“The evidence is plentiful, there’s a lot of it, and it has to lead us to solve this case.” These words of hope were spoken by the central government delegate in Galicia, Santiago Villanueva, just two months before the investigation into the disappearance of teenager Diana Quer was shelved by a court. The judge in charge of the case has thrown in the towel – at least provisionally, after eight months of investigation involving more than 200 interviews, ground, sea and air searches, supposed witnesses that ended up losing credibility and the monitoring of suspects who ended up being nothing more than that: suspects.
The disappearance of the 18-year-old madrileña while she was returning from local fiestas in A Pobra do Caramiñal, in the northwestern Galician province of A Coruña, in the early hours of August 22, 2016 will continue, for now, to be completely shrouded in mystery.
What happened to Diana Quer? How is it possible that the massive media coverage of the case has not supplied even the smallest clue about her whereabouts? How can it be that not a single person has seen the woman since 2.40am on August 22 of last year? The judge admits that “there is evidence of non-voluntary disappearance” and has not ruled out that the youngster was the victim of “serious criminal acts.” But that dark trail has led nowhere. Not to a suspect, not to an accomplice, and not even to someone involved in a cover-up. The Civil Guard has taken statements from a number of persons of interest, but it has not managed to bring together any incriminatory evidence that would even lead to anyone being named an official suspect. There has been ongoing surveillance work in case anyone should slip up and incriminate themselves, but nothing of the sort has happened.
This is why the judge has decided to provisionally shelve the case, albeit while police probes continue. The huge amount of data collected from telephone records that needs to be examined could explain why the maximum terms established by law for the investigation have expired. If inquiries by the Civil Guard turn up new evidence, the judicial process would reopen, according to a writ from the judge from the court in Ribeira, A Coruña.
Quer was last seen at 2.40am in Paseo do Areal in A Pobra, when she was supposedly returning from the local fiestas to the vacation home where she and her family would spend the summer. The trail followed by the Civil Guard took them until nearly 5am, but it was not a physical one. The signal from her cellphone, which was found in October by a fisherman on a riverbank in Arousa, suggests that she got into a car at some point, either voluntarily or against her will. The fast movement of her phone signal has allowed investigators to deduce that she was traveling in a vehicle, but no other testimony backs this up.
Her cellphone ended up in the sea, underneath the bridge of the freeway that leads to Taragoña, in Rianxo. There is nothing to suggest that it was she who threw it from the car, but nor is there evidence to suggest otherwise. Investigators have analyzed tapes from traffic cameras as well as the signal from the cellphones of 80 people who took the same route between 3 and 5am on August 22. And despite the intense searches there are no clues that allow for her steps to be traced beyond that viaduct. It is as if the earth had swallowed her up.
The Civil Guard is keeping all lines of inquiry open, including a possible kidnap, despite the fact that no one has asked for a ransom to be paid. Pictures of the young woman have been distributed all over Europe, just in case she has become the victim of sex traffickers. The pressure on the investigators and the authorities has been much greater than in the case of the four or five people who disappear every day in Spain without a trace, according to information from the association SOS Desaparecidos. But nothing has been enough to solve the mystery of Diana Quer.
English version by Simon Hunter.