The charred car was in such a bad state that almost nothing could be retrieved from it. The body inside the trunk was practically reduced to ashes. But the chassis number gave investigators a lead: the vehicle owner was Pedro Rodríguez, a member of Barcelona’s local police force, the Guàrdia Urbana. And the remains of a prosthetic device that did not melt in the fire confirmed that the victim was Rodríguez himself.
It happened on the afternoon of May 4, near the Foix reservoir in Barcelona province. The regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, have arrested two people in connection with the case: Rosa Peral, the victim’s partner, and her former boyfriend Albert López. All three are – or were – members of the Guàrdia Urbana, and all three had previously been involved in controversial cases and allegations of police abuse.
The judge investigating the case in Vilanova i la Geltrú has ordered both suspects remanded without bail, and charged them with either homicide or murder: “Which one will be determined as the investigation progresses,” she said in a release.
The day after Rodríguez went missing, Peral and López showed up together a lunch
In statements to the judge, both officers accused one another of the death. According to the newspaper La Vanguardia, Rosal Peral told the court that Albert López came to her house, killed her boyfriend and asked her to cover up for him. “If you don’t help me, I will make your daughters choke on their own vomit,” he allegedly told Peral.
For his part, López claimed that he found Rodríguez’s body inside the trunk of the car, and that he helped burn it down because he and Peral had gotten back together again, La Vanguardia reported.
The victim had made news in the past after being suspended by Barcelona City Hall when he physically assaulted a motorist who ran through a road check last summer. His partner, Peral, also made headlines when she reported that an ex-boyfriend – also with the local police force, but not involved in this case – had subjected her to “porno-revenge” by sending out a sexually explicit photograph of her after she broke up with him.
As for Albert López, he was convicted of assaulting a street vendor, and had been the subject of a complaint on at least one more occasion.
Peral and López were patrol car partners at the Daytime Support Unit, which has among its duties the crackdown on illegal street vendors. In August 2014, one of these street peddlers fell down an embankment and died on their beat. Peral sustained injuries to her neck. The case was dismissed.
When the Mossos arrested both of them as suspects in Rodríguez’s death, Peral said that she and Rodríguez had had a fight on Tuesday night, and that he had not come home after that. Yet she did not immediately report his disappearance, or try to reach him in any way. She said that she had been too busy with her daughters that week, and simply thought that he was taking his time coming back.
“She was very self-possessed,” said people who saw her at the time. The day after Rodríguez went missing, Peral and López showed up together at a lunch with other unit colleagues. Some of them were surprised at seeing them arrive together. Rumor had it that the two had been a couple in the past, and that things had not ended well.
Peral’s attitude seemed suspicious to some. She attended a small tribute organized by her colleagues at the spot where the burnt car had been found, and asked rhetorically: “What were you doing here, Pedro?” She also asked her superiors for a bodyguard, claiming she was scared for her safety following Rodríguez’s murder. The request was granted.
Deeply in love
The Mossos arrested Peral on Saturday morning, as she was out on duty. They also arrested López. The main theory of investigators is that the two had gotten back together behind Rodríguez’s back, that he found out about it, and that this triggered a fatal series of events.
Local and regional officials, as well as the police unions, have come out in defense of the Guàrdia Urbana. Meanwhile, non-profit groups like SOS Racisme are saying that when an officer is the subject of several complaints, he or she should be investigated.
Rodríguez’s friends are still in shock. “He was deeply in love,” said one of them. His WhatsApp status seemed to confirm it: “After the storm comes the calm. I love you, princess!!”
English version by Susana Urra.