Spain reels as police search for missing toddler feared killed by father

Spanish rescuers continued trawling the seabed for the body of a toddler in waters off Tenerife on Monday after investigators said they believed she -- like her sister - had been killed by their father.

anna and olivia missing tenerife
Sisters Anna and Olivia, aged one and six, were reported missing on April 27th. Photo: Handout

The case has shocked Spain, and on Monday crowds demonstrated at town halls across the country to protest domestic violence after similar gatherings over the weekend.

The girls, aged one and six, were reported missing on April 27th after being taken away by their father, Tomas Gimeno. Investigators fear he abducted and killed them.

On Thursday, the body of six-year-old Olivia was found at the bottom of the sea off Tenerife wrapped in a bag that was weighted down with an anchor.

The investigating magistrate said it was “most likely” that Gimeno had killed both his daughters at home then dumped their bodies at a depth where they were unlikely to ever be found.

In her nine-page statement, the magistrate said when Gimeno had taken the girls, he wanted “to kill them in a planned and premeditated manner”.

READ MORE: How the death of six-year-old Olivia is exposing Spain’s cruellest gender violence

“He aimed to inflict on his ex-partner the greatest pain that he could imagine, an inhuman pain,” she said.

On the day the girls went missing, Gimeno was seen loading several bags onto his boat, witnesses told investigators.

An autopsy carried out on Friday morning found Olivia had died a “violent death”, the court said, after a gag order was lifted over the weekend.

 ‘Monstrous act’

The case has gripped Spain, where 39 minors have been killed since 2013 by their fathers or by a partner or former partner of their mothers.

And so far this year alone, 18 women have been killed as a result of gender violence. The overall number of victims now stands at 1,096 since records first began on January 1, 2003, government figures show.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Friday “the whole of Spain is in shock” over the case, which has been passed to a Tenerife court specialising in gender violence.

The court magistrate said the worst was feared for Olivia’s sister Anna.

“Although only Olivia’s body has been located so far the most probable hypothesis regarding Anna is, unfortunately, the same,” she said.

The suspected abduction and murder of the two girls came a year after the girls’ mother, Beatriz Zimmermann, broke up with Gimeno.

He sent her “offensive and insulting” messages after the break-up, especially when she found a new partner, the magistrate said.

“The defendant’s desire was to leave his ex-partner in the dark as to the fate of Olivia and Anna,” she wrote.

In a searing open letter published on Sunday, the girls’ mother wrote that it was “the most monstrous act a person can commit: killing their own innocent children”.

“When they told me the news, the world came crashing down on me, and as hard as it is, at least now I can mourn their loss,” she wrote.

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Spaniard accused of helping North Korea evade US sanctions arrested

Spanish police on Friday said they had arrested a man wanted by Washington for allegedly conspiring with cryptocurrency experts to help North Korea evade US sanctions over its nuclear programme.

Spaniard accused of helping North Korea evade US sanctions arrested

Alejandro Cao de Benos, the founder of a pro-Pyongyang affinity organisation who bills himself as a “special delegate” for the government of North Korea, was arrested on Thursday at Madrid’s Atocha train station as he arrived from Barcelona, a police spokesman told AFP.

The 48-year-old Spaniard faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted, Spanish police said in a statement. His extradition to the United States must be approved by the Spanish government and courts, a process that can take months.

US federal prosecutors last year charged Cao de Benos and a British businessman, Christopher Emms, of conspiring to violate and evade US sanctions.

They accuse the two of arranging for American expert Virgil Griffith to travel to North Korea in April 2019 to attend the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference which they organised.

At the event Griffith allegedly taught members of the secretive nation’s government how to use cutting-edge blockchain and cryptocurrency technology to launder money and circumvent sanctions.

Griffith, who holds a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology, was sentenced in April 2022 to 63 months in jail and fined $100,000, after pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge. Emms is still at large according to his description on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

The United States prohibits the export of goods, services or technology to North Korea without special permission from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Cao de Benos, a descendant of Spanish aristocrats, appeared before a High Court judge who released him without conditions while the extradition process runs its course.

In a message posted on X, formerly Twitter, he thanked police for their “good treatment and personal support”.

“There will be no extradition. The US accusation, besides being false, does not exist in Spain,” he added.

Cao de Benos founded the Korean Friendship Association in 2000, a club that is officially recognised by Pyongyang and claims on its website to have more than 10,000 members around the world.

The former IT consultant has also coordinated visits by foreign journalists to North Korea and has acted as a middleman between the country’s reclusive communist regime and foreign investors.

In 2016 he opened a small North Korean-themed bar, the Pyongyang Cafe, in his hometown of Tarragona on Spain’s Mediterranean coast.