Spanish court lowers sentence of man who killed his wife in front of their small children

Term is cut from 37 to 29 years after judges said it was unclear the attack caused distress to the two- and four-year-olds, who spent a day alone with the dead body

A photograph of the victim, Maguette Mbeugou, on a mobile phone in Bilbao in 2018.
A photograph of the victim, Maguette Mbeugou, on a mobile phone in Bilbao in 2018.Javier Zorrilla (EFE)

Spain’s Supreme Court has reduced a convicted murderer’s prison sentence from 37 to 29 years after accepting his appeal arguing that his daughters did not suffer psychologically when he killed his wife in the family home in the northern city of Bilbao.

Bara N. had been subjecting Maguette Mbeugou to threats, harassment and economic abuse for months. After stabbing her over 80 times he walked out on their daughters, who were two and four at the time and who spent more than seven hours home alone with their mother’s body.

The high court considered it was not sufficiently proven that the children suffered psychological distress due “to the perception of the sounds coming from the fatal assault or to the fact of being abandoned.” For that reason, it eliminated one of the counts on which Bara N. had been convicted, while upholding the rest.

The Supreme Court thus accepted Bara N.’s appeal and reduced the sentence first imposed on him by a provincial court and later confirmed by the High Court of Justice of the Basque Country, which had found him guilty of murder with the aggravating circumstances of kinship, abandonment of minors, reiterated abuse and psychological injuries. It is the latter count that has been dropped.

Bara N., at one of the hearings in the Provincial Court of Bizkaia.
Bara N., at one of the hearings in the Provincial Court of Bizkaia.efe

The Supreme noted that it was never proven that the children underwent a specific treatment prescribed by a doctor, only that the minors received therapy. A specific treatment would be one of the legal requirements to convict Bara N. of causing psychological distress, the court argued.

Bara N. and his wife Maguette Mbeugou, 25, were both natives of Senegal who were living in Bilbao, in an apartment located on Ollerías street. On the night of September 24, 2018, the man stabbed his wife around 83 times before slitting her throat, as proven by the provincial court. Months earlier, in December 2017, the woman had filed a complaint against her husband with the Bilbao Municipal Police and requested a protection order in court, which was denied the following day. Days later, the court also acquitted Bara N. of the crime of continued threats against his family, but removed custody of the children and was told not to come within 500 meters of the family home.

After the crime, both children presented psychological, emotional, cognitive and behavioral problems, and one of them developed mutism. When the sentence was handed down in December 2021, three years after the murder, both girls were still in therapy.

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