SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE, Spain — A Spanish father who kept his two young daughters without permission in April likely drugged and killed the girls before tossing them into the sea off the Canary Islands, authorities allege.
Tomás Gimeno allegedly killed his daughters, Olivia Zimmermann Gimeno, 6, and Anna Zimmermann Gimeno, 13 months, to spite their mother, Beatriz Zimmermann. The couple, who first began dating in their teens, broke up around the time of Anna’s birth last year.
Olivia’s body was found Thursday inside a sports bag discovered about 3 miles from the coast of Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands. The bag, which was located 3,200 feet below the water’s surface, was attached with chains and rope to an anchor from Gimeno’s boat.
The younger girl, Anna, remained missing Tuesday, though a bag similar to the one that contained her sister’s body was also found on the seabed.
The second bag was empty.
Authorities theorize that Anna’s body has not been found because it came out of the bag at some point after it was in the water.
A shocking crime
The allegations against Gimeno have shocked Spain’s collective consciousness as the nation experiences an uptick in violence against women and girls. Women’s rights groups launched protests over the weekend, according to The Associated Press.
Politicians also spoke out about the tragedy.
“I cannot imagine the pain of the mother of little Anna and Olivia,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez tweeted Thursday. “My embrace, my love and that of my whole family, who today sympathizes with Beatriz and her loved ones.”
The girls, who lived with their mother in Radazul, vanished April 27 during a visit with their father. Gimeno was last seen without his daughters at the Marina Santa Cruz, where he kept his boat moored. Santa Cruz, like Radazul, is located on Tenerife.
Gimeno, 37, is being sought by law enforcement officials in Spain and beyond. Interpol issued multiple alerts last month as it joined the search for Gimeno and his daughters.
The AP reported that authorities launched a wide search after Zimmermann reported that her ex-husband had told her she’d never see her daughters again. The search narrowed April 28 after Gimeno’s boat was found drifting and empty off the coast of Tenerife.
Anna’s car seat was found floating in the water three weeks later, El País in Madrid reported.
As the search for her daughters continued, Zimmermann, 35, wrote in an open letter that she could barely find the words to describe her pain.
“I want to disappear too. I’ve no more strength — this is torture,” she wrote, according to the newspaper. “What hurts the most is thinking that I can’t know how they are doing, not being able to talk (to them), not knowing when I’m going to see them again.”
Zimmermann’s worst fears were realized Thursday after searchers using a remotely operated underwater vehicle located the bag containing Olivia’s body.
The grief-stricken mother wrote in an emotional open letter that like many children, her daughters were the victims of the “vicarious violence” that often erupts as a result of domestic disputes between adults.
“Thanks to them, we know what vicarious violence means,” Zimmermann wrote, according to iNews in the U.K. “I hope they make tougher laws to protect (children). If love ends, the most important thing is the well-being of the children.”
Zimmermann’s open letter can be seen in its original Spanish below, courtesy of La Vanguardia.
She described her daughters as being full of love and wrote that Gimeno left her alive so that she could “suffer looking for them without rest and for the remainder of (her) life.”
“I wish I had been there at that moment with them, holding their hands and dying together,” she wrote.
An autopsy determined that Olivia died of acute pulmonary edema, according to the Europa Press. Investigators believe Gimeno killed both girls on his farm in Igueste de Candelaria.
They also theorize that Gimeno may have donned a lead belt to drown himself after killing his daughters. According to El País, traces of Gimeno’s blood were found on his boat.
Authorities have said, however, that Gimeno moved a large sum of money from one of his bank accounts to another before vanishing with his daughters.
An international warrant for his arrest remains in effect.
‘The greatest pain she could imagine’
A nine-page report released Saturday by an investigating magistrate, Judge Priscilla Espinosa Gutierriez, details what authorities both know and suspect happened the night Olivia and Anna disappeared.
According to the BBC, Gimeno and Zimmermann’s interactions had not been pleasant since their split. Despite the fact that both were in new relationships, Gimeno would often send Zimmermann “offensive and insulting” messages.
Gimeno, who had an informal visitation arrangement with Zimmermann, picked up his daughters for a visit around 5 p.m. April 27. He met with Zimmermann to pick up Anna but retrieved Olivia from an afterschool German program in which she was involved.
A timeline established by authorities shows that Gimeno took Olivia to her usual tennis lesson that evening. He was due to hand the girls back over to their mother at 9 p.m., El País reported.
The Europa Press reported that in between his daughter’s extracurricular activities, Gimeno went to the marina, where he was reportedly seen testing his boat’s engine.
That afternoon, he also gave his new girlfriend, the director of the German center where Olivia was enrolled, about $7,500 in cash and a goodbye letter. She read the letter around 5:30 p.m. and became aware he did not intend to return the girls to their mother.
The woman called Gimeno and tried to dissuade him from running off with his daughters but did not inform the authorities of his intentions, according to reports.
Following Olivia’s tennis lesson, Gimeno took the girls to his parents’ house, where they remained until around 7:30 p.m. At that point, they left for Gimeno’s farm.
Authorities believe that is when he implemented his plan to kill Olivia and Anna. A search of his home turned up empty blister packs of pills they theorize he used to drug the children before taking their lives.
Gimeno allegedly wrapped the girls’ bodies in towels and garbage bags before stuffing them into separate sports bags and placing them in his car, the Europa Press reported. He drove to his parents’ house, where he surreptitiously left his dog, his bank cards and the keys to his Alfa Romeo.
The magistrate’s report alleges that Gimeno then drove the girls’ bodies to the marina, carried them aboard his boat and sailed out to the deep waters off the Tenerife coast, where he threw the bags overboard.
Meanwhile, the girls’ mother went to her ex-husband’s home at 9 p.m. to pick up her daughters and found no one there. She soon began calling Gimeno, who told her he’d drop Olivia and Anna off after taking them to dinner, El País reported.
The Europa Press reported that security cameras at the marina recorded Gimeno arriving around 9:30 p.m. that night in his white Audi A3. Making three trips, he unloaded about half a dozen suitcases and bags onto his boat.
That included the sports bags later discovered with Olivia’s body.
The marina’s security guard, who saw Gimeno that night, said he saw no sign of the girls, who were also absent from all surveillance footage.
Gimeno sailed away from the dock around 9:40 p.m., according to authorities. A few minutes later, when he picked up another of Zimmermann’s calls, he told her he was taking the girls to start a new life.
He told her she would not see them again but that he’d take good care of them, El País reported. Authorities allege he threw the girls’ bodies overboard less than an hour later.
Gimeno also told Zimmermann he could not allow their children to grow up without a father, the Europa Press reported.
In a tragic twist, a Civil Guard patrol boat stopped Gimeno as he returned to the marina that night. He was cited for violating the coronavirus curfew and sent on his way.
He left the marina for the final time shortly after midnight April 28.
Like Zimmerman, Gutierriez, the magistrate, believes that Gimeno dumped his daughters’ bodies at sea so that they would never be found.
“The plan … was to cause his ex-partner the greatest pain she could imagine by deliberately causing uncertainty about the fate that Olivia and Anna had suffered at his hands,” she wrote in her report.
On Tuesday, the Europa Press reported that Spain’s Civil Guard continued to search for Gimeno and Anna with the aid of the transoceanic ship Ángeles Alvariño. The ship, which was on its 17th day of searching, is scheduled to depart on Thursday.
María Gámez, general director of the Civil Guard, said the searchers maintain the “spirit” of finding Anna before the vessel must go.
“We are confident that in these two days that we have left we can conclude the investigation,” Gámez said.
If they fail to locate Gimeno and Anna, the case will remain open.
“The Civil Guard does not end or close any case that does not have all the conclusive evidence,” the general director said.
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