory is based on the fact that the men who found Asunta’s body said that one of her arms was bent, but after briefly leaving the scene and returning to it, the same arm was straight.

Nor did investigators accept a neighbor’s claim that no body was there at midnight because he had been out for a walk and saw nothing out of the ordinary. Two days after the crime, officers conducted a visibility test and concluded that it was too dark to see properly.

Odd reaction by the mother

This same expert witness was the first person to suspect that Rosario Porto may have been involved in the crime. Once inside the country house after the body was found, Porto told this officer that she needed to go to the bathroom. He followed her, and watched her race up the stairs to the first floor and go inside a bedroom.

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The Civil Guard investigator told her not to touch anything, as it could alter the scene of the crime. But Porto went straight for a wastepaper basket. The officer was faster than her and snatched the basket, which contained a section of the same orange rope that was found near the dead child. The mother reacted “nervously,” this officer told the court. The father quickly explained, without being asked, that the rope was of the type used by “the gardeners.”

But investigators were unable to locate the maker of that specific rope, which is commonly used in the Galician countryside, while lab tests failed to clear up whether the cuts on the rope near the body coincided with the bits of rope found inside the house.

Meanwhile, prosecuting attorney Jorge Fernández de Aránguiz showed the popular jury personal e-mails exchanged between Porto and Basterra following their divorce. “I am poor, I’ve nowhere to drop dead, I’ve been evicted from the house where I’ve been living for years. But I have tons of dignity,” wrote Basterra to his ex-wife. She, in the meantime, wrote to a friend in March 2013 that her ex’s attitude was somewhere “between feeling victimized and aggressiveness,” and confided that she had just celebrated the first anniversary of her secret relationship with a married man.

A detailed analysis of all the family members’ computers and mobile devices showed that Rosario Porto deleted messages and calls made at key times.

English version by Susana Urra.

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