How an SOS notes saved a woman kidnapped by her ex-boyfriend

Messages written on scraps of paper led to a rescue mission and the arrest of a criminal in Spain who had dodged the law for a year and a half

Police officers in front of the house where a woman was kidnapped.
Police officers in front of the house where a woman was kidnapped.ÓSCAR CORRAL

In the early hours of July 25, nine police officers broke down the door of an apartment in the Spanish town of O Porriño in Pontevedra, Galicia, where Manuel “El Rami” Fernández, 26, had been holding his ex-girlfriend captive for six days.

The SOS notes the girl threw out of the window while her kidnapper slept led to her rescue and the arrest of Fernández who had dodged up to 11 pending prison terms.

Two of the SOS messages hit their target at 6am when a neighbor caught sight of them on her way to work. Stopping to pick them up, the neighbor caught sight of a girl waving her arms insistently from the window of a second-floor apartment. Unsure of how to react, she continued to her office but, on arrival, unfolded the messages and read: “My name is [...] I have been kidnapped since Tuesday by my ex-partner in this building, in the apartment owned by [...]. I fear for my life. I don’t know how to get out of here. Help me. Call the Civil Guard. Be careful. If he sees police, he will kill me. This is not a joke. Thank you.”

He has no empathy, nor does he feel remorse for his numerous criminal acts
Police source

The other handwritten note read: “My name is [...] I have been held captive in this building since Tuesday. Call the police. This is no joke. Don’t make a noise. Manuel has lost his mind. There is no key in the door.”

The neighbor, who wishes to remain anonymous, discussed the notes with her colleagues, then called police. According to local chief inspector, Daniel Rodríguez: “The woman warned it could be a prank because she found it all hard to believe. We were notified early in the morning just as the night and day shifts coincide, so we had seven officers for the operation.”

Shortly afterwards, it was discovered that the kidnapped girl’s parents had filed a missing person’s report in the family’s hometown of Vigo.

With the support of two Civil Guard, the local police surrounded the building where the girl was being held in an apartment owned by Fernández’s sister. Meanwhile, a third note was found on the hood of a parked car, which read: “My name is [...] I have been held in this building since Tuesday against my will. I fear for my life. He is very upset, out of his mind. Call the Civil Guard. The apartment belongs to [...]. It’s not a joke. Be careful. If he sees police, he will kill me.”

After trying the doorbell, the officers broke into the apartment. “We found the alleged kidnapper sleeping on the bed and handcuffed him,” explains Rodríguez. “He did not put up any resistance, though neither did he show any remorse. The girl was sitting in a corner of the room, clearly frightened and anxious. She explained that she had been locked in the apartment since July 19.”

With several bruises on her face and body, the victim was promptly taken by ambulance to the Álvaro Cunqueiro hospital in Vigo, where she was examined by a forensic doctor according to sexual assault protocol.

Manuel Fernández was a regular drug user who had been on the run from the police for a year and a half. The son of a transportation worker who had his own run-ins with the law, he was brought up in Ramiranes street where the kidnapping took place, hence his nickname El Rami. He himself had become embroiled in a life of crime at a young age and was wanted by several courts in Pontevedra for a series of robberies and muggings. “It is clear that in his year and a half on the run, someone had to be helping him hide from the police as it’s a small town where everyone knows each other,” says Rodríguez.

Fernández lured his ex-girlfriend to his sister’s apartment under the pretext of paying her back a sum of €400 that he owed her. At the time, he was already wanted for abducting a minor in the neighboring district of Ponteareas, holding her on a farm owned by his relatives where he allegedly sexually assaulted her. The victim managed to escape and reported Fernández, alleging kidnap and rape. The day after the local police arrested him in O Porriño, he was sentenced to prison.

According to Fernández’s girlfriend, he threatened to slit her throat if she escaped. “He knew perfectly well that he was facing a sentence of 15 to 20 years for abduction and sexual assault, but he also knew that, if he carried out his threats, the sentence would mean five years more,” says Rodríguez.

Those investigating Manuel Fernández’s case believe he fits the description of a psychopath. “He has a mental health problem,” says a police source. “He has no empathy, nor does he feel remorse for his numerous criminal acts.”

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