ALMERIA, Spain – A murdered eight-year-old boy whose disappearance in the rural south-east of Spain gripped the nation was laid to rest in Almeria at a ceremony attended by hundreds of mourners on Tuesday, just as news broke that the father’s girlfriend had reportedly confessed to killing the child.
Ana Julia Quezada was arrested on Sunday when police found the body of missing Gabriel Cruz in the trunk of her car 13 days after the boy went missing near Nijar in rural Almeria as she allegedly tried to move his remains from a hiding place; a postmortem report later revealed that Gabriel had been strangled to death on the day he went missing.
“The police interrogation was today, two searches took place yesterday,” said Beatriz Gamez, Quezada’s lawyer, adding that “today they have questioned her, and she has collaborated.”
EFE journalists were informed by sources linked to the investigation that the suspect had confessed to committing the crime.
Quezada reportedly said she had stunned the boy with the blunt end of an ax and then strangled him to death.
Police closely monitored Quezeda ever since March 5 when she found a white t-shirt belonging to Gabriel in an area of the search zone that had already been thoroughly combed through by agents and volunteers, sparking suspicions among investigators that the item of clothing, bearing the child’s DNA, may have been planted.
Over 700 people attended Gabriel’s funeral at Almeria Cathedral on Tuesday and another 1,500 gathered in the square outside as the little boy’s funeral cortege, accompanied by his parents Angel Cruz and Patricia Ramirez, made its way through the crowds of mourners.
Both later thanked the crowd for the support they had shown throughout the ordeal.
Cruz had regularly appeared with his partner Quezeda during televised search campaigns.
The funeral service was attended by several dignitaries, including Spanish deputy prime minister, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria and interior minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido; an indication of the national interest garnered by the case of missing Gabriel.
Gabriel disappeared on Feb. 27 after leaving his grandmother’s house in Las Hortichuelas, a village located in the arid and mountainous southeast of the country, near the Mediterranean coast.
A huge search and rescue operation comprising thousands of police officers and volunteers was launched and rolling news coverage of the events on Spanish TV, including several emotional appeals from his parents, kept the nation on tenterhooks.
For days the hordes of volunteers and experts scoured the desert-like landscape in Almeria with a two-kilometer radius (12-mile) radius of where the boy was last seen until Sunday when members of the Civil Guard stopped Ana in her car and found the body of Gabriel in the trunk.
Ana’s arrest was caught on video and she shouted “it wasn’t me” as police put her in handcuffs.