MISSING CHILDREN

Ship searching for missing Spanish children finds father’s objects in the sea

Anna and Olivia were allegedly kidnapped on April 27 by their dad, who told the mother she would never see them again. His empty boat was found adrift near Tenerife the next day

The ocean research vessel 'Ángeles Alvariño' has been searching for the missing children since May 30.
The ocean research vessel 'Ángeles Alvariño' has been searching for the missing children since May 30.MARINE TRAFFIC / Europa Press
Santa Cruz de Tenerife - 09 Jun 2021 - 10:29 UTC

Update

A Spanish rescue ship searching for two children who went missing on April 27 in Tenerife has found an oxygen cylinder and a duvet cover in the sea. Both objects belong to their father, Tomás Gimeno, sources familiar with the investigation told the news agency Efe.

Gimeno, 37, is believed to have taken the two little girls – Anna, one, and Olivia, six – on his boat, which was later found by the police off the east coast of Tenerife, in Spain’s Canary Islands. Traces of the father’s blood were located on board. A child safety car seat was also found floating in the sea, and the Civil Guard has confirmed that it belonged to Anna.

The children were visiting Gimeno, who reportedly told his ex-partner in a telephone conversation that night that she would never see the children again, but that he would take good care of them. Investigators are following up on the theory that Gimeno was aided by one or more individuals to carry out a premeditated plan to kidnap his own daughters, according to sources cited by the news agency Efe.

Civil Guard director María Gámez at a news conference on Tuesday in Murcia.
Civil Guard director María Gámez at a news conference on Tuesday in Murcia. Marcial Guillén / EFE

Specialized air and sea units are participating in the search operation. The Ángeles Alvariño, a research ship from the Spanish Oceanographic Institute (IEO) equipped with a sonar system and a remotely operated underwater vehicle, joined the search on May 30. It is this vessel that located the oxygen bottle and duvet cover on Monday.

The research ship will continue searching the area until at least June 14. So far it has swept around 10 square miles (34 square kilometers) of the seafloor in an area selected by the Civil Guard and the ship’s crew based on geolocation data from Gimeno’s cellphone on the night of April 27, when he went out twice on his own boat.

Civil Guard director María Gámez said on Tuesday that the search effort is “complex” due to the size of the area that’s being inspected. The objects found on Monday were located at a depth of around 1,000 meters, requiring specialized equipment from the IEO.

Anna and Olivia in a photograph provided by the family.
Anna and Olivia in a photograph provided by the family. SOSDESAPARECIDOS / Europa Press

On April 27, at around 5pm, Tomás Gimeno went over to the home of his former partner, Beatriz Zimmerman, 35, with whom he had reached an informal agreement on visitation rights. He picked up Anna, then collected Olivia from an after-school German learning center. He took both to his own house in the municipality of Igueste de Candelaria. Zimmermann later showed up to take the girls home, but nobody opened the door, according to the police report. When she phoned her ex, he said that he’d gone out to dinner with his daughters and that he’d drive them home later.

At around 7.30pm, Gimeno was seen at the local marina, but neither the cameras nor the security guard detected the children’s presence. Gimeno loaded suitcases and bags on his boat, making three trips from his parked white Audi A3 to his berthed vessel. When he returned from his short sailing trip, a Civil Guard patrol stopped him for violating the coronavirus curfew and filed a report. A little after midnight, Gimeno drove out to the marina again, where he sailed away one last time. The following day the empty vessel was found drifting away without having dropped anchor off the municipality of Puertito de Güímar. The child car seat was found a little later.

Gimeno had five telephone conversations with Zimmermann on the night of his disappearance. According to the crime report filed by the latter, she called him at 9pm to see why he was not home with the girls, and he said they had gone out to dinner. One hour later, during a second call, he told her she would never see the children again. He delivered the same message at 10.30pm, and again 10 minutes later. At 11.45pm the phone appeared to be turned off or without reception. There was one last conversation at around 1.30am.

The next day, Zimmermann told officers that Gimeno’s parents said their son had visited them with the children on the day of their disappearance, and that he used terms that “sounded like a farewell.” Friends of the missing man reported having similar conversations with him.

English version by Susana Urra.

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