Mexican authorities are searching for three suspects who “may be responsible” for the murders of photojournalist Rubén Espinosa and four women on Friday at a Mexico City apartment, a crime that has shocked the entire country.
Images captured by a surveillance camera outside the building where the killings took place show some of the suspects running from the property, before driving away in a Ford Mustang that belonged to one of the victims.
Investigators confirm that the suspects didn’t live in the apartment where the victims were murdered
Another suspect is seen wheeling a suitcase – believed to contain items taken from the ransacked apartment – in the opposite direction.
The video was presented on Wednesday during a news conference held by Mexico City prosecutor Rodolfo Ríos, who told reporters that investigators have confirmed that the suspects didn’t live in the apartment where Espinosa and the women were bound, gagged and tortured before they were shot in the head. The bodies of the female victims were also slashed and showed signs of sexual assault.
Espinosa’s murder has shaken journalists and human rights activists, who believe that the killings could be politically motivated.
A freelance journalist for the newsweekly Proceso and Cuartoscuro news agency, the 31-year-old Espinosa came to Mexico City about a month ago after he complained of harassment and intimidation by unknown persons in the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz where he worked.
Espinosa had been highly critical of the corruption and impunity in Veracruz, especially the performance of Governor Javier Duarte from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
His death has underscored Mexico’s unsettling record of failing to protect working journalists. According to Reporters without Borders, around 100 journalists have been killed in Mexico since the year 2000.
Authorities also want to determine if a Colombian woman was actually the target of the hit
Prosecutors Ríos said that authorities were investigating all angles, including whether one of the victims, a Colombian-born woman identified only as “Nicole,” was actually the target of the hit.
Investigators say that her body appeared more severely beaten than the others. The Ford Mustang used by the alleged suspects as their getaway vehicle belonged to Nicole, who worked as a housekeeper and makeup artist. The vehicle was later found abandoned in another area of the city.
The crime reportedly took place sometime between 9am and 3pm on July 31.
Espinosa arrived at the apartment at 2am with Nadia Vera, an anthropology graduate and student activist, and another friend, who has only been identified as “Arturo.”
Arturo, who is now an official witness, told investigators that he and Espinosa left the four women at the apartment in Mexico City’s Narvarte neighborhood shortly after Nicole arrived at 9am. But the journalist decided to return moments later.
When Arturo tried to send his friend a WhatsApp message, Espinosa did not respond.
Prosecutor Ríos said that more than 80 forensic and expert examinations have been conducted on the victims and at the crime scene, while statements have been taken from 20 friends and family members.
One witness said that Espinosa decided to return to the apartment the morning of the crime
Investigators have not ruled out any angle, including whether Vera’s role as a university activist played a part in the murders. Nevertheless, Ríos clarified that robbery was not the main motive.
Authorities in Mexico City are also waiting for a response by Veracruz officials concerning the alleged reasons why Espinoza and Vera were forced to flee the Gulf Coast state.
Mexico has also asked the Colombian Consulate for its help in identifying Nicole, after no family members came forward to claim her body.