Dressed in an impeccable tracksuit, defiant before the people who called him “murderer”, “criminal”, “trash”, and with freshly cut hair. This is how Bernardo Montoya appeared in court on Monday to answer for the murder of Laura Luelmo, the 26-year-old young woman from Zamora who was sexually assaulted and murdered in December 2018 in El Campillo (Huelva).
The trial began almost three years after the events, with Bernardo Montoya, the only defendant of the crimes, facing a reviewable permanent prison sentence.
However, despite the social interest that the case arouses, how residents of El Campillo and journalists mobilized to search for the young woman, and how all of Spain was awaiting the trial, little will be known about what is being discussed in inside the courtroom, because the presiding magistrate of the trial has decided that it should be held behind closed doors. The decision has been adopted after all the parties have requested it and have heard the popular jury, which has ruled along the same lines, although it is not known whether there has been unanimity.
It has been the attorney for the private prosecution, Francisco Luelmo, who has requested that the trial be held behind closed doors, because, according to the Superior Court of Justice of Andalusia (TSJA), this hearing is media “to our regret and despite Laura Luelmo’s family “. And he has clarified: “But more media was the trial of the ‘Manada’ of Pamplona and it was behind closed doors because it was understood that a fundamental right could be harmed, in this case that of the family and that of the victim”.
Enduring an intense cold, fifty journalists waited at the gates of the courts from 8:00 in the morning to do their work, and they have encountered this setback.
The decision has not gone unnoticed by the Huelva Press Association, which has shown its outrage at the “information blackout” by the president of the room, Florentino Ruiz Yamuza. The television signal that had been prepared for the journalistic coverage of the trial has even been canceled, something that the Huelva Press Association considers a serious error that directly violates the democratic principles of a public process that the Spanish Constitution itself considers a fundamental right.
Upon leaving the courtroom, no lawyer has said anything about what happened inside the courtroom. In a statement, the Huelva Press Association has stressed that the process is being carried out in the “dark”, causing a “serious affront” to the principles of the role of democratic guarantor of the journalistic profession. “This decision is especially serious,” adds the statement, “taking into account that it is a popular jury trial, so it has been lay people who have participated in the decision-making.”
Just before entering the hearing for the afternoon session of the trial, Montoya’s lawyer has told reporters that his client “not at all” has pleaded guilty. It will be the popular jury that decides whether or not Montoya is guilty. At first, the alleged murderer confessed both at the police and judicial headquarters, and even before the television cameras, that he was the author of the events, even asking the family for forgiveness. Months later he would change his version. This Monday he returned to his version number two in chronological order, declaring himself innocent.
At that time he blamed the crime on a woman who was his sentimental partner, and who, despite being initially investigated, was finally excluded from the case, so Montoya is the only suspect and prosecuted in this process.
This Monday is the first of a full week of sessions, morning and afternoon. The statements of about 40 people are expected to follow one another, including witnesses, experts and forensics, although nothing will transpire until the sentence of the case is known.
Five days of tension
Laura Luelmo disappeared on December 12, 2018, just four days after she moved to live in El Campillo to cover a withdrawal from the specialty of Plastic at the Vázquez Díaz Secondary Education Institute in a nearby town, Nerva.
He was happy to live in a quiet town four minutes’ drive from his workplace, with a student body that he quickly won over.
Five days later than that December 12, after intense and long raids in the area in which hundreds of volunteers participated, his body appeared in a place known as Las Mimbreras, on the outskirts of El Campillo, ruining hopes of those who hoped to find her alive.
The next day, Montoya, a resident of the town who lived in a house opposite the young woman’s, with a murder record, was arrested.
He assaulted her, according to the prosecution’s brief, for more than an hour. The prosecutor relates that it was around 5:30 p.m. on December 12 when the defendant approached the young woman by surprise when she returned home after shopping at a nearby supermarket and, with the intention of depriving her freedom of movement, As she screamed, he forced her into his home.
Once inside, he began to beat and punch her, leaving her badly injured and weakened, and after immobilizing her by tying her hands and covering her mouth, he transferred her to one of the bedrooms and sexually assaulted her. He then beat her to death again, put her in the trunk of his car and left her at the place where she was found dead on 17 December.
Both the private prosecution, exercised by the young woman’s family, and the Junta de Andalucía – popular accusation – have requested permanent prison for Montoya, who has been in the Morón de la Frontera prison since then, protected from the other prisoners.