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German child leads police in Tenerife to the bodies of his mother and brother

The young boy’s father is in custody on the Canary Island for allegedly killing his ex-wife and older son

Image taken by the Civil Guard of officers searching for the missing woman and her son in Adeje.
Image taken by the Civil Guard of officers searching for the missing woman and her son in Adeje.

A 43-year-old German national is in police custody for allegedly murdering his former partner and 10-year-old son inside a cave in Tenerife, in Spain’s Canary Islands.

A second child, a seven-year-old boy named Jonas, managed to escape the cave where his father Thomas Handrick had trapped him, his mother Shylvia and his brother, according to judicial sources. Early investigations suggest that the mother and eldest son were beaten to death.

A group of hikers found the young child covered in dirt and crying on a path near Taucho, a mountain south of the island. It is believed he had spent five hours wandering the mountains alone and in shock.

The mother and children had traveled from Germany to Tenerife on Monday to visit the father

As he did not speak Spanish, the hikers brought him to a Civil Guard station where a local resident helped to translate. At the station, Jonas explained that his father had led them into a cave and attacked them. He said he saw a lot of blood and ran away.

Civil Guard officers arrested Thomas Handrick,43, a native of Traunstein in Germany’s Upper Bavaria district, as he slept inside his apartment in Adeje, a town of 43,000 residents in southwestern Tenerife.

The suspect responded violently to the arrest and refused to reveal where the rest of his family members were, said sources close to the investigation. His face was scratched, suggesting that his victims had tried to defend themselves.

Civil Guard officers on the road near the cave where the bodies were found.
Civil Guard officers on the road near the cave where the bodies were found. AP

These sources said that one of the theories is that Handrick first attacked Shylvia and beat her to death while the eldest son huddled in a corner of the cave, paralyzed by fear. He was the second victim. The police are still awaiting forensic reports, but suspect that Handrick had a premeditated plan to murder his family.

Following Jonás’ directions, a search party of 100 people went out on Wednesday to find the missing mother and son. Two helicopters joined the search, which was made difficult by the thick fog. The bodies of Shylvia, 39, and her son were located inside a cave in a sparsely populated area between the Infierno and Burro ravines, some 20 kilometers from Adeje.

The suspect responded violently to his arrest and refused to reveal where the rest of his family members were

Sources familiar with the investigation said the mother and children had traveled from Germany to Tenerife on Monday to visit the father, who was living on the island and working there as a cook. The parents were separated, and Shylvia and the kids traveled to Tenerife routinely so the children could spend time with him.

There are no records of complaints filed against Handrick in Spain. The German consulate in the Canary Islands has yet to comment on the situation. The inquiry remains under seal and is being handled by a court specializing in crimes against women in Arona, according to judicial sources. Handrick is scheduled to appear in court on Friday morning.

Jonás’ maternal grandparents are flying to Tenerife to take the seven-year-old into their care. Adeje authorities have declared three days of mourning and maintained one minute of silence at noon on Thursday in tribute to the victims.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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