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Three decades on, Spanish man seeks revenge from daughter’s killer

Enrique Sánchez, who was convicted of killing a four-year-old girl in 1985, was last week attacked with a knife on a Granada street by the victim’s father

Police arrived quickly to stop Fernández from killing his daughter’s murderer.
Police arrived quickly to stop Fernández from killing his daughter’s murderer.

The loss of a child cannot be forgotten no matter how many years have passed. If the child has been murdered, this loss is likely to be even harder to bear. More than 12,000 days had passed since May 24, 1985, when four-year-old Ana Isabel Fernández Sánchez disappeared. Her body was found two days later in a well. The crime took place in Huétor Santillán, a small town located 20 minutes outside of Granada capital, and that today is home to 1,800 people. The same day the little girl’s body was discovered, the Civil Guard caught the man responsible: Enrique Sánchez.

The 70-year-old father lunged at his daughter’s killer with a knife but only wounded him

Last Friday on April 13 – nearly 33 years after her death – Ana’s father, Joan José Fernández, found the murderer in a street in Alarcón in Granada. At around midday, Fernández launched himself upon Sánchez and stabbed him with a knife. But be it due to his age or the rapid response of police officers, Fernández only managed to wound his daughter’s killer. Sánchez walked away from the attack with deep cuts to his hands and nose, as well as multiple bruises.

Sánchez was released from prison after spending more than two decades behind bars. But for Fernández there was no forgetting the gruesome murder. According to newspaper reports, the four-year-old had been found on a Sunday “drowned in water and mud” in a well over three meters deep on a farm called Santa Ana. A few hours later, the Civil Guard had detained two suspects: 22-year-old Enrique Sánchez and his brother, 27-year-old Anastasio – the first cousins of Ana’s mother. Both had taken part a day earlier in the search mission to find Ana. EL PAÍS reported at the time that the brothers had “voluntarily” appeared before the Civil Guard. The involvement of Anastasio was soon ruled out.

Sánchez then confessed he convinced the little girl to follow him to a gas station by saying he would buy her candy. He took her instead to the abandoned land outside of town, where he attempted to rape her. Ana resisted and he tried to strangle her but was unable to so he threw her in a well while she was still alive. According to the court ruling, made in February the following year, “in order to stop Ana Isabel from telling anyone what happened, he came up with the idea of taking her life, and consequently, took the top off from the well, threw the girl in head first, put the top back on… so that she died from drowning, from ingesting water and mud in her lungs.”

Sánchez was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the crime

Sánchez was sentenced to 40 years in prison – 28 for murder, nine for rape and three for indecency. He was also forced to pay two million pesetas (€12,000). According to the newspaper Ideal, he spent more than 20 years in prison and was released some time ago. He never paid the fine.

Juan José Fernández was 37 when his daughter was murdered, and was a butcher by trade. Now, he is 70 years old, and the murderer 54. When the police approached Fernández last Friday, they were still struggling. Interestingly, Sánchez did not mention anything about their shared history, telling police instead that Fernández had “tried to rob him.” The 70-year-old yelled “I am going to kill you,” according to local police.

The two were then separated: Sánchez was taken to a hospital and Fernández to a police station. Late on Saturday he was released. It does not appear the charges against Fernández will be very serious but it is possible that he will find himself once again before the judges. Only this time the roles will be reversed.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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