The body of missing Spanish teacher Laura Luelmo was found on Monday, just five kilometers from her home in El Campillo, a town in Huelva province in the south of Spain.
The 26-year-old teacher was from Zamora but had moved to El Campillo just over a week earlier to begin a new job at the Vázquez Díaz secondary school in the nearby town Nevera.
Luelmo was reported missing on Thursday, December 12 after she left her home to exercise on Wednesday and never returned. On Saturday, more than 200 volunteers and the Civil Guard began looking for the missing teacher.
The search came to an end on Monday when one of the volunteers found the body “hidden by some branches and half-naked,” according to sources close to the investigation. The volunteer had been drawn to the spot after seeing clothes strewn about the scrubs. The physical attributes, age and a tattoo on the body made it possible to immediately identify the body as Luelmo’s. It was later confirmed by the government’s delegate in Andalusia, Alfonso Rodríguez de Celis, in a message on Twitter.
The Civil Guard’s visual inspection team (ECIO) traveled from Madrid to the site by helicopter to search for clues to determine the cause of death and the potential culprit.
Early signs suggest Luelmo was murdered. Sources from the investigation told Spanish news agency EFE she had received a blow to the head and had violent marks on her neck.
Luelmo’s parents reported her as missing at a police station in Zamora after she did not respond to their phone calls or appear at the secondary school where she had been working since December 3. During the search of Luelmo’s home, which she had rented just days before her disappearance, police officers and her family noticed that her cell phone, sports clothes, running shoes and wallet were missing, which made them think she had gone for a hike or run.
It’s horrifying. I have been crying like a fool. It’s so sad
Irene González, El Campillo local
Civil Guard officers were able to trace the signal of her last phone call, which was made at 9pm on Wednesday night, nine kilometers northeast of El Campillo. The signal was detected just hours after Luelmo made her last phone call to her boyfriend.
But while the signal was traced to the northeast of the town, her body was found in the opposite direction, leading police to think the culprit may have moved the phone to different sites or tossed it somewhere to throw off the investigation.
Luelmo’s body was found on an embankment among the bush northwest of El Campillo. Sources from the Civil Guard say “she could not have arrived at this place under her own steam.” The results of the autopsy are expected to provide crucial information on the case, including the time and cause of death.
Stranger to town
El Campillo, home to just 2,000 people, knew little about Luelmo. Her neighbors hadn’t even seen her about the town. Civil Guard officials have taken statements from everyone who lived on her street. One man left the town after giving his statement but has since been located, according to sources close to the investigation.
“It’s horrifying. I have been crying like a fool. It’s so sad,” said Irene González, a 70-year-old local who didn’t get the chance to meet Luelmo. “She arrived last Sunday but there wasn’t enough time to see her,” she added.
Luelmo had received a blow to the head and had violent marks on her neck
Her death has shocked the small town and raised fears about security. “We fear that we can no longer be alone,” said another neighbor, who had taken part in the search mission.
On Monday, condolences began to flood in for Luelmo’s family, with Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and former Andalusian regional premier Susana Díaz expressing their regret.
Teachers at her school stopped work on Monday and told students what they knew of the disappearance, two hours before her body was found. “She was here Wednesday, at the counter and I gave her her last coffee,” said Juan Carlos, a waiter at the school’s cafe.
The team investigating Luelmo’s death is made up of officers who were in charge of solving the disappearance of Diana Quer, a Madrid teen who went missing in August 2016 while vacationing with her family in Galicia.
Luelmo’s death is the latest in series of incidents involving young female victims. As well as the death of Diana Quer, in September, Spanish golfer Celia Barquín was killed while practicing on a golf course in the United States.
Laura Luelmo, the young teacher who was found dead on Monday near El Campillo (Huelva), was not a regular user of Twitter. But her last message posted on the social network, on March 8, was in support of this year’s Women’s Day.
The message was not the only feminist post from the young woman. Another of her retweets contained a warning: “They teach you not to go alone to dark places rather than teaching monsters not to be monsters, THAT is the problem.”
The last message sent on Twitter by Laura Luelmo has been retweeted nearly 2,000 times, and has more than 3,000 “likes.” Among the more than 250 responses to the post are messages of sympathy and several that are in support of the feminist cause.
English version by Melissa Kitson.