On Tuesday this week, Ángel Cortés returned to the school where he teaches painting in the western city of Cáceres. On February 20, his brother Daniel killed his 68-year-old father with a shotgun at the family home where his mother and sister lived.
“She called me at 5.15am. It was a call that, sadly, I had been expecting for many years. But I thought it would be the other way around, to tell me that my father had murdered my mother.” The 38-year-old brother is being held in custody while the case is being investigated.
Cortés says that his 67-year-old mother, Toñi, never reported her husband to the authorities: “She was blackmailed and threatened,” he says, adding that on the one occasion when she told her husband she was reporting him to the police he told her that he would kill her and the three children.
A petition calling for Daniel Cortés’s release has attracted 4,000 signatures
Remembering the daily routine of domestic violence as he grew up, Cortés says: “There were insults, humiliations and beatings every day. He tried not to do it when we were there, but he did, and for 38 years. And a year has 365 days and there are 24 hours in each day: you can do the math.”
He goes on to say that he and his brother and sister never talked about their father’s treatment of their mother. “I know it’s hard to understand,” he says.
Cortés tries to explain his brother’s actions: “Imagine that you are tied to a chair and your mother is there. You see a person who insults her, pushes her, humiliates her, laughs at her. And 38 years later, you break free. What would you do?”
He had not seen his father for six months prior to his killing, saying that he had banished him from his life. “He would call me on the phone but I wouldn’t answer.” He adds that his sister, Lourdes, 44, hadn’t seen him for a year, although they lived under the same roof. “She would eat before he got in. In the end, to avoid him, she would go to her room. When my father had his afternoon nap, she would go out to work.”
My father threatened to kill us all if my mother reported him to the police Ángel Cortés
Along with his mother and sister, he has seen his brother twice since he was arrested. “The first thing my mother did was to thank him. For an hour-and-a-half they held hands. We’ve told him that as soon as he is out, the first thing we’ll do is go to [Real Madrid soccer stadium] the Bernabéu. I try not to think about Dani being there, because if I do, my chest starts pounding,” he says.
Cortés, who will be 42 next week, left home in 1996 to join the army, where he stayed for eight years. “I left to pay a debt my father owed. He never thanked me.” He now makes a living from painting.
On the night of the killing, his brother arrived home at 3.30am and went to the bathroom. He told police that his father began to shout insults through the door, thinking his mother was inside. He then opened the door, grabbed the family shotgun and shot him.
Bars and shops near to where the family lives in Cáceres have since organized a petition calling for Daniel Cortés to be pardoned. When the family found out, they moved the petition to the Change.org platform, where more than 4,000 people have signed already.
Cortés says he feels closer than ever to his family. “Before, we didn’t kiss or hug each other. It was a strange situation. I can’t explain it. My father made us like that; we lived like that since we were children. Thanks to my brother we will have a new life. Above all, my mother.”
English version by Nick Lyne.