2021, a year of high-profile crimes and convictions in Spain

Judges handed down prison sentences against the perpetrators of murders that shocked the nation, such as the killing of the schoolteacher Laura Luelmo

Patricia Ortega Dolz
Igor el Ruso
Norbert Feher, aka Igor the Russian, during his trial.Pool Efe (GTRES)

The year 2021 has been one of convictions for some of Spain’s most infamous criminals. Among those sent to prison were Pedro Nieves and the killers he hired to ambush Javier Ardines, a councilman for the United Left party in Llanes, Asturias, as he left his home on the morning of August 16, 2018.

Also sent down for 15 years was the so-called King of Cachopo, César Román, a bigwig in Madrid’s hospitality sector who was found guilty of killing and dismembering his ex-partner, 25-year-old Heidi Paz, on August 5, 2018.

Meanwhile Bernardo Montoya, the man accused of kidnapping, raping and killing a young teacher named Laura Luelmo in December 2018 in El Campillo, Huelva, got Spain’s closest thing to a life sentence. In a decision handed down in early December, a Huelva court sentenced Montoya to prisión permanente revisable (permanent reviewable prison), which allows judges to convict criminals to life with a possibility of review after a minimum fixed term in cases considered to be particularly heinous.

The house where Bernardo Montoya (inset) attacked Laura Luelmo in Huelva in December 2018.
The house where Bernardo Montoya (inset) attacked Laura Luelmo in Huelva in December 2018.EFE

And a jury agreed that Norbert Feher, better known as Igor the Russian, was guilty of the murder of the livestock breeder José Luis Iranzo and the two Civil Guards, Víctor Romero and Víctor Jesús Caballero, who came to his aid in Teruel in December 2017. The sentence: 21 years behind bars.

But 2021 has also been a year of appalling crimes against children and young people. Vicarious violence by a man named Tomás Gimeno against his children in order to punish the mother kept the whole of Spain on edge for weeks in April and May when a ship searched the waters off the Canary Island of Tenerife for the bodies of Anna and Olivia. Aged one and six respectively, the sisters were murdered by their father, who presumably then took his own life.

It has also been a year of killings carried out by recidivist murderers such as Francisco Javier Almeida, the so-called “Monster from Lardero” who allegedly killed nine-year-old Alex after luring him from a park near his home in Lardero, in La Rioja, on October 28. Almeida had been on parole since April 8, 2020. His criminal record includes sexual assault for which he was given a seven-year sentence in 1993. Four years later, in May 1997, he was released. However, he was out for just 15 months. At the end of August 1998, he was arrested and imprisoned again; this time, for raping and murdering a real estate agent whom he stabbed 17 times when she took him to see an apartment in Logroño that he pretended to be interested in. The case called into question whether it is possible to return certain criminals back into society.

A month before the Lardero murder, a former doctor named Noelia De Mingo stabbed a cashier at a supermarket in El Molar, Madrid; back in 2003 she had killed three colleagues at the capital’s Jiménez Díaz Foundation hospital during a schizophrenic episode.

Youth violence

One of the suspects arrested for fatally beating Samuel Luiz in A Coruña on July 3.
One of the suspects arrested for fatally beating Samuel Luiz in A Coruña on July 3. Cabalar (EFE)

Violence among young people has been a constant theme throughout 2021. Knife crimes have been frequent among so-called “Latino gangs,” ending the lives of youngsters such as Isaac López Tirado, an 18-year-old rapper who was stabbed four times in a dark tunnel in Madrid on July 14 in revenge for being in contact with a rival gang.

There were also fatal homophobic assaults, such as that suffered by Samuel Luiz, 24, in A Coruña (Galicia) where he died from the blows and kicks inflicted by a mob of youths outside a nightclub in the early hours of July 3. His murder had numerous witnesses and was described as homophobic – though not by the police. The tragedy triggered demonstrations organized by LGBTQ+ groups throughout Spain. The case also flagged up the fact that it was two Senegalese immigrants, Ibrahima and Magatte – themselves no strangers to prejudice – who came to Samuel’s aid and suffered injuries as a result.

Hate crimes

The murder of Younnes Bilal, a 37-year-old Moroccan national, in Mazarrón (Murcia) on June 13 shook the entire Muslim community in Spain, which labeled the crime “racist.” Shouting “you fucking Moor,” Carlos Patricio B. M., a 52-year-old ex-military man from Madrid, shot Bilal three times at point-blank range. The initial lukewarm response from local politicians contrasted with the furious protests organized by the many Muslims who live in this agricultural region – demonstrations that garnered significant support from the non-Muslim community. Meanwhile, xenophobic speeches made by Vox, the Spanish far-right party whose popularity has soared in the area, were blamed for stirring up hatred between cultures that have been living together for decades.

Other cases have been reopened in the past year, such as the notorious and unsolved case of the so-called Alcàsser Girls, involving Miriam García Iborra, Antonia Gómez Rodríguez and Desirée Hernández Folch, three teenagers from Alcàsser in Valencia who were raped, tortured and killed after hitch-hiking to a nightclub on November 13, 1992. Their alleged murderer is Antonio Anglés, who features on Europe’s most wanted list. The statute of limitations on the crime will expire in December 2029.

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