Tenerife shaken by search for missing girl and father

Investigators believe Tomás Gimeno killed both his daughters in case that sparked protests

A Spanish Oceanographic Institute vessel   leaves Santa Cruz de Tenerife harbour in the Canaries to continue the search for  one-year-old Anna Gimeno and her father Tomás. Photograph:  Miguel Barreto/EPA

A Spanish Oceanographic Institute vessel leaves Santa Cruz de Tenerife harbour in the Canaries to continue the search for one-year-old Anna Gimeno and her father Tomás. Photograph: Miguel Barreto/EPA

 

The waters off the Canary Island of Tenerife are being combed for the bodies of a man and his small daughter whom he is believed to have abducted and killed, along with her sister, more than seven weeks ago.

Tomás Gimeno (37) disappeared with his two daughters, Olivia (6) and Anna (1), on April 27th, instead of returning them to their mother, Beatriz Zimmermann, from whom he was separated. A small boat belonging to Mr Gimeno was found empty and floating off the coast of Tenerife.

On June 10th, the body of Olivia was found on the seabed, at a depth of 1,000 metres, inside a bag and tied to an anchor. Another bag, which was empty, was also found.

An autopsy carried out on the girl’s body found that she was dead before being thrown into the water.

An oceanographic research vessel, which has a robot submarine, has been searching the area but so far there has been no trace of Anna or the father.

According to the civil guard, which is investigating the case, Mr Gimeno killed both girls in his home before putting their bodies in bags and driving to the coast, where he put them on his boat and took them out to sea. Beforehand, he left money and a goodbye note for his current partner. He made a threatening phone call to Ms Zimmermann, telling her she would not see the girls again, at around the same time that investigators believe he threw both bodies into the water.

Mr Gimeno sought to inflict “an inhuman pain on his partner”, from whom he separated last year, according to investigators.

However, although his body is being searched for under the hypothesis that he may have taken his own life, the investigating judge has issued an international arrest warrant, keeping open the theory that he may have fled Spain.

The case has led to a series of protests, in Tenerife and other parts of Spain, against violence inflicted on women and children. According to government figures, 39 minors have been killed since 2013 by their fathers or partners of their mothers, figures which do not include Olivia and Anna Gimeno.

“Children are our responsibility and as a mother it hurts my soul not to have been able to save their lives,” Ms Zimmermann wrote in a message to thank the public for the support she has received.

However, prosecutors in the Canary Islands have opened a probe into comments made by a local Catholic priest, who appeared to blame Mr Gimeno’s alleged killing of the two girls on Ms Zimmermann.

In social media posts, the priest, Fernando Báez Santana, described the father as a victim, appearing to blame what he said was “the infidelity” of Ms Zimmermann for his violent actions. The prosecutor’s office will decide whether to take legal action against the priest.