The road leading up from the center of Adeje to the neighborhood of La Quinta, in southern Tenerife, is a winding affair lined with prickly pears and offering views of the sea. On clear days, the Teide volcano is visible from up there.
Near the end of this road there is a house called Campo Alegre. It was there that Jonas, a little German boy, spent nearly 24 hours under the protection of a Dutch woman named Annelies B. after he was found wandering alone and in shock in the area.
Jonas told her he had escaped from a cave where his father had led him, his mother and older brother to look for Easter presents. Instead, the father attacked the mother, and Jonas ran away when he saw the blood. Both his mother and brother were found dead on Wednesday, although Jonas has not been informed yet.
On Friday, the government representative in the Canaries, Juan Salvador León, said that the victims died after being repeatedly hit with stones, the EFE news agency reported. “I am certain that it was premeditated,” said León after observing a minute of silence. “He had planned to trick his wife and kids [into going into the cave], probably because they trusted him.”
“He escaped death, but he will suffer all his life from the consequences of the horrible things he saw inside that cave,” added the government official. Jonas’ maternal grandparents are expected to arrive in Tenerife today to take charge of the boy.
On Thursday, Annelies B. took questions from all the reporters who trekked to this corner of the popular Canary Islands’ destination after news emerged of the crime. Her story was a combination of horror and miraculous luck for Jonas, who might not have lived to tell the tale if he had gone uphill instead of down after running away. The child told Annelies that he had stayed away from the road on purpose so that his father could not find him.
Also on Thursday, the Civil Guard took the suspect, Thomas Handrick, 43, back to his apartment on Ramón y Cajal street in Adeje in search of evidence of the crime. At the time of his arrest on Wednesday he was found sleeping at home, and he refused to reveal where his family members were. He is due to appear before a judge today.
When Jonas was found by hikers and taken down to the police station, Annelies offered to act as a translator for the little boy, who only speaks German. When he explained what had happened, more than 100 emergency workers and police officers were sent out to the area he described, a place with dozens of caves, until the bodies were located on Wednesday at a spot between two ravines known as El Burro and El Infierno.
Shylvia, 39, and her two sons had flown to Tenerife from Germany on Monday to spend the Easter vacation with Handrick. The parents were separated and the father had taken up residence in Adeje, where he worked as a cook. The couple were originally from the German region of Saxony-Anhalt.
Standing in front of her house, Annelies, 59, said it took a while for the child to open up to her.
“Little by little he told me what had happened,” she said, adding that Jonas is seven, not five or six as reported by the media on Wednesday. Sources familiar with the case said his age has not been confirmed as no official ID has been located yet. Annelies said that the child’s aunt has spoken to him on the phone.
According to Jonas’s tale, his father had organized a family field trip for Tuesday. He rented a car, a dark blue Volkswagen Caddy, and they fixed sandwiches for a picnic. Then Handrick drove them to an area known as Ifonche, a steep spot between two ravines.
“It all seemed very nice, but then the father tricked them,” said Annelies, sipping on a glass of water, her mouth dry from telling the story over and over again. “He told them that he had hidden Easter presents for them inside a nearby cave.”
Jonas saw his father attack his mother with tremendous violence. “Officially he does not know that she is dead, but he did see that she was badly hurt,” recalled Annelies. “He told me, ‘Better to live than to get Easter presents’.”
After helping the police take a statement from the child, Annelies asked for permission to have Jonas stay with her and her husband José. The little boy spent nearly a whole day at Campo Alegre, where he played with the couple’s grandchild. The former only speaks German and the latter only speaks Spanish, but that did not prevent them from laughing and playing together. “They had a great time,” said Annelies.
Later they took out a folding bed and Jonas went to bed without dinner. “He just ate a banana. He was very tired and fell asleep right away.”
On Wednesday at noon, Jonas was taken into state child care. Annelies went to see him on Thursday and he showed her two pieces of candy that he’d been given. Smiling, the little boy said: “One is for me and I’m saving the other one for my brother.”
English version by Susana Urra.