CRIME

Suspect arrested for murder of Spanish schoolteacher Laura Luelmo

The Civil Guard has detained Bernardo Montoya, 50, in relation to the suspected violent killing of the 26-year-old, who was found dead on Monday in Huelva

Victim Laura Luelmo and the house of the suspect (r).
Victim Laura Luelmo and the house of the suspect (r).

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The Civil Guard made an arrest on Tuesday in the ongoing investigation into the death of Laura Luelmo, a 26-year-old from Zamora in Spain who disappeared last Wednesday from the town of El Campillo, in Huelva, southern Spain. Her body was located on Monday in scrubland by a volunteer taking part in the extensive searches to locate the schoolteacher.

Sources from the investigation have confirmed to EL PAÍS that they have arrested a 50-year-old man named Bernardo Montoya in connection with the apparent killing. This morning, Civil Guard officers were seen carrying out searches in the street where Luelmo lived in a rented apartment. Montoya was living in the house opposite, which belonged to his father.

In 1995, the suspect killed an 82-year-old woman with a machete in her house

However, the same sources also explained that there is not as yet definitive proof that links him to the death. Sources have revealed that she was found with a blow to the head and marks on her neck, but the cause of death has yet to be announced.

Luelmo’s body was located just five kilometers from her new home in El Campillo, “hidden by some branches and half-naked,” according to sources close to the investigation. The volunteer who found her had been drawn to the spot after seeing clothes strewn about the scrubs. The physical attributes, age and a tattoo on the body made it possible to immediately identify it as Luelmo’s.

The 26-year-old teacher was from Zamora but had moved to El Campillo just over a week earlier to begin a new job at the Vázquez Díaz secondary school in the nearby town of Nevera.

Luelmo was reported missing on Thursday, December 12 after she left her home to exercise on Wednesday and never returned. On Saturday, more than 200 volunteers and the Civil Guard began looking for the missing teacher.

The suspect in the case was being followed this morning by officers from the Civil Guard while he was driving his car. At one point, having realized he was being tailed, he left his vehicle and tried to escape on foot. After a brief chase, he was arrested in Huelva, according to Civil Guard sources, who did not specify the exact location of the detention.

Montoya is reported to be the twin brother of one of Luelmo’s neighbors

Montoya is reported to be the twin brother of another one of Luelmo’s neighbors, a man who has been identified as Luciano Montoya, and who, on the day of the schoolteacher’s disappearance, was in prison in Ocaña (Toledo).

The main suspect, who was interviewed by officers last week according to sources from the investigation, has a long criminal record, as does his twin brother. “Murder, forced entry, obstruction of justice, violent robbery,” among other crimes, according to prison sources. Bernardo Montoya first entered jail in 1994, and was released in 2018 after having served 17 years of a 22-year sentence for murder, according to a ruling from the Huelva High Court in 1997, to which EL PAÍS has had access.

On December 13, 1995, the suspect killed an 82-year-old woman with a machete in her house in nearby Cortegana. Montoya was trying to prevent the victim from testifying against him in court in a robbery trial. The court concluded that at the time of the killing he was under the influence of heroin and cocaine, to which he was addicted.

It only took Luelmo three days in her new house in El Campillo to get the impression that her neighbor across the street was untrustworthy, and said so to her boyfriend ahead of her disappearance. The man would reportedly sit by the door of the family house in which he was living, right in front of Luelmo’s rented property.

Many of the more than 2,000 residents of El Campillo were aware of the criminal past of Bernardo Montoya. “In 2008 he attacked a youngster from town with a knife,” explained a resident living close to Córdoba street. “I believe it was when he was out on parole.”

The murder has shocked Spain, which has seen several high-profile murders of women in recent years, including that of Diana Quer, an 18-year-old from Madrid who went missing in August 2016 while vacationing with her family in Galicia. In January of this year, the Civil Guard found the body of the 18-year-old inside a well at the site of an abandoned warehouse in Rianxo and arrested her suspected killer, a local man named José Enrique Abuín.

The suspect’s twin, Luciano, killed a 35-year-old woman in the year 2000. The modus operandi of Bernardo’s brother did not differ much from his own: he was sentenced to 15 years in jail for lying in wait for the woman, whom he also killed as a reprisal for having reported him over the theft of a purse.

In recent days several media outlets in Spain have pointed to Luciano as the main suspect in the killing of Luelmo. But this would have been impossible, given that he was in jail at the time of the disappearance, and was not released until the day the body was discovered.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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