I can’t get Gabriel out of my head.
He disappeared on 27 February. I saw it on the news and since then, for some reason, the little boy has haunted me. The whole business has seemed so utterly improbable in every way.
He left his grandparents’ house to go and visit his cousins, just a hundred metres, or so, down the road, but apparently he never got there. The reporters have taken us back and forth that short stretch of dirt road time and time again, telling us, the viewers – and repeating time and time again – that nothing, absolutely nothing dangerous lay along the road. No pond, no bog, no cliff….
Above all, no crime could possibly have befallen him in such a godforsaken place with only 73 inhabitants (according to Wikipedia). Everybody knows everybody, and you simply cannot hide.
We were shown pictures of him, an eight-year-old with a beautiful smile on his cheerful face. His mother spoke to the TV-cameras, begging for help – she too was beautiful, I thought – explaining that he was a very good little boy who liked drawing fishes and who wanted to be a marine biologist. “If anyone out there is keeping him, please, I beg you, bring him back safe and sound,” she said. I was obviously not the only one who was moved by her appeal, because around 5000 people came to that desolate little village to comb the surrounding countryside.
Day after day, Gabriel with the sunny smile was the centrepiece of the evening news. Nor was there any escape from the agonised faces of the boy’s father and his girlfriend. There were endless search parties crossing drab, treeless hills that were almost the same grey-green colour as the Guardia Civil. Grim looks in every face. All of Spain held its breath.
On 3 March, a shirt belonging to the boy was found.
Then I left Spain and thought I had heard the last of the matter. But no. One day I stumbled across El Pais, and there he was on the front page. On 11 March, they had found him. Dead. In the boot of a car. “We wept when we saw the body,” said one of the officers in charge of the investigation.
Apparently Guardia Civil had suspected the murderer ever since the shirt was found. For various reasons, they believed it had been placed there by the person who found it. They kept the suspect under close surveillance, and in the end, they intercepted her car as she was moving the corpse.
Yes, her. The murderer was the father’s girlfriend. She had played the prominent part of grieving, close relative before the press, weeping and giving several interviews.
I just can’t get Gabriel out of my head! That is why I have to write about him. I keep seeing the countryside, plain and dispassionate, the very antithesis of violent crime. And I keep wondering: What motive could possibly be strong enough to warrant the killing of a bright and sunny-tempered eight-year-old?
And I keep thinking: If a woman is capable of doing that and, having done so, of feigning the intense commiseration and grief of a deeply caring, kind, attentive and loving partner, while in constant limelight day after day – 12 days in all – what are other women capable of doing?