MEXICO

Spanish soccer chief’s niece was killed hours after ransom was paid

María Villar was kidnapped in Mexico after taking a taxi and murdered two days later

The shopping mall where María Villar took a taxi.
The shopping mall where María Villar took a taxi.José Méndez / EFE

A Spanish woman who was the victim of an “express” kidnapping in Mexico was murdered just hours after her captors received a cash payment of €3,000, sources close to the investigation have told EL PAÍS.

María Villar Galaz, 39, was the niece of Spanish Football Federation president Ángel María Villar, and had lived in Mexican capital for the last three years.

It was a group of people that took María Villar away

Gustavo Salas, Under-Attorney

She disappeared on the night of September 13 after taking a taxi close to where she worked, and her kidnappers almost immediately contacted the family to demand a sum that was initially reported as €90,000 by unofficial sources.

On September 14, her husband Cristiano Do Vale and cousin Gorka Villar – the federation president’s son – made a cash payment of 65,000 pesos (€3,000) in an unspecified location in Iztapalapa, southeast of the capital.

María Villar’s body in the early hours of September 15 in a stream in Santiago Tianguistenco, a village an hour’s drive from Mexico City. Sources at the Mexico State prosecutor’s office told EL PAÍS that they found no identification documents on the body, which was taken to the morgue in nearby Toluca.

A source familiar with the investigation has revealed that Villar Galaz was suffocated with a bag over her head, and that her hands were bound behind her back.

The victim, María Villar.
The victim, María Villar.

Mexican authorities are now analyzing security camera footage in the area of Patio Santa Fe, the shopping mall where María Villar took the taxi, and trying to determine whether it was an official cab of the kind that wait at taxi stands, or another type of vehicle, including those available through the popular Uber ride-sharing service.

Investigators are also working to figure out how many individuals were involved in the crime.

“It was a group of people that took María Villar away,” said Gustavo Salas, the Under-Attorney at the General Office of Organized Crime, a division of the Mexican Attorney General’s Office.

The case is testing authorities’ ability to deal with a type of crime that is particularly common in the State of Mexico, with the added pressure of a high-profile victim whose disappearance was first announced by Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García Margallo.

The Mexican government had offered the family the services of an expert negotiator, besides the Spanish National Police’s own kidnap specialists who flew to Mexico with the relatives.

In love with Mexico

Friends of the deceased described her as “cheerful, fun and in love with Mexico.”

María Villar Galaz, a native of the Basque town of Getxo in northern Spain, had arrived in Mexico nearly three years ago with her husband to work for Everis, a tech development company. A year ago she was hired by IBM.

Her acquaintances said she was a brilliant woman who led a normal life, had traveled extensively across Mexico and did not have bodyguards. She was living in the upscale neighborhood of Polanco, a half-hour drive from her workplace.

Before moving to Mexico she had lived in Britain and Germany.

“She was a woman of the world, she had lived in other countries, she knew Latin America and her husband is from Brazil,” said a friend who declined to have his name in print. “You can’t say that she was reckless or that she triggered her own death. This is something that could happen to any of us.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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