Civil Guard offers update in Laura Luelmo murder investigation

The authorities believe that the Huelva neighbor of the 26-year-old teacher, Bernardo Montoya, kidnapped and killed her on the day that she disappeared

Patricia Ortega Dolz
The Civil Guard press conference on Wednesday.
The Civil Guard press conference on Wednesday.Europa Press

Officers from the Civil Guard held a press conference today during which they explained their findings so far in the investigation into the murder of Laura Luelmo, a 26-year-old teacher who went missing earlier this month and was found dead having been sexually abused. Bernardo Montoya, a neighbor of Luelmo’s in the small town of El Campillo, Huelva, is currently in police custody and has confessed to the killing.

Investigators explained that they believe that Montoya attacked Luelmo when she was returning to her house from the supermarket

According to the Spanish authorities, the main theory is that Montoya assaulted her and then drove her out into the countryside, where he sexually abused her. Investigators explained that they believe that Montoya attacked Luelmo when she was returning to her house from the supermarket. He is thought to have maneuvered her into his house and tied her up. She is thought to have tried to defend herself by kicking him in the ribs. According to the police version of events, he then beat her head against the floor.

Colonel Ezequiel Romero and Lieutenant Colonel Jesús García explained on Wednesday that Montoya was “a major suspect from the start.” In fact, the police were monitoring him from the beginning of the investigation. He was asked about Luelmo – a schoolteacher who had moved to Huelva barely a week before her disappearance to start a new job – and he replied that he had no idea that someone was living in the house opposite his. But in one of the last messages that she sent, Luelmo had told her boyfriend that Montoya was constantly watching her from a chair on his doorstep, and that he was making her feel uneasy.

Once the authorities became aware of the extensive criminal record of Montoya – who served time in prison on a murder conviction – the police officers stationed outside Luelmo’s residence began to monitor his movements.

Victim Laura Luelmo.
Victim Laura Luelmo.

At the time, however, Montoya’s own property was not searched. “The indications that were there from the first moment were his criminal record, the proximity of his house to that of his victim, his elusive behaviour, his relocation, and the possible hiding of family members, but this did not constitute any proof against him, nor evidence of a homicide,” explained Colonel Jesús García.

The officers also explained several key elements of the disappearance. The last message sent by Luelmo – who was from Zamora in northern Spain – to her boyfriend was registered at 4.22pm on December 12. At 5.20pm she made purchases in a supermarket. At approximately 6.10pm, a nearby resident saw the trunk of Montoya’s car open. The Civil Guard believes that in this interval of time, between 5.20 and 6.10pm, Montoya saw Luelmo arrive carrying a shopping bag. “That was when he forced her into his house,” the officers explained.

Bernardo Montoya in a photograph he shared on social media.
Bernardo Montoya in a photograph he shared on social media.EL PAÍS

According to Montoya’s confession, he was waiting for his victim in the street, with a brazier in his hand. When he forced her into his house, he tied her hands behind her, put tape over her mouth and threw her to the floor. At that point he remembered that he had left the brazier in the doorway and, thinking that someone may see it, returned to collect it.

According to Montoya’s version of events, Luelmo got up at that point and kicked him in the ribs. “That was when [Montoya] became angry and pounded her into the floor,” the civil guards explained.

He then moved her into his car and took her out into the countryside. That was where, the Civil Guard said, the sexual assault took place.

Despite the details of the case they offered on Wednesday, the officers called for prudence before jumping to definitive conclusions. “There are still a lot of things to analyse from the autopsy to determine the time of death,” they explained. Initial reports from the investigation suggested that she had died several days after going missing, and not long before being discovered by a volunteer helping with the widespread search for her. “We also have the circumstance where we are taking about the Huelva mountains, which can get very cold,” the officers added. “That meant that the body was very well preserved.

The Civil Guard entered the property and found “nothing out of the ordinary,” according to the officers, who added that her absence was “strange”

According to Romero, the father of Laura Luelmo filed a police report over her disappearance, and “almost at the same time,” the owner of the house where she was living requested that police enter to see if she was inside. Her absence from the school where she was working was noted the day after her disappearance.

The Civil Guard entered the property and found “nothing out of the ordinary,” according to the officers, who added that her absence was “strange” given that she had been in the village for a very short time.

The victim’s father and boyfriend travelled to El Campillo to help inspect the teacher’s house. They noticed that sports shoes and pants were missing, leading them to think that she had left to go for a walk, and not for a run as had initially been reported by the press.

The Civil Guard found the items that Luelmo had purchased in the supermarket in Montoya’s house, apart from some potatoes, which the self-confessed killer admitted to having eaten later on.

The lieutenant colonel stated that Montoya had a “high level of impulsiveness.” “We believe him to be a disorganized killer, who did not think that the investigators were going to be able to implicate him in the crime,” he explained.

In one of the two rooms inside the small house where Montoya had settled after his recent release from prison over an assault and robbery case, experts found biological samples that are being analyzed by the Civil Guard in Huelva.

Montoya, 50, had been the prime suspect since the beginning due to his long criminal record that includes stabbing an elderly lady to death in 1995 to stop her from testifying against him in a robbery case. He was arrested last week after trying to run away from the police, and confessed last Wednesday.

In the presence of his lawyer, Montoya stated that he killed the young woman but was unable to rape her despite trying. “She asked me where she could find a supermarket and I sent her to a blind alley. I jumped into my car and got there before her. I grabbed her and slammed her head against the door of the car. I tied her hands behind her back and wrapped her in a blanket. I undressed her from the waist down and tried to rape her, but didn’t manage it even though she was unconscious,” he said, according to a summarized version of the confession provided by the Civil Guard. But investigators have found “abundant traces of blood” inside the suspect’s home.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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