The Alcasser Girls
In November of 1993, three teenage girls from a Spanish village named Alcasser disappeared without a trace. For months, spotty eyewitness testimony was all that police had to go off of. But when the girls' bodies were found, evidence found at the scene put police on the path of the men who killed the girls.
Or did they?
Part One: The Discovery
Wednesday, January 27th, 1993.
We are in the town known as La Romana, which lies in the foothills of eastern Spain.
The town itself is relatively small. The population has lingered at just around 2000 for the past few decades. The area surrounding the town is pretty desolate, just small pockets of communities that string everything together, via dark, winding roads through the Spanish countryside.
Inside La Romana, everything looks just like a regular suburban town. But outside of the city itself, you might as well be living in the outback. The horizon is made up of many grassy knolls and foothills, which serve as a great addition to the area's very temperate climate.
Gabriel Aquino Gonzalez is a retired farmer, who is approaching seventy years old. In his retirement, he has taken up a number of hobbies, one of which is beekeeping.
Gabriel kept his beehives nearby property belonging to one of his children's father-in-law. This in-law, a man by the name of Jose Sala, was roughly fiteen years younger than Gabriel, but the two apparently got along well.
The two men parked their car at the end of a road. It was roughly ten o'clock in the morning, so they wanted to let the sun warm up a bit before approaching the hives, which were located nearby the ruins of an old, abandoned house.
Since they had some time to kill, Jose Sala decided to sit for a moment and smoke a cigarette. The older Gabriel wanted to stretch his legs a little bit, so he went for a walk in the surrounding area.
For about twenty minutes, Gabriel Aquino Gonzalez patrolled the nearby area, going around the two abandoned buildings that had once been homes. This is when something shiny catches the corner of his eye.
Gabriel screamed out, and began making his way back to the younger Jose, who met him halfway. He loosely described something that didn't look right.
Cautiously, the two men approached what it was that had freaked out the sixty-nine year old man.
What they found were a loose collection of branches and loose shrubs, which had been gathered and roughly thrown over a trench of some kind. Someone had clearly dug a hole, and used tree limbs and anything they could yank out of the ground to cover it up.
Jose Sala just so happened to have an old spatula with him, which he had planned on using with the beehives. With this spatula, he poked at the bramble a bit, pulling back some of the twigs to see what was hiding underneath.
He found the reflective item that had originally caught Gabriel's eye: it was a watch. A large one, in fact. However, Jose also discovered that the watch was not alone; it was still being worn by the person who had been wearing it two months beforehand; roughly the time when three teenage girls had gone missing from not too far away, in a small town called Alcasser.
What Jose Sala and Gabriel Aquino Gonazalez unearthed that day in La Romana would not only bring about a murder mystery for the ages. It was a story that would shock Spain to the core, and change the way an entire country approached similar cases. It is a story that has become fraught with conspiracy theories, rumors of police and political corruption, and endless amounts of speculation.
This is the story of the Alcasser Girls.
Alcasser is a small town in the Spanish province of Valencia, with a population of just over seven-thousand. It sits about fifteen kilometers southwest of the city of Valencia itself, a small town among dozens that speckle the grassy Spanish countryside. Several of these small towns are separated by just a kilometer or two, making them easy walks during the daytime.
Alcasser is very close to the eastern Spanish coast, just a twenty-minute drive or so away.
The area has a very long history that dates back beyond the Middle Ages. Ruins from Roman times have been discovered in nearby areas, and the evidence shows that perhaps even the ancient Germanic people once settled the area.
However, in written history, the land has passed between Muslim and Christian rule over the centuries.
Up until this point in the early 1990s, the municipality of Alcasser wasn't very renowned for anything at all. It was simply a small town, in a storied area, with scenic land surrounding it that made it prime real estate for hikers.
Antonia Gomez Rodriguez was born in Valencia, Spain on May 25th, 1977. According to the records, she was the youngest of four children, and she was named after her grandmother.
Growing up, she shared a room with her sister, Luisa, and was always close with her older brother, Fernando, with whom she often confided in. He also messed around with her, occasionally calling her Antonia... you see, she wanted to go by her nickname of Toni, and any mention of her full name drove her crazy.
Toni was a very timid girl. Not in a bad way, but her friends and family always recall her as being very nervous, as if a strong gust of wind could scare her.
However, she was also a very kind and compassionate girl. Her mother recalls a time when Toni had arrived home with a kitten that she had found on the streets, and she consented to let the pet live with them. Toni cared for the animal like it was her own child.
At this point in 1992, Toni was apparently done with schoolwork, and had stopped studying. She was simply waiting to turn 16, so that she could begin working and making money, which she was planning to spend on clothes.
Toni was always very conscientious towards the people she cared for, including her parents. She was constantly calling home on the weekends when she knew she wouldn't be home on time, which stands at a clear contrast with the events that would later unfold.
María Deseada Hernández Folch, most commonly referred to as Desiree, was born almost a year after Toni, in February of 1978. She only had one sibling, an older sister named Rosana.
Growing up, Desiree became focused in on athletics, where she excelled. No matter the time of year, she was probably involved in some type of competition sport, where she was often coming in first or second.
When she wasn't competing for a medal or trophy, she was often skating around town. That was her favorite pastime by far: just skating around the area of Alcasser, talking to people and showing off her extremely personable people skills.
However, Desiree was not the most rigorous student. In 1992, she was fourteen years old, and in the middle of repeating the eighth grade.
People close to Desiree recall her as being very headstrong, with a defined personality that was fun-loving while also being stubborn, a reflection of her young age.
Miriam Garcia Iborra was born on July 28th, 1978, just a few months after Desiree. Unlike the two other girls, she was the oldest child, with two younger brothers. These two younger brothers went to same school as Desiree.
Growing up, Miriam became known for her beauty. She had light brown hair and blue eyes, which caught the eye of many boys in her class.
Miriam spent a lot of her free time focused on ballet, which was her greatest passion up to this point in 1992.
At this point in time, Miriam was attending the nearby La Florida Institute, which was in the nearby town of Catarroja. This just meant that, unlike Toni, Miriam was planning to continue her education. However, since she had just started at the school, she hadn't had time to make many friends, so she often spent her weekends with her hometown friends from Alcasser.
Like Toni, Miriam was often shy and reserved, with a sensitivity that made her a fan of poetry, which she read as much as she wrote. She often shared her own poems with her friends, who recalled snippets months later.
These three girls, who were all born in Valencia and grew up in the small town of Alcasser, would become friends. Despite the slight age gap - with Toni being about a year older than the other two - the girls would grow close.
They also had another friend, a girl named Esther Diaz Martinez. In November of 1992, Esther starting to come down with a bug that kept her from hanging out with the other girls and going anywhere. Whatever she had come down with - likely the flu - seemed to be going around, because it was the same sickness that Miriam's father, Fernando Garcia, had contracted.
On November 12th, 1992, fifteen-year-old Toni called into a local 107.7 radio station, and dedicated a song to her group of friends, which included Esther, Miriam, and Desiree. The song was "Major Tom," not the David Bowie version, but the Peter Schilling song.
Even though the call is in Spanish, I'll just go ahead and play it for you so that you can hear it.
In this call, the radio host - who went by the name "Monfi" - asks Toni what she's going to be up to over the weekend. She basically says she doesn't know, but that she's not going to stay home.
Toni's family would go on to cherish this audio recording over the next few decades, because her and her friends would go missing just a day later. And her comments about the upcoming weekend would go on to haunt an entire nation for years.
It was Friday the 13th, in November of 1992, that the three friends - Toni, Desiree, and Miriam - would go missing.
Desiree and Miriam had been at school throughout the day, while the older Toni apparently spent the afternoon with their other friend, Esther. At some point, Miriam came home from school, which got out at roughly 2:00 in the afternoon, and was seen by her parents. Her father, Fernando, was home sick with the flu and confined to bed.
Eventually, all of the friends met up at Esther's home. As I said earlier, she was sick with a kind of bug, so she wasn't able to really hit the town with them. But on a Friday night like this, they were planning to head to a party in a neighboring town. More specifically, to a nightclub called Coolor, where classmates of the girls were throwing a party. It was a fundraiser effort, to raise funds for an end-of-the-year class trip.
This nightclub, which has been referred to as a "discotheque" in all of the news articles about the case, is in a neighboring town called Picassent.
Picassent is literally across the freeway from Alcasser. The two cities are neighboring municipalities of Valencia, and to get from the middle of Alcasser to the middle of Picassent would be just a few kilometers, equaling a few minutes of driving or roughly half-an-hour of walking.
By all indications, the three girls were setting out to visit the Coolor nightclub. However, this has been stated after-the-fact. Because, sadly, we don't know what the girls' true intentions were on this Friday evening. They set out from their friend Esther's home at roughly eight o'clock that evening, and were seen by multiple eyewitnesses on their way to the Coolor nightclub, but they would never arrive at there.
More interestingly, the girls had neither money to spend at the club, nor pre-purchased tickets to enter. After all, these were teenage girls that had not entered the workforce. To get money, they needed to ask their parents for the money, which none of them did.
However, over the next few years, the working theory would be that the girls were trying to get from their hometown of Alcasser to the neighboring community of Picassent to head to a club. And despite being seen less than a block away from the club, they never made it to their apparent destination.
Several eyewitnesses saw the three girls on the evening that they disappeared, although the timeline is a bit scattered.
As I said beforehand, the three girls had been at the home of their friend, Esther, in the afternoon and late evening. She recalled them leaving her house at around 8:00 in the evening, which would put them close to the edge of Alcasser at that time.
Esther's home was located at the southwestern edge of Alcasser, which is one of the closest points to the neighboring town, Picassent. This is where the girls were headed.
Apparently, the girls were spotted by an acquaintance of theirs earlier in the evening, close to the time that they left Esther's house.
This acquaintance was a teenage boy, who knew the girls in a somewhat-familiar way. He was likely a classmate of theirs, but he knew the girls and talked to them briefly. His name was Francisco Antonio Soria.
Early in the evening, he was apparently on his way to a graduation exam, which I found odd. I'm not aware of many places that arrange for major tests to take place on a Friday evening, but maybe this is just an odd translation or a cultural different I'm unaware of.
While on his way to the exam, he came across the girls. This put them closer to the center of Alcasser, but since this was earlier in the evening, it most likely explained by the three girls being on their way to Esther's home.
However, in his brief discussion with the girls, he asked if they were headed to the party at the Coolor club that evening. According to his later testimony, they said no.
This would stand at a clear contrast with the later official statement. While I understand that it could be explained by them brushing him off, or lying to him, I just find it odd.
So, apparently after this encounter, the girls made their way to their friend Esther's home, and stayed for somewhere between half-an-hour and forty-five minutes.
However, this is where the timeline starts to get very choppy. At around 8:15 that evening, which was around the time Esther estimated her friends leaving, another acquaintance of theirs recalled seeing them sitting on the sidewalk a couple of blocks away. This acquaintance was an older boy named Francisco Jose Hervas, who was driving by with his girlfriend, Maria Luz Lopez Garcia. Francisco wasn't friends with the girls, but was friendly with them, and offered to take them to wherever they were headed.
The three girls, who seemed to be hitchhiking, told Francisco that they were heading to the Coolor nightclub. Francisco, whose car had a leak in the fuel tank, dropped the girls off down the street from the club, at a auto repair shop he was heading to.
However, it's worth noting that when I say "down the street," that they were still a bit of a walk away from the club. The mechanic that Francisco stopped at was on the eastern edge of Picassent, while the nightclub that the girls were heading to was on the western edge. Picassent is not a large town, so this would be a short walk, but it was still a few blocks away.
Another eyewitness would see the girls walking down the main road that ran through Picassent, which would have taken them to the nightclub.
The most startling eyewitness testimony came from a completely unrelated source, who came forward just a few days after the girls were reported missing.
Maria Dolores Badal Soria was a sixty-three year old woman, who saw the three girls walking by her home in Picassent. She estimated the time to be roughly 8:00 in the evening, which - again - provides a cluttered timeline for when the girls had traveled.
This older woman recalls seeing the girls get into a small, four-door white sedan, even though they were just minutes away from their destination, the Coolor nightclub.
And, according to this eyewitness, there were already a few men inside the white sedan. She recalls at least three or four men inside the car, which proposes a truly unanswered question: how many people can you fit inside a small car? According to this testimony, seven people sped off in a white sedan, whose make and model Maria Dolores Badal couldn't recognize.
This would be the last time that the girls were ever seen alive. The mystery had begun.
When the girls didn't return home that evening, each of their parents became concerned. These parents, who were familiar with one another through the girls' friendships and small town nature of Alcasser, met up the next day.
That evening, at roughly 9:30 PM on November 14th, the parents went into their local Civil Guard post, located in Picassent. Ironically, this Civil Guard barracks is located just down the block from where the girls were last seen, in Picassent. The Civil Guard is Spain's version of a nation-wide police force. They reported the girls as missing, but the searches conducted in earnest wouldn't begin until a few days later.
By Monday morning, the 16th of November, the three girls had still not returned home. Their parents collectively knew that this was no accident. The girls would not have just run off together, especially considering they had no money or resources to make it very far.
From the start, the viewpoint was that the girls had been kidnapped. Over the next week or so, as November began to wind to a close, police interviewed friends and relatives of the three girls, hoping for a clue that could point to their whereabouts. This is when the Civil Guard collected almost all of the witness statements, including Maria Dolores Badal's testimony that the three girls had gotten into a white sedan with a handful of men.
During this time period, the Civil Guard also discovered that the three girls had not even made it to their destination, the Coolor nightclub. Somewhere along the dark road that ran through Picassent, the girls had gone missing.
Miriam's father, Antonio Garcia, would become the most public face of the investigation. A hard-working, heartbroken father, he began appearing on any radio or television show that would bring some publicity for the case. Just days after the disappearance of the three girls, he appeared on the television program "Who Knows Where?" hosted by Paco Lobaton. With him was the friend of the three girls, who had been with them a short time before their disappearance, Esther Diaz Martinez.
The Civil Guard began utilizing their usual tricks, hitting up any local offenders who had been recently released from the jail in Picassent. When this turned up with nothing, they expanded their search to include anyone in the surrounding area that had an applicable police record. Again, nothing.
After just a couple of weeks, the local area was alight with a desire to find the three girls. The City Council of Alcasser printed off thousands of flyers to distribute, which contained pictures of Toni, Desiree, and Miriam.
Despite receiving tips from all corners of the country over the next few weeks, and even expanding their search into the nearby areas of Granada and Pamplona, the Civil Guard were no closer to finding the three girls.
In December of 1992, the search for the three girls continued to expand in size and scope.
The Interior Minister of Spain, Jose Luis Corcuera, began to become personally interested in the case, which was beginning to be covered throughout national media outlets. Under his supervision, a task force was set up as a joint effort between the Civil Guard and the National Police, which is an organization I liken to the FBI.
This task force, referred to as the UCO, was known as the Unit of Central Operations. It would be centered in Valencia, the largest town nearby both Alcasser and Picassent.
The case managed to make its way all the way up to the President of the Spanish government, Felipe Gonzalez. On Christmas Eve of 1992, he received the families of the three missing girls and heard their pleas, promising to attribute more forces to the search in the hopes of a quick resolution.
The search expanded to neighboring nations, even neighboring continents. The case was forwarded to Interpol, who began to add nearby European and African countries to potential places of interest.
That Christmas Eve also marked another relevant episode of "Who Knows Where?" which contained interviews with the girls family members in their homes. Miriam's eight-year old brother, Martin, delivered a heartfelt hand-written plea to anyone that might know the whereabouts of his older sister.
At this point, Miriam's father, Fernando Garcia, had quit his job and was pursuing answers regarding his daughter full-time. Over the next month, he was planning to visit multiple news agencies in countries all over Europe, including the BBC and Sky News. He was even trying to arrange a face-to-face meeting with Pope John Paul II, in an effort to spread the story of the three Alcasser girls to churches and chapels all around the world.
The case would continue to be at the forefront of the Spanish media for the next few weeks. And, of course, during the short time period that Fernando Garcia was out of the country to spread the word of his daughter and her missing friends, their bodies would be discovered.
Beekeepers Gabriel Aquino Gonzalez and Jose Sala discovered the bodies of the three girls on January 27th, 1993. This was more than two months after their initial disappearance, and they were found close to 150 kilometers south, in the sleepy, hilly village of La Romana.
From the get-go, the unearthing of the bodies was marred by incompetence.
It took the local magistrate, Judge Jose Luis Bort, several hours to make it to the site of the bodies in La Romana. He was already overseeing the excavation of another body in a neighboring area. Plus, when the two beekeepers found the dumping site, they originally believed the exposed hand to be that of a man, so nobody was in a big rush to make it to the scene.
That afternoon, Jose Luis Bort made it to the area, along with his Judicial Secretary, Angeles Fon Cuallado. She would become relevant later on, eventually becoming the judge that would oversee the trial against the case's main suspect.
It's also worth noting that on this day, January 27th, the Ministry Interior had decided to replace the team in charge of the local task force responsible for finding the girls. So early in the day, the team that had been located in Valencia overseeing the search, was sent back to Madrid and was being replaced by another squad, led by Captain Francisco Bueno. This squad, referred to as the UCO, also contained Lieutenant Jose Miguel Hidalgo Dominguez, who would share sharp words about the investigation decades after the fact.
It just so happens that on the one day that the UCO wasn't present in the area, the bodies were found. And the excavation of the bodies, which occurred without the supervision of the UCO, would be so bungled that it would derail the investigation forever.
The bodies of the three girls - Toni, Desiree, and Miriam - were found in a large pit, which had been dug months beforehand.
The three bodies, which were in various stages of decomposition, were found stacked on top of one another.
Judge Jose Luis Bort, the magistrate in charge of the excavation of the three bodies, declared the endeavor a secret one. This forbid the two beekeepers that discovered the bodies from speaking to the media or anyone, for that matter, and kept anyone from approaching the crime scene without the necessary oversight. However, the crime scene was locked down hours after the discovery of the bodies, allowing the integrity of the scene to be compromised.
The excavation of the scene was done so almost immediately. Nobody at the crime scene took photos of the crime scene or completed an exhaustive search of the area BEFORE digging the bodies out of the pit.
Over the years, this has struck many as being very odd. Normal police protocol, throughout the world, is to take photos of a crime scene BEFORE removing or touching anything. In this individual case, the police and first responders decided to tamper with the scene before taking any photos whatsoever. There was a single, standalone photo taken of the bodies as they were found, but all you can see is a blob of dirt and mud.
The bodies were pulled out of the pit, and police apparently discovered that they had been wrapped up in some kind of large rug. Two of the girls' had been decapitated, and their hands were bound by black rope of some kind.
However, along with the bodies, several items were discovered inside the pit. Unrelated pieces of clothing, bits of rope, pieces of paper, etc. Garbage, more or less.
It's worth noting that, just like the bodies, police took photos of these individual items AFTER they had been pulled out of the pit. So we have no idea how to clarify how they were found, whether they were discovered underneath the bodies, on top, etc. These items were assorted afterwards and photographed together, with several of them not even being collected as evidence. A few pieces were just left behind at the scene.
However, police would use one individual item from that crime scene to be the linchpin of their upcoming investigation. One item, with an unknown origin that may have been discovered either within the pit, or simply nearby. Police testified to the latter, but with no photographic evidence to support the claim, and the clear incompetence on the part of the first responders, this has become challenged by the media in the decades since.
However, one thing was for sure: the discovery of the three bodies - those of Toni Gomez Rodriguez, Desiree Hernandez Folch, and Miriam Garcia Iborra - would change the country of Spain forever.
Part Two: The Investigation
Miguel Ricart was born in September of 1969, in Valencia, Spain.
His mother would pass away when Miguel was just three years old, the victim of a seizure. Miguel's father, an alcoholic, would remain an abusive and domineering figure in Miguel's life over the next fifteen years.
Miguel would face a variety of issues over his life. These included being timid, aggressive at times, constant nervousness, etc. Most of these stemmed from the abusive, one-sided relationship he had with his father, but would later result in Miguel experimenting with drugs and alcohol.
At 16 years old, Miguel would drop out of school to begin working. Over the next few years, he would dabble in drugs such as marijuana and cocaine while working, although he never became a frequent user. He worked jobs here and there, such as working on a farm as a teenager, and later working as a used car salesman in his early 20s.
He lived with a girlfriend for a period of a few years, and at around the time she became pregnant with their first child - who would be their only child, a daughter - Miguel enlisted in the Spanish army, which took him to a southern port of Spain named Malaga.
After this short bout in the army, Miguel returned home and continued his delinquent lifestyle. He began dabbling in drugs once again and struggled to remain employed, which ultimately splintered his relationship with his girlfriend. The two split up, and Miguel moved in with a longtime friend of his, named Antonio Angles.
Antonio, who was Miguel's occasional drug supplier, wasn't a good influence on Miguel's life. The two began to engage in small, petty crimes, which ultimately put the two on the radar of police. Miguel would have two brief, minor stints in Spanish jails in 1992, the first in August for "illegal use of motor vehicles," and the second in December for almost the same thing: "threats and illegal use of motor vehicles." Both jail bids lasted less than three weeks.
Basically, Miguel Ricart was a small-time criminal, who stole cars to supply his delinquent lifestyle.
Despite Antonio being in-and-out of prison in the early 1990s, Miguel Ricart was allowed to stay at Antonio's family home, located in Catarroja. There, at the home, lived several of Antonio's family members, including his brother, Enrique.
Within a calendar year, three of these men would have their faces plastered all over Spanish media. A certain set of circumstances planted these three on the forefront of the investigation into who had killed three girls from Alcasser just months beforehand.
In November of 1992, the disappearance of three girls had torn apart the area of Alcasser, Spain. They had set off from their small town to a neighboring municipality, named Picassent, on a Friday night. Their destination was a nightclub named Coolor, and eyewitnesses saw them just a few hundred feet away.
However, one eyewitness - who gave her statement less than a week after the girls' disappearance - claimed to see the girls get into a white sedan that had multiple men inside. According to this eyewitness, there were anywhere between three and five men inside this sedan, which would have made the car extremely cramped with the introduction of three teenage girls.
Over the next two-and-a-half months, the local media would become engulfed by the disappearance.
Government officials, such as the Interior Minister and even the President of Spain himself, Felipe Gonzalez, became personally involved with the case, meeting with the parents and expressing his concerns.
One of the parents, Miriam's father - named Fernando Garcia - became the face of the search for the girls, spreading the word to any news organization that would listen.
When the bodies of the three girls were discovered in January of 1993, Fernando was in London, meeting with a number of news agencies there.
The bodies were discovered by two middle-aged beekeepers, who happened upon the bodies by chance. They had been buried in a pit in La Romana, Spain, a mountainous area over an hour south of Alcasser.
Two of the girls had been decapitated, and their bodies were in various stages of decomposition. All of the girls had been bound, and the pit that they were discovered in contained various objects, such as a random assortment of clothing, bits of rope and paper, and what looked to be random garbage.
However, the excavation of the girls' bodies would be marred by incompetence and miscommunication. No photos were taken of the crime scene before the bodies were pulled out of the pits, and the various items found with them were spread out and photographed together. The scene wasn't walled off until hours later, when the task force in charge of the investigation, the UCO, finally arrived.
By this point, irreparable damage had been done to the case itself. But that wouldn't stop the police from arresting a suspect within the day, and using the bloodthirsty media to take advantage of the situation.
The day was January 27th, 1993. Police had just discovered the location of the three girls' bodies. Toni, Desiree, and Miriam were found half-buried outside of a town called La Romana, an area that very few ventured.
The officials at the crime scene took a single photo of the bodies as they were found, but very little can be distinguished other than mud and dirt.
From there, they pulled the bodies out of the ground, finding that the bodies had been buried inside some kind of rug. It was a big patch of greenish carpeted material that had been permanently browned because of its inclusion to the dirt. Records would show that various members of the investigative force thought the rug was blue, but later photos show it to be green or brown, depending on the light.
There were various objects which were recovered at the scene. A large T-shirt, which officials believed may have belonged to one of the victims. Inside the T-shirt, which was a white shirt with a red logo on the front that was rolled up, officials discovered two stones... which they left behind at the scene.
Also inside and around the pit were: A torn corduroy jacket. Two synthetic black fibers. A piece of paper with illegible writing. Two small pieces of wood found at the edge of the pit. A piece of sailing rope, found roughly ten feet away from the bodies. Various hairs and bits of bone, including a phalange and several recoverable vertebrae. A video game cartridge. Random bits of what looked like garbage.
At the bottom of the pit, police discovered what looked like a spent shell casing. Upon further inspection, it looked to be a nine-millimeter round of the GECO brand. This shell casing was found underneath the bodies, under a few centimeters of soil.
However, the sad truth is that most of the evidence recovered at the scene was placed into plastic bags, where they would sit for an indefinite time. In some case, hours, but in others, it would be days.
To put this into perspective, George Schiro, a forensic scientist from the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory, states that under no circumstance is wet evidence supposed to remain in a paper or plastic bag for more than two hours. Because, when wet evidence is just sealed into a container, bacteria growth can begin and damage valuable evidence. This means that fungus and mold can begin to grow, which - as you may know - can permanently ruin forensic evidence.
It was with this blatant disregard of the normal process that the bodies were exhumed, the evidence was collected, and the investigation began. But before the day was over, police would already have a suspect arrested.
The seventy-five days since the disappearance of the three girls would see the area of Alcasser united in the efforts to find them, and their faces were plastered on almost every street corner. Due to this, police had become pressured to act fast. They had failed to find the girls for almost three months, and now that their bodies had been found, police were eager to get a jump-start on suspects.
As I have told you, investigators at the crime scene found several pieces of what you or I may consider garbage.
A lot of it was irroneous stuff: junk that didn't fit into the investigation at all. But, in the area around the pit where the bodies of the three Alcasser girls were found, investigators found some pieces of paper.
When they put these pieces of paper together, they discovered that it was a pamphlet from a nearby hospital. It was the University Hospital of La Fe, located a couple of hours northeast in the county capital of Valencia.
This pamphlet turned out to be an out-patient leaflet, which had been written the year beforehand. Information showed that the packet belonged to an individual by the name of Enrique Angles, a man living in Valencia, and that he had been treated for some type of venereal disease in 1992. Multiple sources have stated differing diseases, so I'll refrain from naming one.
Anyhow, this Enrique Angles was the brother of Antonio Angles, the frequent drug supplier and longtime friend of the man I introduced you to at the beginning of this episode, Miguel Ricart.
Enrique Angles, the man named in the hospital documents, wasn't particularly on the radar of police. They immediately believed that he may be involved in the crime, but their focus fell upon Enrique's brother, Antonio, and his brother's friend, Miguel.
I told you Miguel's story in the introduction, but Antonio Angles was a different story altogether. Antonio Angles was born in Brazil in 1966, although his actual date-of-birth differs depending on the publication. However, it seems that he was born in the latter half of either June or July.
Antonio Angles is a member of a large family, his parents - Enrique Angles and Neusa Martins - having a grand total of nine children.
In 1968, just a year or two after the birth of Antonio, the family would move from Brazil to Spain.
At this point in the early 1990s, the elder Enrique Angles had been hospitalized due to cirrhosis of the liver. He was a rampant alcoholic, whose abuse had caused irreparable harm to the entire family.
The mother of the family, Neusa Martins, was a victim in her own right. She had been trapped in a mostly loveless marriage with the father of her many children, and had been abused for a long period of time. Not only by her husband, Enrique, but even by her own children; Antonio among them.
Neusa had filed the equivalent of a restraining order against Antonio, because of threats that he had levied against her. You see, Antonio Angles was no angel. Following in his father's footsteps, he had abused his family members and stolen things from them to support his own habits, which included drugs.
Between 1985 and 1991, Antonio Angles would find himself in prison on five different occasions for a variety of crimes. The first two occasions - one from April of 1985 and the next from January of 1987 - involved receiving stolen property. In July of 1987, just months after his last bid, he found himself back in prison for drug trafficking.
After this, it seems like Antonio's crimes continued to descend into aggressiveness. In June of 1988, he was arrested and convicted of robbery with intimidation, which I assume is similar to armed robbery. He was released a year or so later, and found himself back in prison in February of 1990 for multiple offenses, including resisting arrest and drug trafficking.
I know what you're thinking at this point. Antonio Angles sounds like your typical run-of-the-mill shithead. But this is where his story starts to get murky.
By this point, in 1990, Antonio Angles seemed like a scumbag. But he would obtain a conviction in 1991 that put him into scary psychopath territory, and it all began with a bag of heroin.
Apparently, a woman he knew - named Nuria Pera - stole the bag of heroin that Antonio was planning to sell to some clients. She was a junkie, so she used all of it.
As punishment, Antonio took this young woman captive, so to speak. He grabbed her and took her back to his family's home, where his mother and several of his siblings still lived. Apparently, he chained her to a pillar in one of the backrooms, where he proceeded to beat Nuria for hours.
She was chained to that pillar for around 25 hours, at which point the Civil Guard got involved. They had been contacted by one of Antonio's brothers, named Ricardo.
Antonio was taken back in front of a magistrate, where he was convicted for over six years. Not only was he convicted of a kidnapping and imprisonment charge, but the police found drug paraphernalia in the house that belonged to Antonio.
Apparently, out of the people in the home who faced charges similar to "aiding and abetting," were not only Antonio's siblings, but also Miguel Ricart - his longtime friend.
However, in the end, Antonio was the only one convicted of anything. Even Miguel Ricart - who, at this point, was another lowlife - avoided facing charges.
Surprisingly enough, though, Antonio would only serve one year of his prison sentence. This is not because he was paroled, but rather, he was willingly released by the prison staff on a six-day permit.
I'm not joking, either. On March 5th, 1992, less than a year after his conviction for kidnapping and beating Nuria Pera, Antonio was granted nearly a week-long pass to enjoy a reprieve from prison life. This has become heavily scrutinized in the years since, especially when you consider that Antonio left prison on March 5th and simply never returned. When his six-day pass was over, prison staff were left scratching their heads when this now-escaped fugitive didn't stroll back into his cell.
And the worst part is that, due to someone's ineptitude, an arrest warrant wasn't issued for the arrest of Antonio Angles' until September. September 10th, to be exact. That's over six months after he simply absonded from a half-decade of prison time. Now, I can't tell whether this is a systematic thing when it comes to Spanish institutions, but surely I'm not alone in thinking that this is slightly ridiculous?
Anyhow, it should come as no surprise to you that - two months after the arrest warrant was signed for Antonio Angles - the girls from Alcasser went missing. This provided a perfect story for police, who seized the opportunity.
Investigators focused in on the Angles family, who were living in a home off of the busy street of Cami Real in Catarroja, Spain. Catarroja was just a short distance northeast of Alcasser, somewhat in-between the town and the county capital of Valencia.
At the home were several of Antonio's relatives, including his mother, Neusa, and his siblings, Enrique and Kelly. Enrique was the brother whose name was found on the hospital documents, who had been treated for VD the year beforehand. Also there was their younger sister Kelly's boyfriend, who was arrested along with the two siblings.
While the police were there, serving out a search warrant, the man who would become the lead suspect arrived. It was some time between seven and eight o'clock in the evening, when Miguel Ricart returned home with two of Antonio's brothers, named Mauricio and Ricardo.
It is worth noting that, upon seeing police at the home, Miguel didn't run. He just continued inside with the Angles brothers, where they were all then arrested and taken off to the nearby Civil Guard barracks for questioning.
It was right around midnight that police finally got around to questioning Miguel, after speaking to some of the Angles family members first.
Miguel Ricart was taken into a room with several men dressed in civilian clothes. He told them his basic information, such as his name and the fact that he had spent the past December in prison for stealing a vehicle.
Miguel told these investigators that he drove a white Opel Corsa, a car that loosely fit the description of the vehicle that the girls had disappeared in. From this point forward, the police zeroed in on him as a main suspect and began to ignore all other possibilities.
Investigators began to press Miguel about his vehicle, asking if he ever lent it to anyone. At first he hesitated, saying no, but then admitted he had loaned it to his friend, Antonio Angles, on occasion. However, this stands in contrast with what we know of Antonio, who didn't have a license and didn't know how to drive.
Before Miguel had gone to prison in December, he had left his car in the custody of his girlfriend, nicknamed "Loli."
Then, the police interrogating Miguel began to focus in on Antonio, Miguel's on-again and off-again drug supplier and friend. At this point, Miguel had been bouncing around between Antonio's family's home and the home of his girlfriend, Loli, so they assumed that he had some kind of relationship with the man.
Remember: Antonio Angles had been a runaway fugitive since March of 1992, before the girls went missing. To police, this felt like the investigative jackpot.
In this first interrogation, Miguel doesn't admit to seeing Antonio Angles at all in the preceding months. He says that the two men had been friends for over a decade, but that he didn't know where the other man was, and hadn't seen in him quite some time. He did admit that Antonio was an aggressive man, and may have had some mental issues that could make him a danger to others.
However, Miguel emphasized the innocence of Enrique Angles, stating that the younger was harmless and couldn't hurt a fly. He refused to say the same about Antonio, basically admitting that the fugitive was capable of committing this crime.
This interview was officially labelled as the voluntary statement made by Miguel Ricart Tarrega. Despite being detained at the Angles home, he hadn't officially been arrested.
That would happen just a few hours later, at five o'clock in the morning on January 28th, 1993.
Police utilized some inconsistencies in Miguel Ricart's voluntary statements as proof of his involvement in the crime.
First of all, they believed that he had been privy to Antonio Angles' whereabouts in the preceding months. They didn't buy that Miguel hadn't seen him in months, and had probably cause to question him further on that.
However, they were also intrigued by some of his answers to his whereabouts on the night in question. When asked about where he had been on November 13th, 1992, Miguel kept stating that he had been in prison. Police knew that he had spent most of December in jail for vehicle theft, but they had no records of him being in prison on the Friday in which the girls went missing.
A quick call to some guards at the prison validated their suspicions. The prison guards couldn't find any records of Miguel being there when the girls disappeared, and without an alibi, that was good enough for the detectives.
Along with the white Opel Corsa that Miguel drove matching the description of the vehicle they had been searching for, they felt comfortable enough pressing him further for information about Antonio Angles and holding him as a suspect.
At roughly 5:40 in the morning, Miguel Ricart was read his rights in a holding cell, and officially charged as an accomplice in the murders of Miriam Garcia Iborra, Desiree Hernandez Folch, and Toni Gomez Rodriguez. On his arrest paperwork, he states that he does not want to testify and does not want a lawyer.
Both would change within 24 hours.
It is after this that Miguel Ricart's story completely changes, once he is officially interrogated by Civil Guard police as a suspect.
At this point, the police were not aware of where the three Alcasser girls had been killed. They had been found in the mountainous region of La Romana, but the area was surprisingly light on any evidence of the murders.
There was no blood or evidence around the crime scene indicating that they had been killed there.
On January 28th, while Miguel Ricart was sitting in a holding cell, six doctors were preparing to begin the autopsies of the three victims. Led by Doctors Fernando A. Verdu and Francisco Ros, the six were missing the leadership of the usual supervising medical examiner, who was on leave.
The bodies were examined in their order of discovery.
The first body, that of Toni Gomez Rodriguez, was the first to be pulled from the pit. As such, she was the first to be examined by this team of doctors in Valencia. She was one of the two whose bodies were found without their head attached, leading early investigators to think that this might be due to decapitation. However, that has never been proving.
Like the other victims, Toni had been bound with her arms behind her back. She had been the victim wearing the watch that the beekeepers in La Romana originally spotted, thus leading to the discovery of the bodies.
These doctors discovered that her body showed signs of rape, but her hymen was still intact. If rape had occurred, it had likely been anally. These doctors quickly identified her cause of death as a gunshot wound to the skull.
A few hours later, the doctors moved onto the second body. This was the body of Desiree Hernandez Folch.
She was also found with her arms bound behind her with black rope, and one of her arms was bent at a terribly unnatural angle. Her remains had been picked at by a scavenging animal, but most of her clothing was surprisingly intact. Like the first victim, her head was also found detached from her body.
However, she was found without socks, which even her family found as odd.
The thing about this cadaver that shocked everyone the most was the fact that one of Desiree's nipples had been removed, with what looked like a blunt prying object. Aka pliers. I know that this is terrible to hear, but I'd feel worse not including it in this episode. The sad truth is that these kinds of details matter. This act, presumably done by the killer - or killers - implies some greater level of sadism than is present in most opportunistic killings.
An examination of this victim's genitals also showed signs of rape, both vaginally and anally. She had also been killed with a gunshot to the head, but wounds in her torso also looked to show stab wounds.
A three o'clock in the evening, on January 28th, these doctors moved on to the body of the third victim, Miriam Garcia Iborra.
Like Desiree, Miriam was found without socks. I couldn't tell you whether this was a simple oversight, or a more malicious sign of them being stolen.
However, a more ominous missing part of the puzzle was the right hand of Miriam, which investigators never recovered. And unlike the other victims, she had likely suffered some sort of beating at the hands of her captor, as she was missing multiple teeth.
Like the second body examined, she also showed signs of various rapes. But, shockingly, her genitals showed signs of various rips and tears produced after her death. Again, this was the end result of a sick, violent person - or persons.
While Miguel Ricart toiled away in a prison cell on the day of January 28th, the media stormed not only La Romana, where the bodies of the three girls had been found, but Alcasser, their hometown.
The bodies had not even been positively identified as the Alcasser girls, but several items of clothing seemed to match. The families of the victims met at Alcasser town hall, where investigators and police officials met with them and confirmed that the bodies were of the three girls.
Merely hours later, almost every regional news network was tuned in to the crime, trying to get the thoughts and opinions of the family members involved.
For most of us, this is almost expected when it comes to a highly-publicized missing persons case. Especially when those missing persons are three teenage girls.
But for Spain, and the country-at-large, they look back at this media takeover as an embarrassment. Akin to the OJ Simpson or Casey Anthony media frenzy we saw here in the US, where serious journalists began to succumb to sensationalizing every minute detail or gossip.
Over the following weeks and months, the media would be there to broadcast every small detail - no matter how gruesome or obscene. They were there to ask the family members of Miriam, Desiree, and Toni how they felt to have had a murdered daughter? They'd ask their family and friends how they felt to know the gory details of their teenage loved ones murder, how two girls were decapitated and one had her nipple ripped off with pliers. How two had their hands bound, but the other was missing a hand, so the police can only guess that she was, as well.
I only say this because I'm not joking. These things happened.
Almost any article you'll read about the case refers to this incident, the murder of the three Alcasser girls, as the tipping point in Spanish media. Instead of searching for the truth, the media smelled blood in the water, and flocked to it like sharks. They wanted to make their coverage as shocking as possible, and followed up with anyone willing to speak to them.
Is it by any surprise, that as the area began to find out the horrifying details of how the three teenage girls had met their fate, that they were ready to string up any poor sap presented in front of them?
Unlucky for Miguel Ricart, he was that sap.
Over the next day, the area was alight. The Alcasser girls had been found, and a suspect already arrested.
Unfortunately, police had little-to-no evidence to feasibly connect their suspect to the crime: he happened to have a car similar to the one seen neaby the crime scene, and a paper with the name of someone he knew was found NEARBY the crime scene. Just nearby, not within, as some publications have tried to connect. Thanks to the ineptitude of the early investigators who canvassed the scene, we have no idea where the document with Enrique Angles' name came from, only that it was NOT found in the pit that the girls' bodies were found in.
So, police focused in on the man they had in custody: Miguel Ricart, a former-convict and general deadbeat.
His first conversation with police had been fruitless; he had generated a bunch of potential for police, based off of his relationship with Antonio Angles and his white Opel Corso, but his answers had been nothing. He provided nothing, and believed to be going home soon. But after his arrest, the next twenty or so hours are all guesswork. We have no idea what conditions Miguel Ricart was being held in, who he was speaking to, etc.
It was the next day, January 28th, that Miguel Ricart confessed to having some involvement in the crimes. Mind you, his confession took place at nearby midnight - almost an entire day after originally being detained. For all we know, Miguel wasn't allowed to eat or sleep during this time period.
In this confession - which Miguel signed off on afterwards - Miguel gives the investigators a rough timeline of how he and Antonio Angles had abducted the girls.
Miguel's first confession begins by saying that him and Antonio had taken the three girls at an unspecified time, and that the girls went along willingly. Apparently, they had used another vehicle, a Blue SEAT Ronda, a Spanish vehicle brand very similar to old Honda Civics. This stands at a clear contrast with the car used by the alleged kidnappers, a white sedan.
But, anyhow, Miguel states that Antonio and he had driven the three girls out to La Romana. During this drive - which takes approximately two hours, mind you - apparently the girls did not voice any real concern or fight back. Then again, this confession doesn't make a lot of sense.
Apparently, when they got to a desolate part of La Romana, Miguel's confession alleges that he had a sexual interaction with fourteen-year old Desiree, while Antonio went off into the night with the other two: fourteen-year old Miriam and fifteen-year old Toni.
Mind you, at this point in the confession, everything is consensual between the girls and the two older men. I understand that the girls were minors, I'm just stating that this confession reads as odd because Miguel doesn't talk about any of the girls fighting back. He basically says that he and Desiree were having sex, not that he was raping her.
Then, Miguel states that approximately twenty minutes passed before he heard three gunshots in the distance.
At this point, things get VERY murky. He never really states what happened to Desiree at that point, whether he killed her or Antonio came back from the distance to kill her.
Then, with the three girls now dead, the two men apparently drove to a house nearby to pick up a rug, which they used to wrap up the three girls in a freshly dug pit. Oh yeah, and apparently, they managed to dig the pit - in mid-winter and without a shovel - in the darkness of night. Then they placed the bodies of the three girls - now wrapped in the rug - in the pit.
This is only the first confession, but it would prove a tricky one police and prosecutors to try and prove. Because, unfortunately for them, Miguel's confessions would continue to change depending on the evidence on-hand.
And, he would claim later, that this confession - taken over 24 hours after he was first detained and which completely contradicts his original statement - was coerced through torture and abuse at the hands of the Spanish Civil Guard.
At this point, police had a few things tying them to a group of suspects.
First, the evidence that had pointed them in the direction of these suspects. This was a hospital flyer from the year beforehand, with the name of Enrique Angles. Enrique was the brother of Antonio, and was sitting in a neighboring holding cell of Miguel Ricart.
Second, the confession of Miguel Ricart. He would claim, years later, that this confession was coerced and that the only part of it that came from him was his signature.
Lastly, an association between these two to a man named Antonio Angles. Who, as we all know by know, was a legitimately bad guy with a history of violence.
But the police had a couple of major issues on their hands, namely that Antonio Angles hadn't officially been seen in about a year. Also, and I haven't seen this one mentioned on a lot of websites or sources about the case, but many of friends and family of Antonio told investigators that he was gay.
This just meant that police would try and frame their narrative in a different way. Instead of stating that Antonio had committed these crimes for pleasure, he had done it because he hated women.
Of course, you'd think that this matter could be settled by simply bringing in Antonio and checking to see whether or not his story matched up with Miguel Ricart's. Unfortunately, Antonio Angles would never be found.
That's a story I'll discuss further in part three of the Alcasser Girls...
Part Three: The Fugitive
In November of 1992, three girls went missing from a small town near the eastern Spanish coast, named Alcasser. Their names were: Toni Gomez Rodriguez, Desiree Hernandez Folch, and Miriam Garcia Iborra.
The three girls, who left a friend's house at around seven o'clock in the evening, were heading to a nightclub in a neighboring town. Unfortunately, they never made it to their destination.
One eyewitness reported to police that she had seen three girls matching their description get into a white sedan with a handful of older-looking men. This sighting would cement what the police were already thinking: that the girls had met foul-play.
Over the next seventy-five days, the Spanish media was alight with the story. Talk show hosts made trips to Alcasser to interview the family and friends of the three girls, along with politicians. This included the Interior Minister - who organized a task force specifically to find the girls, named the UCO. And the president of Spain at the time, Felipe Gonzalez, even met with the family to express his concerns.
But on a fateful day at the end of January, two-and-a-half months later, the bodies of the three girls were found. They were discovered by some middle-aged beekeepers, who were exploring a large chunk of property that they owned in La Romana, roughly half-an-hour south from where the girls had gone missing from.
The investigators identified the girls at the scene, identifying articles of clothing that they were wearing. However, in the process of exhuming the bodies, the forensic teams involved cut some corners. Only one photo was taken of the scene before all three bodies were exhumed, and police didn't take notes about where they found specific pieces of evidence. This would come into play later, when they used random bits of evidence to convict a prime suspect.
Using a discarded hospital pamphlet found near where the bodies had been buried, the police quickly found their way to a group of suspects. The pamphlet had belonged to a young man named Enrique Angles, whose older brother, Antonio, was an escaped convict who had a history a violence. And living with Enrique, at the time of his arrest, was another troubled young man named Miguel Ricart, whose only known crimes - at this point in time - were stealing cars to support a growing drug habit.
Within 24 hours of the bodies' discovery, police had officially named Miguel an accomplice to the murder, and worked a confession out of him. But - as you may have guessed - the story was far from over. In fact, it would just get crazier in the coming months and years.
The tragic deaths of the three victims - Toni Gomez Rodriguez, Desiree Hernandez Folch, and Miriam Garcia Iborra - was just the beginning of what would go on to engulf the Spanish media for years.
When I last left you, one of the suspects, Miguel Ricart, had confessed to police. This confession had come after the first autopsy, when police began to get a better idea of how the three victims had met their fate. But it wouldn't tell the entire story, and left plenty of holes that would have to be explored by both investigators or Miguel's defense team.
Namely, the idea that this confession had been coerced through torture, a claim that Miguel would bring about a short time later.
But at the moment police had a chief suspect that they were gunning for: Miguel's friend and drug supplier, named Antonio Angles.
Antonio Angles was a drug dealer with a history of violent and non-violent crime. He had been arrested five times, usually for drug offenses, but his last arrest had come from chaining a woman to a pillar and beating her for a day. The reason for this violent outburst? Because she had stolen a bag of heroin that he was planning to sell.
Antonio was convicted for this offense, but made an escape from his sentence while on a six-day pass. He was allowed to go home for about a week, and decided to just never return. That was in March of 1992, and a warrant for his arrest was not signed until September - over six months later.
Two months after this, the three Alcasser girls went missing, and the rest is history.
Police began to view Antonio as the chief suspect behind the crime. Miguel's confession - which would change in its follow-up incarnations - implicated Antonio in the murder of all three girls. But the police had no idea where to find this man.
His track became incredibly complicated when police discovered that they had almost detained him on the day they went to the Angles home, January 27th.
On the same day that police were led to the bodies of the three teenage victims, they discovered pieces of paper. This was an outpatient pamphlet from a hospital in Valencia. The name on this document was Enrique Angles, Antonio's brother. Enrique lived at a home in Catarroja with several family members, including their mother, a sister, and a handful of brothers. Miguel Ricart also happened to live here, on a temporary-going-on-permanent basis.
This is where they detained Miguel, obtained a confession, etc. The stuff I told you about in the last episode.
HOWEVER... things would reach an interesting point when police began to speculate, based off of rumors about the Angles family, that Antonio had been in the family home when they went there to arrest his brother Enrique and Miguel. They DID detain the entirety of the Angles family that was present, but through unconfirmed sources, it has been bandied about that Antonio was actually AT the home when police arrived.
Here is where that story gets unbelievable.
They then began to speculate that Antonio, who they presume was staying in a bedroom on the fourth floor of the building, had jumped out of that window when the Civil Guard arrived to question his family.
And, believe it or not, that is not where his story ends.
As if jumping out of a twenty-plus foot window wasn't enough - the likes of which would have likely resulted in a serious injury - rumors nipped at the heels of Antonio Angles for the next twenty years.
As I've already stated, Antonio had been released from prison on a temporary basis back in March of 1992. In September, a warrant was issued for his arrest. In November, the Alcasser girls disappeared. Here we were now in January, almost a year after he left prison, and there had been no official sighting of Antonio since.
Gossip began to be thrown around that Antonio had been living with the rest of his Angles family, but that police never bothered to check there to see if he was active. For all we know, they performed these checks and found nothing... there are no records of police following up on the September arrest warrant. Simply nothing.
But now that Miguel Ricart, one of Antonio's friends, had been arrested and confessed to the crime while implicating Antonio as the ringleader, police had to make up a story to fit why they had committed this crime.
I stated in the last episode that several of Antonio's friends and families said that he was a gay man. Despite the rape and murder of the three girls looking like a brutal, opportunistic crime, police began to view it as a crime of hate. They stated that, due to Antonio's violent nature, his abusive relationship with his mother, and the kidnapping and beating of his former acquaintance - the one he chained to a pillar at the family's home - that he despised women.
That was the prosecutor's alleged motive for the crime. Not that Antonio wanted to kidnap and rape these three teenage girls for pleasure, but rather, because he hated women. And Miguel had apparently gone along with it because he was afraid of Antonio and didn't want to rock the boat.
So now, the story became one framed around that narrative. And Antonio, who had last been seen about a year beforehand, was now rumored to be on the run after jumping out of a fourth-story window.
Mind you, there was an increased police presence around the Angles home when the family was taken in for questioning. If anyone would have jumped out a fourth-floor window, they would have been seen by someone.
From there, police reportedly received calls placing Antonio at various spots throughout the area. He was seen at a hairdresser the day after his near-arrest, while Miguel Ricart sat in prison, and returned his bleached blond hair to its natural dark color. After that, he would be spotted throughout the area by eyewitnesses, sightings that began to put together a narrative: that of Antonio Angles, wanted fugitive, outrunning police for over a month.
By February 5th - roughly a week after the arrest and confession of Miguel Ricart - police stated that they had lost the trail of Antonio Angles. However, that would not stop rumors of Antonio, who has still - to this day - never been found.
While the search for Antonio Angles continued - and began to expand to neighboring countries, putting Antonio on the radar of Interpol - detectives began to further squeeze Miguel Ricart for more information.
As I told you in the last episode, Miguel confessed, but his confession was missing a few stark details. Namely, where the girls had died, how exactly they had died, and how the events had transpired. Most of these details came after the first autopsy, which missed a lot of details, and Miguel would claim to have been beaten into confessing based on what police knew at the time.
Of course, Miguel's confessions would change when a second autopsy was performed. illuminating detectives to more information about the case.
They knew that the girls had been raped and murdered, and likely tortured throughout the terrible process. But during the first autopsy, the team responsible for examining the bodies, had done something unthinkable: they had cleansed the bodies with water during the autopsy. Much of the forensic evidence that could have been recovered from their bodies was now gone forever, literally down the drain.
I wish I could tell you that this didn't happen, and that this is just a poorly translated article, but the first autopsy has been ridiculed in the decades since for being poorly-performed. The person behind the second autopsy, Dr. Luis Frontela Carreras, a professor at the nearby University of Seville, wrote a scathing indictment of the first autopsy. He critiqued that autopsy for permanently damaging much of the evidence, such as collecting hairs found on the bodies in a single container, performing unnecessary amputations, and discarding evidence that could have been useful for forensics later on, such as a the larva found on the corpses.
A direct quote from Dr. Frontela's report said that the poorly-performed first autopsy "could lead to significant discrepancies in verifying the statements of the accused with the facts and the reconstruction of the event, and would prevent the exact truth of what happened" from being discovered.
This second autopsy was performed on January 29th, just a day after the first autopsy. It lasted until roughly 9:30 in the evening. And, of course, Miguel Ricart would make a further confession just a couple of hours later, clarifying what he had allegedly meant the night before.
In his second confession, Miguel offered up a lot of information that better helped investigators fill in what had happened between the girls' abduction in Picassent and their eventual burial in La Romana.
In this confession, he talked about how he and Antonio had picked up the girls in Picassent at around 8:00, and then driven them out to La Romana under a more threatening guise. Antonio had apparently hit one of them in the mouth with the butt of a gun, breaking her teeth. This completely goes against the story he told the night before, when he alleged that their journey out to the mountains was peaceful, but fits in with what police had learned from the autopsy. One of the girls had several broken teeth, so this explained that.
Miguel's second confession also states that they traveled to an undetermined location to rape and torture the girls. Remember: the girls had been buried in La Romana, but they had been killed elsewhere. Police still had no idea where, so Miguel's confession remarkably lacks that information. And, apparently, police didn't press him on that, despite that location being of great importance to the investigation.
In this confession, a lot of the minor details from the first confession had changed. They no longer drove a blue vehicle that belonged to Antonio, but drove the white Opel Corsa. Instead of miraculously finding a pit to bury the girls in, they brought a hoe and rake with them to dig it. Things like that, when you truly think about them, go completely at-odds with what Miguel had said 24 hours beforehand.
This would continue to happen throughout Miguel's various confessions. He would constantly change details to fit what it was police thought had happened, and a lot of that depended on the autopsies.
At this point in 1993, DNA testing wasn't used as commonly as it is now.
For reference, the OJ Simpson trial wouldn't begin for almost two years, and at that point, DNA testing was still struggling to work its way into criminal proceedings. It had been used sporadically to nab offenders, but wasn't seen as the most effective method to identify and convict criminals yet.
So it makes sense that police would at least try and utilize some methods of testing to go after Miguel Ricart and Antonio Angles in the upcoming trial. I mean, if there was any evidence found of the two men at the crime scene, then it should have made their case a slam dunk. At this point in February of 1993, it was all that they needed.
While performing the second autopsy, the forensics team identified fifteen individual hairs on the bodies of the three girls. Almost all of these had the consistency of pubic hairs, and they were found on or around the bodies of the three victims. Police would have to wait for testing to commence, as the next few years would see forensic testing take a big leap forward, but needless to say, these fifteen hairs would come into play later on.
I should also tell you that, eventually, the videos of these first two autopsies would either go missing or be deleted. This would be another major blunder the investigative team had to face, but one has to wonder how a team can make this many mistakes and still manage to apprehend their main suspect just hours after discovering the bodies.
While Miguel Ricart continued his confessions and toiled away in a prison cell, the main suspect that police were after - Antonio Angles - was spotted multiple times over the next month or so.
Of course, police failed to detain him, but he left behind a trail of breadcrumbs that solidified to the Civil Guard that he was the meticulous, depraved madman that they believed him to be.
Police allegedly received reports that in the days after Miguel and members of his own family were detained by police, that Antonio was spotted in the Catarroja area by multiple people. First, by a taxi driver who drove Antonio from his hometown of Catarroja to the nearby town of Turis; and secondly by a hairdresser, who reported that Antonio was dying his hair.
He had apparently been spotted with bleached blonde hair, and was returning his hair to a darker, less-noticeable color.
That evening, Antonio tried to get a room at a hostel, named Boluda, but was turned away because the hotel clerk identified him as Antonio Angles. At this point, he was one of the most wanted men in all of Spain, so it made sense that he wouldn't be able to get away flawlessly.
However, by the time police arrived, Antonio was gone into the wind. This would become a theme over the next month or so: police claimed to be hot on his trail, and always on the cusp of finding him because of how much evidence he had left behind. But every single time they reportedly got close, Antonio - a delinquent drug dealer - was one step ahead of them.
After getting turned away from the hostel in the northern part of Turis, Antonio apparently turned to a location that he had often shared with his brothers and Miguel Ricart.
Reporters have called this place a "hideout," but I like to think of it as the Angles' family version of Snoopy's Playhouse. Police would later theorize that this is where the three Alcasser Girls had been tortured, raped, and murdered, despite there being no physical evidence that ever tied them to the location.
This was a large shed located nearby a home owned by someone referred to as "the Gypsy." Apparently, the Gypsy was a delinquent just like Antonio and Miguel, and was renown for his ability to pawn things.
Antonio allegedly turned to this hideout on January 30th. This is the day after the second autopsy was performed, and just hours after Miguel gave his second midnight confession to investigators.
It was roughly two o'clock in the morning, when Antonio apparently arrived at this shed, and news reports differ on his mood. Some call him irrationally angry, waving a gun around like a lunatic, but others refer to the Gypsy as a longtime friend of his from whom he asked a favor of. Either way, Antonio was apparently in the market for a vehicle, to make his escape.
However, Antonio didn't realize that his man, known as "the Gypsy," would rat him out to the police. Apparently, Antonio had gone and slept somewhere else, and when he returned later in the day, police were there. Antonio made his escape yet again.
In early February, Antonio allegedly stayed at a hostel. When police showed up on February 4th, the bed in which Antonio had reportedly had been sleeping in was photographed. Almost comically staged, the bed was covered in pornographic magazines.
Police spokesmen would tell the Spanish newspaper Levante-EMV on February 5th that "security forces have lost track of the whereabouts of Antonio Angles."
Despite the police seeming to have no idea where this criminal mastermind was, Antonio Angles continued to make his presence known.
On February 6th, just a day after police claimed to have no idea of where he was, he was spotted by a truck driver at Xativa Station, located in Valencia. At this point, he had apparently changed his image dramatically: instead of being incredibly prim and neat, he was rocking a scratched-up face with a week's worth of stubble.
Antonio had apparently become aggressive, as one would expect from an alleged criminal of his stature. He threatened this truck driver with a small ax he wore on his belt, and then went on his way.
From here, he was rumored to start traveling as a stowaway inside the cargo containers of semi-trucks.
On Wednesday, February 10th, 1993, Antonio was spotted by yet another truck driver, who discovered him. This driver ran inside to the warehouse to call the authorities, but by the time they arrived... you guessed it, he was long gone.
On February 16th, 1993, the magazine El Pais published a story about the Civil Guard searching the area of Graja de Iniesta. This region was a smaller, sparsely-populated municipality in the region of Cuenca.
The police had been notified about Antonio Angles' appearance in the area, which was roughly 200 kilometers west of Valencia.
The story went like this: apparently, days beforehand, Antonio had apprehended a man named Vicente Golfe. Vicente was a 65-year old farmer that lived in the Valencia area, and Antonio threatened the man's life. He told him that he wanted transportation to the town of Minglanilla, which is nearby Cuenca.
Vicente, obviously, had done as Antonio demanded. He drove him the two-hundred or so kilometers west, and was let go by the fugitive. However, he didn't report the incident to police for over two days, after worrying about reprisal from the escaped madman.
By the time the Civil Guard received word of this, all trace of Antonio Angles had been lost. But they would continue looking for him, while Antonio would continue leaving a track of his whereabouts.
During his drive to Central Spain, Antonio had told his prisoner, Vicente, that he was an innocent man accused of three murders. He didn't go into much detail, but he did make his intentions clear: he was planning to leave Spain entirely.
Police began to plan for this accordingly. They had picked up on comments Antonio had allegedly made to the taxi driver who saw him on January 27th, that he was heading to Madrid. They figured that, from there, he might try to figure out passage out of Spain - perhaps even back to Brazil, where he had been born and had dual citizenship.
While in Cuenca, he reportedly stole a vehicle, but only used it to travel a few miles. He was approaching a police traffic stop, and he left the vehicle behind. From there, he continued travelling on-foot, and the Civil Guard surmised that he was headed to Portugal.
Another witness, a 15-year old girl, claimed to see Antonio in Cuenca, but that report was unverified. From there, he disappears for a couple of weeks, until his presence is noted again. However, this time, it is back in Valencia, hundreds of miles east.
The owner of a home, named Julio Planchat Ochando, had returned to his villa in the latter half of February, and discovered objects that didn't belong to him. There was a wallet sitting on the night-stand of a bed, which had photographs and ID cards belonging to Antonio Angles. Some of these were fake, or in the process of being worked on by Antonio. Allegedly. The photos apparently showed him with and without his bleached blonde hair, giving police the perfect photos to present to the media to try and track him down.
Found at this location were also belongings of Antonio: clothing, money, equipment, etc. It was as-if he had left everything behind, but for what reason, we can only guess.
Many web-sleuths have theorized, in the years since, that this was just another staged part of the police trying to frame Antonio Angles for the crimes. The photos, allegedly taken by Antonio himself, looked staged... in fact, rumors have tailed one of the photos, which was presented to the press as the most recent photo of Antonio. It's him with bleached, light-color hair, and rumors have tied it to being a photo of a male model from South America.
The rumors claim that this photo isn't even of Antonio, and that the police speculation of his hair being bleached began with evidence found at the crime scene. If you remember, I told you about all manner of garbage being discovered at the crime scene. Well, one of those pieces of garbage was the packaging from a blonde hair dye product.
Honestly, I really can't toss away these rumors. The only word we ever have that Antonio bleached his hair is from an eyewitness or two that claimed he dyed his hair, and this photo, which is itself controversial. That's it. Like I said in the last episode: Antonio had not officially been seen by anyone since March of 1992, about a year before his alleged escape from Valencia. I take all of these sightings with a huge grain of salt because of that. After walking out of prison, he became a phantom.
The Civil Guard discovered this treasure trove of evidence, which also included a bloody tissue that had allegedly been used by Antonio. This would become one of their main pieces of evidence in the future, as they used it to test forensics against Antonio's DNA.
Almost a month would pass, and the police were still looking for any sign of Antonio Angles. At this point, after all of his alleged near-misses with police and Spanish law enforcement, he was starting to become a bit of a myth.
Rumors began to reach prying ears that Antonio had been spotted in Portugal, having made it into international territory. Central Brigade Homicide detectives began searching in the area of the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, on March 24th, 1993.
The rumors came from a Portuguese drug addict, by the name of Joaquim Carvalho. He had apparently hosted Antonio Angles for over two weeks, which would have put Antonio in Portugal at the beginning of March. He had been a longtime acquaintance of Antonio's, even calling themselves "friends." However, this friendship ended when Antonio stole Joaquim's passport, and was planning to make good on his intention to find a ship that was sailing to his nation of birth, Brazil.
A few days later, on March 27th - two months to the day after the bodies of the three Alcasser Girls had been found - Portuguese officials announced that they were calling off the search, which had provided no new evidence whatsoever. Surprisingly, though, that was not the end of the story.
It was later announced that certain officials believed that Antonio Angles had managed to avoid capture yet again. I would like to remind everyone that Antonio was not a special agent of any kind: before the murder of the three girls, he had been seen as a lowlife drug dealer. In fact, police felt so strongly about him not being a threat that they let him go on a week-long pass back home. Now, however, he had managed to trek nearly a thousand kilometers - mostly on foot - and had crossed international borders and was trying to search for a way off of the European continent. And throughout this journey, he was one of western Europe's most wanted criminals, with multiple versions of his face plastered all over the media.
Despite this, police began to believe that Antonio had stowed away aboard a cargo ship headed for Dublin, named the City of Plymouth.
Over the next week or two, police believe, Antonio pretended to be a Portuguese stowaway, who lived in the engine room of the City of Plymouth. The crew had discovered him as they approached Ireland, and that was when Antonio apparently found himself in the cold waters.
Some reports claim that Antonio jumped from the ship into the ocean, while others claim that the crew of the City of Plymouth threw him into the sea with a life-jacket. Since neither of these have been verified, I'll let you decide what makes for a better story. But, either way, Antonio found himself in the water off the coast of Ireland, where he would last been seen by any eyewitness record.
The crew claimed to have had no knowledge of his presence aboard the ship, only discovering him days after they set sail. They had no idea he was aboard, and the crew went on-the-record stating that they didn't help him escape and didn't know of his existence. In fact, they did a stowaway check before departing Lisbon, and found no trace of him then. Yet, someway and somehow, Antonio Angles continued to avoid police oversight.
When the City of Plymouth pulled into harbor, in Dublin, police were there to detain Antonio Angles. Through his own actions or those of the crew, Antonio was nowhere to be found.
The Spanish Civil Guard have clung to this story in the years since, that Antonio Angles was last seen in the waters off of the Irish coast. He has not been seen since.
Interpol officials apparently verified this by finding some of Antonio's fingerprints on the City of Plymouth, which matched what they had on-file. However, this has become heavily scrutinized in the years since, when journalists discovered that the "fingerprint match" came from a partial palm-print. Thus, leading to doubts as to whether or not Antonio had ever been on board, and whether he was even the Portuguese stowaway.
Two years later, in September of 1995, a skull was discovered off the coast of County Cork , Ireland. This skull had the unusual trait of featuring a deviated septum, which was something that Antonio Angles had. Police would test the DNA from this skull to the DNA of Antonio's mother, Neusa Martins, but the tests came back negative.
Police believe that even though this skull didn't match that of Antonio Angles, that he might have perished off the coast of Ireland.
In March of 1996, police were tipped off that a man with similar tattoos as Antonio was spotted in Uruguay. By the time police arrived, the suspect was long gone.
Whether or not you believe that Antonio Angles might be guilty, you cannot deny that his story is an completely unresolved tale. He escaped justice, at the very least, by skimping out of his remaining prison sentence, and has remained one of Interpol's most wanted fugitives ever since.
Rumors have continued to nip at the heels of the Angles family for decades, with theories cropping up that Antonio has been spotted in Brazil and even Miami, Florida.
Unfortunately, we have little proof that Antonio has even been alive throughout this entire ordeal. Many online theorists have speculated that Antonio was either long-gone or dead before the three Alcasser Girls went missing, and police have fabricated the entire story of his escape. He has never had his day in court for the murder of Toni Gomez Rodriguez, Desiree Hernandez Folch, and Miriam Garcia Iborra.
Meanwhile, it would be years before Miguel Ricart would face a judge for the brutal accusations levied against him, which I will go into in the next episode of the Unresolved Podcast...
Part Four: The Truth
In 2011, PBS published an article inspired by their Frontline documentary, "The Confessions." This article was titled "A Rare Look at the Police Tactics That Can Lead to False Confessions," written by Gretchen Gavett, who is now an editor for the esteemed Harvard Business Review.
This article included quotes from many law enforcement officials and even journalist Robert Kolker - who you may remember as the author of "Lost Girls," a novel I referenced repeatedly throughout the Long Island Serial Killer episodes. This article was about explaining how, exactly, false confessions happen.
The common sentiment seems to be: if you confessed, you're guilty. But it's actually so much more than that... the human brain is a very fickle thing, and it's very easily tampered with, believe it or not.
In almost every story, there comes a point where I mention how flimsy eyewitness testimony is. That's because things are very easily misremembered; even if you are fully sane and aware of your surroundings, a guy you saw with a red shirt and a blue hat may very easily become a guy wearing a blue shirt and a red hat. Your brain plays tricks on you.
In this PBS article, Gretchen Gavett pulls many quotes from Robert Kolker and talks about law enforcement interrogation techniques, many of which have gone unchanged for decades. Most cops have been inspired by a 1962 book, "Criminal Interrogations and Confessions," which created the "Reid technique."
This is what you see in almost every detective movie: a suspect isolated in a dark and dreary room. A puffy, middle-aged detective getting in-close and spitting in the suspect's face. Accusing them of things they did, making up evidence on the fly, etc.
Again, stuff we've all seen in every detective movie since the dawn of film-making.
However, this PBS article goes into how this method - while effective at times - also results in false confessions. The evidence that police tell the suspect very often makes its way into the confession, thus creating the idea that the suspect knows more than they're letting on. However, the information was just spoon-fed to them moments beforehand, but most prosecutors gloss over that detail.
In fact, judges have begun to disallow many of these confessions from being introduced as evidence. The prosecutors have then had to rely on forensic evidence, which may or may not be as damning as a taped confession.
You may be asking yourself: how does this tie in to the story of the Alcasser Girls? Well, in the months after being arrested as an accomplice in the murder of Toni Gomez Rodriguez, Desiree Hernandez Folch, and Miriam Garcia Iborra, Miguel Ricart claimed that the "confessions" tied to his name were coerced. Namely, through torture and threats from the law enforcement officials interrogating him.
And in Miguel's case, we don't have any publicly-available video or audio tapes of him confessing to the crime. For all we know, the police interrogated him for hours upon hours, threatening to do to his young daughter what had been done to the three Alcasser Girls: rape, torture, and murder. He would claim that the only real thing from those multiple interrogations that belonged to him were his signatures on every page of the typed confession.
Although Miguel's trial wouldn't begin until nearly half-a-decade after the three Alcasser victims had been found, it would become a hot-button issue that would divide Spanish citizens down the middle: those that viewed Miguel as an innocent man framed for a crime he did not commit, and others that believed he - and his partner, Antonio Angles - were the worst monsters Spain had ever seen.
This is the continued story of the Alcasser Girls.
Since the evening of January 27th, Miguel had been detained by the Spanish Civil Guard and held as a suspect in the murders of the three teenage victims.
As I've gone into detail about, he had confessed multiple times. His confession had taken many twists and turns in each incarnation, sometimes his later confessions completely contradicting what he had testified to previously. More often than that, his confessions lined up with what police had learned from the autopsies of the three victims and the ever-evolving police investigation.
None of these interrogations were recorded. No audio or video of any were submitted in the criminal proceedings months later. Miguel would claim, later on, that this was due to his confessions being coerced through torture.
These claims began to appear in the months after Miguel's arrest, and were made most notably during Miguel's fourth confession.
I've already told you about his first two confessions. When he was first detained, he said that he had nothing to do with the crime and knew nothing about it. Police continued to hold him, and finally worked a confession out of him roughly 24 hours later, at midnight of January 28th. We have no idea what state he was in at the time, nor what his treatment at the hands of the Spanish Civil Guard had been like. We only know that they had printed out a confession, allegedly taken from the words of Miguel Ricart, that put him with the three Alcasser victims on the night in question. Miguel signed at the bottom, and that was that.
24 hours after that, they got another confession out of him, adding further credence to the story that the autopsies were painting: that the three girls had been abducted, raped, tortured, and murdered.
Police had been unprepared to follow through on Miguel's confessions, especially when he put most of the blame on another suspect: Antonio Angles. Police would spend the next month claiming to be hot on Antonio's trail, but in March of 1993, he seemingly vanished forever, disappearing in the waters off the coast of Ireland.
However, some believe that Antonio disappeared long before that. He had escaped from prison in March of 1992, a year beforehand, and police hadn't even signed a warrant for his recapture until September of that year. Conspiracy theorists claim that Antonio had been long gone by the time the three Alcasser Girls went missing, and the only proof to verify he fled the country when Spanish police claim is eyewitness testimony.
Miguel Ricart gave a more detailed confession on March 2nd, 1993, in which he filled in many details that police had been lacking up until that point.
He told police that the plan to abduct some girls had been inspired by Antonio's hatred of women, and he had voiced his ambitions months in advance. Apparently, Antonio had made obscene, offhand comments about his desire to murder young girls. So now, it was made clear to the prosecutor that Miguel and Antonio had set out to commit these heinous crimes when they departed their home in Catarroja on November 13th, 1992.
In this confession, Miguel also clarified what weapon it was that the men had taken with them: a 9-millimeter pistol that Antonio had obtained illegally, and used in a series of robberies. Instead of the weapon being an abstract concept, used loosely to describe the vague killing of the three girls, it was now an untraceable weapon tied to other violent crimes.
During this March 2nd confession, Miguel gave a more detailed summary of the assaults on the three girls, which apparently took place in the abandoned ruins nearby where the bodies were discovered. You can view photos and videos of these abandoned houses online, which look haunting enough without imagining these type of horrors taking place there.
The Civil Guard had toyed with the idea of the Angles' brother's Catarroja hideout being the murder location, but at this point, a survey of the place provided no evidence of any crimes taking place there. So it appears that they began to settle upon Miguel's confessions that the murders had taken place at these abandoned ruins.
However, it is important to note that during this confession, cracks began to be noticed in the story that Miguel's confessions had concocted. You see, word had reached police - during their exhaustive investigation - that Miguel had somewhat of an alibi for the night in question. On November 13th, 1992, Miguel had been spotted at a bar getting dinner with another man. So this story made its way into Miguel's third confession.
He states that after helping Antonio abduct the three girls and taking them to La Romana - half an hour out of the way - that he was present for the brutal rape and abuse of the three girls. During this time period, the three girls were bound and raped - not only by Antonio, but by Miguel, who was forced by Antonio at gunpoint.
When he wasn't able to perform adequately, Antonio used a stick to abuse the the three victims.
Then, Miguel describes him and Antonio just getting up and leaving to visit the nearby town of Catadau. There, they visited an establishment known as El Parador, a restaurant and bar, where they got some snacks and drinks and returned to the ruins of La Romana, where the girls were still bound and captive.
He describes only one of the girls refusing something to drink, before the abuse continued at the hands of Antonio Angles. Reading this confession, even though it was a article translated into broken English, made me squeamish, so trust me when I say that I'm sparing you all some of the gory details. However, the evening ended with Miguel and Antonio using a pickaxe and a hoe to dig the hole in which the three victims were buried.
The inclusion of the bar Miguel claimed to have gone to on the night in question proposed an interesting notion for the chief prosecutor of the case, Enrique Beltran.
First off, the bar was called El Parador, and happened to be in the town called Catadau. This town was roughly halfway between La Romana and Picassent, where the girls had gone missing. So it stood as something of a double-edged sword; by Miguel Ricart's own confession, it placed him physically closer to the burial ground of the three Alcasser girls, but also muddled the timeline. Especially since Miguel claimed to have been there before the girls would have feasibly been murdered.
You see, the abuse suffered by the three girls had shown the forensic teams that they had suffered for a period of time before their deaths. Hours, definitely... but perhaps even days. They did not die just an hour or two after disappearing, that much was sure.
So police reached out to the owner of El Parador, who recognized Miguel and testified that he had often gone there in the summer of 1992, sometimes with a partner-in-tow: police speculated this was Antonio, but it also could have been any of the Angles brothers. Remember, there were eight of them, and Miguel lived with and was friends with a majority of them.
At the time of the investigation, the owner was not willing to go on-the-record to state that Miguel had been at El Parador on the night in question. We were now roughly three months removed from the night that the girls had gone missing, so I can't quite blame the owner for refusing to make such a definitive statement.
This would become an official part of the story moving forward: that Miguel and Antonio had gone to fetch bar snacks after abducting the three girls, and before returning to finish what they had started.
When Miguel Ricart's trial would begin, years later, the owner of El Parador made a much more definitive statement. He claimed that Miguel Ricart had definitely come in on a Friday, to purchase a couple of sandwiches, a salad, and a drink... all of which was taken to-go. This was some time between 11:00 PM and midnight. However, the owner of the bar didn't recall seeing anyone with Miguel: no Antonio, no other Angles brother, no one.
The bar owner's wife, who was also working at El Parador on that fateful Friday the 13th, claimed that a man was with Miguel that night. And that man was none other than Antonio Angles.
However, when Miguel would finally stand trial in 1997, neither the bar owner nor his wife would be present to testify. And what's worse, is that the bar owner stated his signature was forged on a police document, in which he had apparently testified to Miguel Ricart's presence at his bar on the night-inquestion.
Now that I've told you about the bar that Miguel apparently went to on November 13th, 1992, I think it's fair that I talk briefly about the location where the bodies of the three teenage victims were found.
I have identified this place as La Romana, which I should clarify a bit. I incorrectly stated in part one of this series that this was a small town called La Romana, which is about two hours south of where the girls went missing. However, the place where the girls were found was named La Romana, but it wasn't located nearby the town of the same name and was only 30 or so minutes away from Picassent. Where they were found, La Romana - also known as House of the Roman - is a wild, unkempt area wedged between Catadau, the small town that housed El Parador, and the Tous dam.
So, apologies on the mistake there. To be fair, it's easy to confuse a geographical location for a town of the same name just an hour or so away.
The La Romana where the girls were found is even more desolate than the small town I mentioned in part one. There isn't really a town for miles - Catadau being the most notable, and that has a population of less than 3,000 in modern times. Less so in the early 1990s.
If you'd like to have a quick look at the area, just Google search "Barranco de La Romana" and check it out. The area is wild, desolate nothingness. Just rolling hills, vegetation, and dirt for miles and miles.
One thing you'll also notice is that there are a lot of dirt roads. Many Google Maps images of the area were captured in 2008, and even then, they were not noticeably different than the photos taken of the area in 1993.
There's not a streetlight or paved road in sight.
If you remember what I told you in the first episode of this series, you might remember that I told you about the two men that discovered the bodies: middle-aged beekeepers who happened upon them by chance after hiking around on their property.
Well, the abandoned farmhouse that was apparently used to torture the three girls was not too far from the road. Just a few hundred meters. But... the area where the girls were buried was over a kilometer away. And the walkway to get there, treacherous and difficult, was steep and almost impossible to navigate in the dark. Doubly so if you were given the task of carrying or guiding three fully-grown victims.
Even if they were alive, the forensic teams at the crime scene had failed to locate any blood or murder weapons. This is a glaring flaw that exists with the case to this day.
The prosecution took Miguel at his word, that the girls had been tortured, raped, and murdered. However the details he provided about those crimes were incredibly lacking. They were now more than three full-length, detailed confessions into this case file, and they had no murder weapons, crime scene, rational motive, forensic evidence, or valid explanations for any of these absences.
Sadly, that wouldn't change anytime soon.
Up until this point, two names have kept appearing on almost all of the sources I have used to make these episodes.
The first is Enrique Beltran, the chief prosecutor from Alcasser who was responsible for coordinating the case against Miguel Ricart.
The other is Dr. Francisco Ros Plaza... a name I have mentioned before in this series.
Dr. Ros was one of the forensic experts present throughout the case, taking on the role of acting forensic doctor in the absence of his superior, Dr. Fernando Verdu. Dr. Verdu eventually returned from his leave, but Dr. Ros remained the forensic lead on the case.
Dr. Ros led the first autopsy of the victims, which I detailed back in parts two and three of this series. This autopsy was - to put it lightly - poorly performed. Body parts were unnecessarily amputated, forensic evidence was washed away, and multiple hairs from all three bodies were collected in one container - which made it a DNA nightmare later on.
The second autopsy, performed a day later by a noted professor, Dr. Luis Frontela, made excessive notes of these errors.
Well, it comes as no surprise to learn that Dr. Francisco Ros Plaza didn't agree with those assertions, and had refused to work with Dr. Luis Frontela during his second autopsy and the subsequent reporting process.
I don't mean this section to be a smear piece on Dr. Ros. I don't. But at one point, you have to be a professional and not let personal issues get in your way. Because not only was the first autopsy a nightmare, but Dr. Ros' name is all over the case file of the the murdered Alcasser girls... including the confessions of Miguel Ricart.
Throughout the first three confessions Miguel Ricart made, Dr. Francisco Ros Plaza was the presiding forensics officer. His name, along with that of chief prosecutor Enrique Beltran, is all over the case file.
So besides presiding over an autopsy that many experts deem to be poorly performed, Dr. Ros was present throughout many confessions that Miguel Ricart claims were coerced. And if that wasn't enough, physical and mental evaluations were performed on Miguel Ricart before his trial could proceed. I'll give you a guess as to whom presided over those.
Even if Miguel Ricart had been tortured throughout the interrogation process, there was only one man that could verify it; the very same man that had been present throughout all of said confessions.
Dr. Francisco Ros.
Are you beginning to see what I mean when I talk about this case being so poorly handled? Even if Dr. Francisco Ros was an infallible being, I'd have a hard time believing that one man could be counted upon to handle every forensic aspect of a multi-faceted murder investigation. Yet everyone you look, Dr. Ros' name appears. He was responsible for conducting the autopsies, was present throughout most of the confessions - at least, the ones where Miguel Ricart confessed his guilt - and was the person responsibe for writing up a mental and physical evaluation of the suspect, including treating any of his wounds or ailments.
It's one giant conflict of interest, at the very least.
On March 29th, 1993, Miguel Ricart threw a curveball into the prosecution's case.
In an inquiry made by the judge in charge of the case, Miguel asserted that all of his prior signed statements were untrue. He told the judge that he had had nothing to do with the crime, that he only identified the three victims from images on television, and that he had originally remained silent because of other illegal acts he had committed.
Miguel gave a detailed alibi for November 13th, 1992. Apparently, a few days beforehand, Miguel had robbed a small bank alongside two of the Angles brothers: Mauricio and Antonio. No one had been harmed or injured, but they had used a pistol, which belonged to Antonio. On the Friday-in-question, they had been shopping, visiting restaurants and bars, and spending time with friends of theirs, aided by their recent robbery payday.
This statement carries a lot of weight with me, simply because it's the first made outside of a Civil Guard barracks and not presided by the chief prosecutor. This is where Miguel began to make claims of coerced confessions, which he would carry on throughout the trial.
But this must have made some kind of impact, because Miguel Ricart wouldn't make another confession or statement for nearly six months. At which point, it was back to business as usual.
On September 3rd, 1993, Miguel Ricart confessed his crimes again. This time, in more detail.
At this point, Antonio Angles was long gone. He had supposedly disappeared off the Irish coast months ago, so Miguel had no issue blaming Antonio for all of the crimes once again.
During this confession, Miguel Ricart became a burdened spectator to the crimes. He didn't witness Antonio rape or torture any of the girls, but allegedly saw Antonio shoot one of them inside the pit... which, of course, fit perfectly with what the autopsies had dug up.
I've told you that the first autopsy of the victims was terrible. Well, one important detail I've failed to mention is that the forensics squad behind that autopsy missed a vital clue... that being a bullet found in the hand of one of the victims.
That's right... an entire bullet. Dr. Luis Frontela was the one who discovered this bullet during his second autopsy, and this bullet had now worked its way into the confession.
Of course, since only one bullet was discovered during the autopsy process, now Miguel's confession had worked to include the origins of that bullet.
However, details continued to shift throughout these confessions. He had gone from no involvement, to having sex with a victim, to participating in the rapes and assaults, to now knowing nothing other than Antonio had raped and killed all three. Another major change came from the inclusion of two entirely new suspects, who participated in the crimes with Antonio and Miguel.
One of whom was Antonio's brother, Mauricio Angles, and the other was a teen-aged friend of Antonio's nicknamed "El Nano."
I'm sure you have many questions, but Miguel himself would offer up more details in one final confession, made over a year later.
On September 30th, 1994, Miguel offered up many more details about the crime in his final, definitive statement. Despite all of the issues his prior confessions had caused, including shifting details and Miguel's own disassociation of the crime on various occasions, this would become the official narrative moving forward.
Miguel stated that Antonio had made odd comments in the weeks before November 13th. He had talked about abducting and raping some girls, which Miguel thought was just part of a weird sense of humor.
That evening, Miguel was riding around with Antonio in a white Opel Corsa, alongside two other young men. Like I mentioned, one was Antonio's brother, Mauricio. And the other was a young teenager, who was roughly fifteen years old, nicknamed "El Nano." Miguel claimed to not know the name of this young man, only that he was a friend of Antonio's who was involved in drug dealing.
According to this confession, Antonio was driving the white sedan, while Miguel was in the passenger seat and the other two men were in the backseat. Apparently, they drove the ten kilometers from Catarroja to Picassent, scouring for young women nearby the local nightclubs and discotheques.
When they picked up the three girls, just down the block from the Coolor nightclub, they had done so under the guise of dropping them off at the club. The girls apparently got in the car willingly, although one has to wonder how three teenage girls could fit into a two-door, white sedan that already had four full-grown men inside.
But apparently these four men drove the girls out to the La Romana farmhouse, with Miguel under the intoxication of drugs and alcohol. Antonio told the other three men, Miguel included, to play it cool. They seemingly did just that.
When they arrived at the abandoned farmhouse, things became blurrier for Miguel. He claimed not to participate in the assaults of the three girls, although Antonio, Mauricio, and the unknown "El Nano" all did.
Finally, Miguel heard the sound of three gunshots in the distance, which triggered him alert.
Shortly thereafter, Antonio arrived at the car, angry at Miguel for not participating. He tried to assault Miguel, before Mauricio came to break things up. Then Antonio, at gunpoint, forced Miguel to help dig the pit, in which the three Alcasser victims were buried.
These confessions, while full of inconsistencies and changes, basically formed the bedrock of the entire police investigation. At this point, nearing the end of 1993, police still lacked some pretty major parts of the investigation: they had no murder weapon, no forensic evidence tying Miguel to the victims in any way, no crime scene, and a motive that stemmed from another suspect - who was believed to be missing and/or dead - loosely hating women.
The case, in other words, was just a mess. And it wasn't helped by the fact that many of the people involved with the prosecution, namely chief prosecutor Enrique Beltran and forensic expert Dr. Francisco Ros, were seemingly in over-their-heads. They had never been involved in such a huge, exhaustive criminal case, and now found themselves clinging to the one pierce of the puzzle that they had: Miguel Ricart.
Sadly, things wouldn't change. Despite forensic evidence leaping forward in the coming years, police and the prosecution would fail to establish any physical link between Miguel and the three victims. There wasn't a fingerprint, a drop of any bodily fluid, a hair follicle, nothing. To this day, no physical evidence has ever been established to put Miguel Ricart either with the victims or at the alleged crime scene.
The trial to decide Miguel Ricart's guilt would not begin until 1997, but that would still not be the end of this story.
Part Five: The Trial
In January of 1993, the bodies of three teenage girls were found. The girls, missing since that prior November, had sparked the fears of an entire nation.
Their bodies were found buried in a pit about a kilometer away from the nearest dirt road. All three had been murdered by an unknown assailant, all of them showing various signs of torture and rape.
While the mystery of who had killed them would go on to dominate the Spanish media for the next decade, the girls themselves were mostly forgotten by the rest of the world. All of their dreams and ambitions died with them, their names being spoken in hushed voices as cautionary tales for the next generation of teenage girls.
A statue of the three girls was built and erected at a nearby cemetery, where the remains of the three girls were permanently buried. Just as it was in life, the girls found themselves together even in death.
The statue, which contains the likeness of each of the victims, stands as a monument to the enduring legacy that the murder of the three girls created. And it also stands as an omen to all that visit the small area they lived in: that while things may seem fine on the surface, the full story of this horrifying and tragic ordeal has yet to be revealed.
This is the story of the Alcasser Girls.
Despite multiple confessions forming the framework of the prosecution's case against Miguel Ricart, the trial to decide his guilt didn't start until May of 1997... over four years after he was originally detained.
One of the major reasons for this delay was because of what I have talked about in the past: DNA testing. The jump in technology was now allowing the forensics teams to test more and more evidence, including the hair follicles discovered on the bodies and the rug in which the girls were buried in.
In part three, I told you about fifteen individual hairs that were recovered from the bodies of the three victims. These fifteen hairs were tested against DNA of Miguel Ricart and Antonio Angles, which police had on-file. None of the hairs were a match for either man.
Not a single one.
Twelve of the hairs were definitively not a match, while three of the remaining hairs were unable to be tested, because of either damage done to the hairs or contamination.
Either way, you'd think that this would surely set back the prosecution in their efforts to convict Miguel Ricart, right? Wrong. They continued with the trial, despite still having no murder weapon, crime scene, or forensic evidence linking their lone suspect to the assault.
His trial would get started in May of 1997, but something else would happen beforehand.
On Friday, May 9th, 1997, Fernando Garcia, the father of one of the victims, Miriam Garcia Iborra, and the appointed spokesman of the families, asked for a delay in the start of the trial.
This came just days before the trial was set to begin, but Fernando plead with the courts to delay the trial to allow further DNA testing to commence. At this point, Fernando had gotten involved with noted criminologist and true crime author Juan Ignacio Blanco, who had hosted talk shows dedicated to criminal cases and worked on articles for various newspapers.
Juan Ignacio Blanco had begun investigating the case of the Alcasser Girls as part of his job, but soon, the case would dominate the lives of him and Fernando Garcia, Miriam's father.
As I told you in part one, Fernando had given up his job after the girls went missing to formulate their search. By the time the girls were found, 75 days later, Fernando had been traveling internationally to spread their story to anyone willing to listen. When the bodies of the three girls were found, he was in the United Kingdom, preparing to speak to the BBC.
Now, four years later, he was even further entrenched in the case. His wife, Miriam's mother, Matilde Iborra, noted that Fernando spent more nights at hotels than he did at home, and that their marriage was a shell of what it had once been. Now, in 1997, their marriage was on the rocks, and Matilde herself was knocking on death's door.
The mother of Miriam had been battling liver cancer for a couple of years at this point. She was even on the list for organ donors, but at some point in 1997, decided to remove her name from the list because she wished the organ to go to someone that "wanted to live."
Despite all of this occurring at home, Fernando would not give up his fight for the truth. He had been pushing the case for years now, and with the trial so close, he wanted to make sure that there was no mistake or miscalculation. He believed that prosecuting Miguel Ricart alone for the crime was both a mistake and a miscalculation.
So now, just days before the trial was set to begin, the father of one of the victims was asking for a delay. He wanted to make sure that the police had exhausted every avenue before proceeding with a criminal trial. That, and he had started to doubt the official police report.
In September of 1996, Fernando Garcia had gained access to the police case files, which detailed the investigation from beginning to end. Sharing those case files with Juan Ignacio Blanco, an esteemed criminologist in his own right, the two began to understand the intricacies of the case. They realized that the police had nothing on Miguel Ricart, other than some circumstantial evidence that didn't amount to much, and confessions that Miguel claims were coerced.
Fernando had been pushing to not only delay the trial, but broaden the scope of the investigation. He didn't believe that Miguel Ricart and Antonio Angles had acted alone in the crime; he was still unsure of their guilt, but theorized that they were simply part of something bigger. Perhaps they were patsies, set up to look guilty; or even gophers for a larger criminal enterprise, who had kidnapped the girls and delivered them to more prominent figures.
Either way, Fernando Garcia was confident that police were not looking at the whole story. So... he spared no expense in trying to reveal that to the world, figuratively speaking.
In the months between January and July of 1997, Fernando appeared on various television and radio programs, often accompanied by Juan Ignacio Blanco. The two spoke freely about their ideas about the case: that Miguel may be guilty, but him and Antonio Angles most definitely did not act alone. That there were higher-ups in the government involved, perhaps even elected officials or members of law enforcement. They accused specific people: politicians and esteemed members of the community who had been dogged by rumors of wrongdoing for years.
Fernando even accused the team that had performed the exhumation of the bodies of being inept, specifically four members of the Spanish Civil Guard. He stated that they lost evidence that was vital to the case; a statement that I unfortunately have to agree with. Fernando even accused the chief prosecutor, Enrique Beltran, of being lazy and complacent, and only going after Miguel Ricart for the crimes because he didn't care.
This caused quite a stir among the community, and even led to ramifications later on for both Fernando Garcia and Juan Ignacio Blanco.
Through his allegations, Fernando Garcia found himself splitting the families of the three victims into three different camps.
The parents of Toni Gomez Rodriguez supported his endeavor to delay the trial and gather up more forensic evidence, but remained pretty neutral. You can tell, throughout the entire investigation, that they wanted to remain in the background and not put themselves in the spotlight.
However, the parents of Desiree Hernandez Folch were less-than-forthcoming with Fernando Garcia's wishes. In fact, Desiree's mother, Rosa Folch, actively fought against Garcia and his claims.
Rosa Folch believed that the police had the right of it, and that Miguel Ricart - who had now been in prison for over four years - should have his day in court.
When Fernando Garcia decided to form a fundraising campaign in July of 1997, called "Ninas de Alcasser," Rosa Folch fought against it. She didn't want her daughter's image or likeness to be tied to Fernando's parallel research, and demanded that he cease this fundraising effort. He actually did, and continued researching the case on his own dime, alongside Juan Ignacio Blanco.
Then, when Blanco published a book in 1998, Rosa Folch became a critic of that, as well. But that's a story I'll get to later in the episode, as that book would go on to become a dramatic story of its own.
The main reason that Fernando Garcia wanted to delay the trial was because of new information brought up by Dr. Luis Frontela Carreras.
Dr. Frontela had noted that the piece of carpeted material that the girls were buried in, which I've often referred to as a "rug," contained untested DNA. This meant that there looked to be smears of blood and semen on the rug, none of which had been tested forensically.
As I've mentioned before, this time period saw DNA testing evolve significantly. At the time the bodies of the three girls were found, it was a relatively obscure technology. Now, it was cutting-edge, working its way into many high-profile criminal cases and becoming what it is today: the hallmark of a foolproof investigation.
Dr. Luis Frontela had been unable to test the carpet for any bodily fluids before this time period, because the technology just wasn't there. Now, however, he was begging the courts to give him time to test the rug by delaying the trial for a few months.
However, his appeal would fall on deaf ears. The following Monday, May 12th, would see Miguel Ricart finally seeing the inside of a courtroom, over four years after originally being detained.
When Miguel Ricart had first been detained by the Spanish Civil Guard, on January 27th, 1993, he had only been 23 years old. His criminal career was a blip on the radar of police, having been arrested a couple of times for petty crimes such as auto theft.
That being said, he had done two stints in jail for these crimes, which were each just a week or two long.
Now, however, he was pushing 28 years old. He was closer to 30, his youth gradually disappearing as he awaited trial for the murders of the three Alcasser victims.
To his credit, his stay in various Spanish jails and holding cells had been a tame one. I can't imagine what four years in indefinite detainment can do to someone, but all of the people that worked around Miguel called him congenial. He hadn't gotten in trouble for any fights, skirmishes, etc.
In fact, the mental evaluation, performed by Dr. Francisco Ros Plaza and briefly mentioned in part four of this series, referred to Miguel's overall nature as "timid."
This pleasant nature of Miguel's would go on to work against him in the trial, which began on the morning of May 12th, 1993. The trial was presided over by Mariano Tomas Benitez, a noted judge who had been a part of major legislative and criminal proceedings since the 1970s.
The prosecution, led by Enrique Beltran, brought Miguel's nature into question during the trial. They stated that he had acted as an accomplice to Antonio Angles, the main perpetrator. His do-nothing nature and various confessions were proof of that, they claimed. In his confessions, he had constantly stated that he acted on the orders of Antonio and was too frightened to question him, and his behavior since proved that he was good at following orders.
The prosecution also brought other factors of Miguel's past into question: his troubled relationship with his father, the early death of his mother, his constant moving around, his drug habits, etc. All of it came into play, into what is still one of the most notorious criminal trials in Spanish history.
Throughout the police investigation and following trial, Miguel Ricart's legal team had resembled something like a revolving door.
As always, please forgive me for any terrible pronunciations.
When he had first been arrested, he had been given a public defender. Her name was Ana Beut Duato. However, just a day later, his attorney became Vicenta Sanchís Ridaura.
Then, yet again, his legal team changed a day later. Joaquín Comins Tello became his lawyer, and would go on to defend Miguel Ricart over the next year or so.
There is no reason given for this constant legal turnover, but it's worth noting that these were the three lawyers present during Miguel's various confessions. His first lawyer had been appointed even after Miguel signed his voluntary statement refusing any legal help.
On November 23rd, 1993, Miguel Ricart had petitioned the court for his lawyer, Joaquin Comins Tello, to resign. The reason had been a lack of trust between the lawyer and client. A year later, in November of 1994, Miguel had repeated this petition, on the grounds that his lawyer didn't have enough experience to mount a legal defense on behalf of Miguel.
Thankfully, the court granted this request. After all, the baseline in Spain - at the time, at least - was that a lawyer must have at least five years experience in criminal cases when defending a client who faced over six years in prison.
Over the next few years, this constant turnover would continue. Seven lawyers would come-and-go, Miguel petitioning for their resignation for matters related to trust or experience in handling criminal cases.
His final lawyer, Manuel Lopez-Almansa, was appointed on January 7th, 1997. This was almost four years after this discovery of the bodies, and just four months before one of the biggest trials in Spanish history would begin. There was a substitute lawyer appointed as well, just in case Lopez-Almansa was forced to step down for any reason.
Thankfully, though, he did not step down. But unfortunately for Miguel, his new defense might not have been as well-prepared as a longer-tenured attorney would have been for a trial of this scope. Because in the four months that Lopez-Almansa was Miguel's primary attorney, he would have to sift through over 8,000 documents pertaining to the trial, including countless expert opinions, Miguel's own confessions, any pieces of evidence, and the police files themselves, which had now been building up for half-a-decade.
The trial lasted almost three months. Records show that the various parties met for fourteen days in May, fifteen days in June, and twenty days in July.
Miguel's defense, led by Manuel Lopez-Almansa, tried to poke holes in the prosecution's logic. There was still no physical evidence putting Miguel Ricart at the crime scene, and the very inclusion of Antonio Angles into their narrative was disputed... after all, there was no evidence that Miguel had been involved in the crimes, and even less than Antonio Angles had been. He had not been spotted by officials since March of 1992, eight months before the three victims were murdered.
The defense pointed to other possibilities: early reports, made just days after the girls had gone missing from Alcasser, pointed to an unknown group of suspects in the town of Silla. Silla was just a few kilometers east of Alcasser, and early news reports made in the weeks after the girls originally disappeared tied them to a group of older men from Silla. In fact, the day that the bodies of the three girls were found also came with the news that police had arrested a 40-year old man for his involvement in the crime. This news has never been verified, and police never publicly stated the identity of the man, because the news of Miguel Ricart's confession came just a day later.
However, the same newspaper report also claimed that this 40-year old man had turned over the names of five other suspects, which is a very specific piece of information for a newspaper to report with little substance.
The defense also pointed out that the only evidence tying Miguel and Antonio to the crime, originally, was a pamphlet from a nearby hospital with the name of Enrique Angles. If you recall, this pamphlet was never confirmed to have been found inside the pit of the three victims, simply nearby the pit. No videos or photographs were taken of the crime scene, instead, the first responders had grouped the evidence together into a single frame and photographed it there.
Their argument was that no piece of paper, whether it was found at or around the burial spot of the three girls, would have simply remained in one spot. I mean, when wind gets involved, it can be blown anywhere. People have gone out to this area, in the years since, and tried to see how far pieces of paper can travel in the hills of La Romana. Almost all of them have reported the paper to be missing, or found hundreds of meters away. It was unlikely that this pamphlet would have been found at the crime scene if it was originally placed there.
Nonetheless, the pamphlet belonged to Enrique Angles, who wasn't facing two hundred years in prison for the rape, torture, and murder of the three Alcasser victims.
One issue presented in the trial was the autopsy videos presented behind closed doors.
The video of the first autopsy was presented without sound, at the insistence of Dr. Luis Frontela Carreras, the trial's forensic expert. The video of this autopsy had also been condensed, to roughly 20 minutes. This was a multi-hour procedure, mind you, involving three victims, and only 20 minutes was shown as evidence. This was the botched autopsy, which had mishandled evidence and been poorly-performed.
Then, the video of the second autopsy was presented, which seemed just as marred as the video of the first. This was despite the autopsy being mroe professionally-handled. Reports surfaced that much of the video was fast-forwarded, and several parts seemed to be repeats of the first autopsy.
That being said, much of this information is secondhand, passed on by those that were behind those closed doors to witness the videos. However, it is odd that several hours of the autopsies were not recorded, and/or not presented as evidence. After all, the autopsies made up almost all of the physical evidence: without them, the prosecution had little to go off of.
Then, Miguel's confessions were brought into the limelight, to cement the prosecution's case. Enrique Beltran brought in Miguel's various confessions, and used them to illuminate just how untrustworthy Miguel was. His statements had continued to change, Miguel seeming to have something new to add in every incarnation.
Miguel stated, openly, that the confessions were coerced, and that the Civil Guard had threatened him and his daughter. But that seemed to have little impact on the judge deciding his sentence.
The trial concluded on July 30th, 1997. The public waited on bated breath to discover Miguel Ricart's fate, which took over a month to come to light.
Thirty-six days later, on September 5th, 1997, Magistrate Mariano Tomas Benitez handed down a sentence of one-hundred and seventy years for Miguel Ricart, after his guilt was proven by the prosecution. The various offenses he was found guilty for were kidnap, murder, rape, sexual assault, illicit possession of a firearm, and covering-up the murder.
Miguel Ricart now had to resign himself to never seeing the outside world again.
The lengthy sentence, written by Magistrate Tomas Benitez, also went out of its way to condemn the efforts of Miriam's father, Fernando Garcia, to delay the trial and conduct a concurrent investigation into finding more suspects.
You see, as I described in the first part of this episode, Fernando had started to become an open critic of the investigation. After getting access to the police files in the latter half of 1996, he had become aware of just how little evidence the police had against Miguel Ricart. The trial, in which they threw every possible shred of evidence at his guilt, proved that to him.
His alliance with Juan Ignacio Blanco, the noted criminologist and true crime author, would not end anytime soon. On the contrary, Fernando passed on the police files to Juan Ignacio Blanco, to use for an upcoming tell-all about the case, which would come to fruition a year later, in 1998.
The book, called "What Happened In Alcasser?" was published in May of 1998, less than a year after the conviction of Miguel Ricart. The book became an incredibly divisive issue, as it included details found in the police case files, including photos of the three bodies, various points of evidence that had not been publicly released, and stood as a harsh critique of the prosecution's case.
Rosa Folch, the mother of the victim Desiree, had been a critic of Fernando Garcia's for a couple of years, at this point. She had fought against him using her daughter's likeness for fundraising efforts, and upon the release of this book, filed a lawsuit against the author, Juan Ignacio Blanco.
In August of 1998, the Spanish government got involved, ordering all copies of the book to be withdrawn and destroyed.
You can still find some copies out there online. I was hoping to have a version available for the making of this series, but alas, trying to find a translated version of a 700-page book is a daunting task. Maybe one day.
Anyhow, one has to question why the Spanish government felt the need to get so heavy-handed with the ban on the book? After all, there was no court case to decide the fate of the book. Rumors have constantly followed Rosa Folch, that she settled with Juan Ignacio Blanco for a monetary sum, but hasn't disclosed the amount.
In 2000, two years after the book had been pulled from shelves, Juan Ignacio Blanco was sentenced to pay a fine of nearly a million Spanish dollars because of allegations he had made against the chief prosecutor, Enrique Beltran. In addition to the fine, he also had to pay one million dollars to Beltran himself; Beltran would later claim to have donated the proceeds to fundraising efforts in the area.
Outside of the infighting, the parents of the three victims struggled to move on after the brutal murders of their daughters.
Fernando Garcia, who had been appointed as the unofficial spokesmen of the victims' families and fought against the trial of Miguel Ricart, was widowed just a year after the trial. His wife, Matilde Iborra - Miriam's mother - passed away in 1998 from liver cancer. He went on to continue his professional career, establishing a successful mattress shop in Alcasser, and raised his two sons. He would go on to re-marry, and even had another daughter, named Lucia.
Rosa Folch, the mother of Desiree, also found herself widowed. In June of 1994, the year after the bodies of the three girls were found, Desiree's father, Vicente Hernandez, passed away. She continued to work and live on her own, lighting a candle for her tragically murdered daughter.
Fernando Gomez and Luisa Rodriguez, the parents of Toni, have refrained from the spotlight. They originally backed Fernando Garcia's efforts to delay the trial and test more evidence, but eventually turned away entirely. They kept a large portrait of Toni in their living room, for the rest of the world to see and remember, but did not want to drag their family through the mud of public statements.
Toni's father Fernando would later be quoted as "money does not fix anything," which was due to a lawsuit being filed on behalf of the three families. The lawsuit, filed by Rosa Folch in 2005, was aimed at the state for allowing Antonio Angles his six-day pass to leave prison in March of 1992. Without that pass, he would not have been able to commit the crime against the three victims. And despite wanting to avoid the lawsuit, the state had used Antonio Angles as a scapegoat in the trial of Miguel Ricart, so they were forced to pay up.
Each family received over 300,000 Euros from the state, but it was nothing compared to their daughters lost.
Sadly, for Fernando Garcia, it was just a drop in the bucket.
As I told you, in 1997, Fernando Garcia had launched a media campaign alongside Juan Ignacio Blanco to broaden the scope of the investigation.
Throughout this campaign, Garcia and Blanco pointed the finger at multiple public figures for being involved in a cult of sorts. At the risk of attracting unwanted attention, I won't name these figures, but they included several noted politicians and businessmen.
Fernando Garcia and Juan Ignacio Blanco named these figures specifically on national television. And these weren't just regional politicians; they included civil governors, Secretaries of State, CEOS, ranking officials in the Civil Guard, and more.
They alleged that Miguel Ricart may have been involved in this group, as a henchman of sorts. Perhaps he picked up the girls or was responsible for disposing of their bodies, but he most definitely didn't act alone. They also theorized that Antonio Angles, known in Catarroja as a drug dealer, was likely involved in procuring the girls, but overstayed his welcome. They believed that his entire getaway, traveling across Spain and Portugal to stow away aboard a ship, was a fabrication on behalf of the Spanish government.
This story would take an even further turn when Juan Ignacio Blanco began speaking openly about a supposed stuff tape made of the three victims. This video was given to the noted author by a pastor in Alcasser, who also made contact with Miriam's father, Fernando Garcia.
According to these two, the pastor had spoken to someone involved with the crime, who felt guilt in the years after the crime. The emergence of this snuff tape also happens to coincide with a 1999 letter sent to the Spanish media, decrying the trial as a hoax.
The video apparently contains clear images of Desiree Hernandez Folch being tortured and murdered by at least four identifiable individuals, who Juan Ignacio Blanco claims have been previously rumored to be involved in the crime.
Blanco has claimed to have provided a copy of the tape to the Spanish Minister of the Interior, to no avail.
If this video does exist, one has to wonder why nothing has come out of it. Of course, the Spanish media has done a pretty good job of painting Juan Ignacio Blanco as a crazed conspiracy theorist, and Fernando Garcia along with him.
It is very likely that we'll never uncover the truth of these theories, although Juan Ignacio Blanco has threatened to release the video in a format that would allow him to escape legal trouble. Whether this would be via the darknet is unknown, but the rumors of the snuff tape have continued to fuel fire that there is a conspiracy behind the murder of the three victims.
In June of 2009, after years of various allegations and theories, Fernando Garcia and Juan Ignacio Blanco found themselves in hot water once again.
The two were prominent figures in a television documentary about the trial of Miguel Ricart. Throughout the documentary, they had made allegations against the chief prosecutor, Enrique Beltran, stating that he had conspired with higher-ups to sink the case. They also stated that the prosecution had developed tunnel vision on Miguel Ricart almost immediately, and not done their due diligence with the case.
Fernando Garcia was sentenced to pay almost 300,000 Euros to various individuals: four Civil Guard members received 30,000 Euros each, four forensic doctors received the same amount, and Enrique Beltran himself got 30,000 Euros, along with a tally accrued in legal fines.
For his part in collaborating with Fernando Garcia and publicizing the theories in his own works, Juan Ignacio Blanco not only received the same harsh fines and financial obligations, but was sentenced to two years in prison for spreading theories about the prosecution. The prosecution had originally tried to convict both Blanco and Garcia on sixteen years sentences, but the jury went lenient on both.
This sentence has gone on the further muddy the waters around the investigation, which many view as being open-and-shut from the very beginning. The only two real figures to critique the opinion of the Civil Guard and the prosecution found themselves facing debilitating fines and prison time. Many view it as a very stoic, cruel statement by the Spanish government: that if you critique the official narrative, you'll face the same just reward.
Nonetheless, Juan Ignacio Blanco hasn't refrained from his accusations in the years since. Despite his prison sentence, he has remained a noted criminologist, and even founded his own website for archiving criminal activities. You may have heard of it, actually. It's the website Murderpedia, where the records of killers and murderers are archived and stored for public use.
In recent years, as recent as 2013, Blanco has continued to speak openly about the snuff video in his possession, apparently showing the torture and murder of Desiree Hernandez Folch. He states that it's not something he talks about lightly; he said watching the video was a turning point in his life, and it's something that changed him remarkably. He wants to release it to force the Spanish government to act on it, but is simply handcuffed as to how.
Only time will tell whether or not the work of Juan Ignacio Blanco and Fernando Garcia will go on to affect any change. They each have put their blood, sweat, and tears into finding out the truth of who murdered the three Alcasser victims, but accomplished nothing other than regional publicity and financial setbacks.
However, the story is not yet over. More was to come in 2013, including the release of Miguel Ricart.
Before I tell you how Miguel Ricart became a free man, I need to take a moment to briefly explain the Parot Doctrine.
Spain is part of the European Union, which has several laws and rules about terms of imprisonment.
Basically, for decades, the longest that a Spanish prisoner could feasibly spend in prison was 30 years. But in the 1990s, after the conviction of a terrorist named Henri Parot, Spain reserved the right for violent offenders to spend their entire term in jail.
For Miguel Ricart, this meant that he would spend the rest of his life in prison.
But in 2013, a Spanish prisoner took this case to the European courts, which ruled against Spain. Basically, they stated that physically holding a prisoner for longer than 30 years was cruel and unusual punishment. Without any end in sight for a sentence, prisoners could become unruly, violent, and cruel to not only each other, but the staff responsible for their well-being.
This meant that, in October of 2013, Spain had a real issue on their hands. Not only were hundreds of prisoners immediately due for release, but they had to begin working out a plan to slowly and safely ensure their releases.
Miguel Ricart was one of these prisoners due for release. He had been in prison for over twenty years, having first been detained in January of 1992. He looked like an entirely different individual: his formerly youthful appearance, with chiseled jaw and full head of hair making way for a stout, balding, bearded man.
Stepping out into freedom for the first time in nearly 21 years, Miguel Ricart became a free man on November 29th, 2013. He wore a white jacket with a balaclava covering up his facial appearance, and was greeted outside of the jail - not by friends or family, but by a legion of journalists who wanted the first words from his mouth. He refused to speak, instead making his way to a nearby train station.
Using some of the earnings he had made working in prison - roughly 2,000 Euros - he took a train to a nearby town, getting off before his ticketed destination. From there, he got off into a car where two unknown individuals waited for him, and headed off in the destination of Madrid.
Miguel recorded a single phone interview with a news station the day after his release, in which he stated that he was innocent of the crimes he was convicted of. He decried the crimes against the three teenage victims as an outrage, and accused the prosecution of setting him up.
Miguel didn't face a warm reception upon his release. Weeks after his release, he had only made one public statement - the phone interview - but was struggling to get by. After all, he had spent half of his life behind bars, and was now considered the most hated man in Spain. People turned him away from their establishments, and he faced sneers and insults every time he was recognized.
Despite this fact, that his face had been plastered over Spanish media for the past two decades, Miguel has himself stayed off the grid in the years since. It has been almost four years since his release from prison, and no one has a positive notion where Miguel Ricart is. Rumors have stated that he had found religion in prison, and has dedicated his life to working a French monastery, where judgment is reserved for God above.
The murders of Toni Gomez Rodriguez, Desiree Hernandez Folch, and Miriam Garcia Iborra are technically considered solved. But, even so, one of the main suspects is free from his sentence, and the other hasn't been officially seen in over twenty-five years.
The evidence left behind with the bodies of the three victims points to a narrative not explored by the prosecution. As I've mentioned, there were fifteen hairs found with the three bodies. DNA testing compared these hairs to both Miguel Ricart and Antonio Angles, but twelve hairs came back as negative matches. The other three hairs were inconclusive, having been damaged.
However, the twelve hairs that WERE tested pointed to at least seven different individuals, all of whom whose DNA wasn't in the Spanish Civil Guard's forensic database. This has not been followed through with, simply because the case file is technically already solved. Antonio Angles is a fugitive, as far as Valencian courts are concerned, and he is the only one suspected of further involvement in the murders of the three Alcasser victims.
In the decades since the murder, fingers have been pointed at various figures and organizations. Every time a pedophile ring is broken up in Spain, theorists online point to it as being endemic of Spain's seedy underbelly, of which the rape, torture, and murder of the three Alcasser Girls is just a symptom.
Only time will tell whether or not the full story will ever get revealed. Just as it was twenty years ago, many still cling to the belief that Miguel Ricart and Antonio Angles acted alone in the abduction and murder of the three victims. However, the evidence has shown that more men are involved, regardless of the story the prosecution framed their case around.
Because of that, and the fact that both Miguel Ricart and Antonio Angles are currently unaccounted for, this story remains unresolved.
Sources and further reading
The following links are in Spanish unless noted
Wikipedia: The Alcasser Girls (English)
Wikipedia: Antonio Angles (English)
El Pais - "The corpses of the three missing girls of Alcasser were found with signs of having been killed"