Tuesday, July 5

‘Wanninkhof-Carabantes case’: how lesbophobia turned an innocent woman into a murderer

In October 1999, the 19-year-old Rocío Wanninkhof disappeared on her way to the Fuengirola fair (Malaga). The next morning, her mother finds her slippers and bloodstains next to her home. Then begins a search throughout the area of ​​Cala de Mijas that lasts for 25 days until the body is found. This reveals that Rocío was stabbed. In an environment of media and social pressure to find the culprit of the crime, a popular jury condemns Dolores Vázquez, the ex-partner of Rocío’s mother, to 15 years in prison for the murder of the young woman.

Beyond the assumption that it was a crime caused by the breakup of the couple, there was no evidence to incriminate her: no one saw Vázquez at the place where the body was found, he had an alibi for the night Rocío was killed, and his DNA did not match what was collected at the crime scene. It will be the case of a new media murder, three years later, which proves his innocence: the young Sonia Caravantes was found dead in a nearby area and it was soon discovered that the perpetrator of the crime was a British man named Tony Alexander King. By introducing the DNA samples into the Civil Guard system, it was found that they coincided with those found next to the body of Rocío Wanninkhof. King confesses that he has committed both murders and several sexual assaults both in his home country and in Spain. Meanwhile, Dolores Vázquez spent 519 days behind bars for a murder she had not committed.

These are the events that are narrated in the documentary Wanninkhof-Carabantes case, directed by Tània Balló, produced by Brutal Media and recently released on Netflix. “I was about 22 years old when Rocío disappeared but I do not remember being a spectator of the weeks of search, it is from the detection of Dolores Vázquez that I first learned about the case and, like the vast majority of the Spanish public, I consumed what today We know it was an absolute delusion. At that moment I believed it, I don’t know if it was blunt, but what seemed like evidence or they wanted to sell us as such, “explains Balló about how he experienced this succession of events in the first person. However, at the same time that she was consuming that content in an uncritical way, she also acknowledges that there was already something that was “disturbing” her while she watched television day after day. “I did not recognize what it was exactly, but it is true that I remember conversations with close people where this strange feeling was shared.”

The impact for Balló, and probably for a large part of Spanish society, occurred when the murder of Sonia Caravantes proved the innocence of Dolores Vázquez; and this is the central theme of the documentary, which is dedicated to exploring how such a concatenation of errors could have occurred –judicial, police and media– and the dire consequences it had for all the protagonists of this story. “The case stayed there but I always had it in my head, for me it was a paradigmatic example of how a false culprit had been constructed through homophobia,” the director continues explaining the importance of remembering it now, more than 20 years later. of what happened. “When I started my career as a filmmaker this was a film that I always thought I would like to make, but I was also very aware that I wanted to shoot it from a very clear place, not at all sensational, reflective, with criticism.”

After a two-year investigation, analyzing the 5,000 judicial pages of the cases, reviewing 300 hours of television and print archive material and calling more than 60 sources involved in the investigations of the crimes of Rocío Wanninkhof and Sonia Carabantes, the The result is a documentary that pays attention to every detail, that provides a feminist perspective and that opens questions about the functioning of the Spanish justice system, before and after the conviction of Dolores Vázquez.

Balló also includes an investigation into the past of Tony Alexander King, to highlight the reasons that caused his criminal record for sexual assault to have little consequences for him, and also investigates the institutional negligence that allowed him to go unnoticed for so many years. Wanninkhof-Carabantes case It is especially valuable in that it questions and points out how the media delusion and the little relevance that is judicially granted to violence against women had a direct impact on the incarceration of an innocent woman, the murder of two young girls and the permanent pain for its environment.

Dolores Vazquez: the perverse lesbian

“Dolores Vázquez was accused, prosecuted and convicted of being a lesbian and nothing that happened could have happened in the same way had she been heterosexual; it is true that the jury and the judge convicted her, but for that to happen without scandal, it was necessary for public opinion to believe without a doubt in his guilt and that was the role played by the media, to make his prosecution and subsequent conviction acceptable and even inevitable. ” This is the thesis presented by Beatriz Gimeno in Building the perverse lesbian (Gedisa) and which he develops throughout the book, using hundreds of examples of news published in newspapers about the case of Dolores Vázquez. “I myself was an example of how even a lesbian activist can be unable to perceive the engineering in which lesbophobia is born, develops and is implanted in the social and particular imaginary of each one”.

Gimeno appears in the documentary and, as confirmed by Tània Balló, her text was a “fundamental basis” to provide a political perspective to the narration of the case, to verify that the mechanism by which an innocent woman was tried was based on the media’s construction of a archetype of lesbian who turns out to be credible as a murderer. That began with her physique: if in the first description that can be read of her in The country She is described as having a “normal physical complexion”, the next day at the ABC already characterizes her as a “woman of great corpulence.”

And from here on, the information will always be just as tendentious, a fact that, as Beatriz Gimeno points out, “will later be revealed as of vital importance when proving that Dolores Vázquez is the murderer. As the expert evidence revealed, it was absolutely necessary. that the person who had committed the crime had great physical strength, since he must have been capable of carrying the corpse alone and moving it from one place to another. ” The press repeated on numerous occasions that Vázquez was a fan of martial arts, “a sport that, in the popular imagination, is identified with aggressiveness and fighting, the opposite of female passivity,” says Gimeno. However, details are never given about when or how often the protagonist practiced this sport or others.

“It was not only a matter of characterizing her physically as a lesbian,” Gimeno explains, “but it was also necessary to endow her with certain psychological characteristics typical of perverse lesbians.” In the descriptions that were published daily during the months that passed between the trial and the sentence, the media power was displayed in all its splendor to point out a single woman without children, while her homosexuality was rather implicit – not a single one once appeared in The country nor in ABC the word lesbian, which contributed to its not being analyzed as hate speech.

“There was an absolute coincidence in the attribution to Vázquez of character traits that have defined lesbians of all ages. Thus, it was insisted that Vázquez was a possessive, violent and calculating woman.” The latter was, in fact, the adjective that was repeated the most those days; Because perhaps the most twisted thing in the case was not the insistence on his physique, his tastes or his personality, but the analysis of his attitude during the trial, a perspective that would end up being decisive for the popular jury in his sentence. “The alleged perpetrator of the crime did not, apparently, have a feminine character and that was something that no newspaper failed to notice. She did not scream, did not cry, did not despair, nor was she at any time submissive or defeated by the situation. Dolores Vázquez was never forgiven for her courage nor for the maintenance of her personal dignity at all times. ”

Sexism becomes evident when comparing his attitude with that of Rocío’s real murderer: King insulted and threatened the judges, yelled and stirred, and yet it was not considered as something abnormal or remarkable. “In the representation that is made in the press of sexual crimes or rapes, the representations of the aggressor tend to highlight his madness, his pathology, his lack of control, his exaggerated love,” says Gimeno. “On the contrary, when the murderers are women, female emotionality and lack of control turn into coldness and emotional control; women do not kill because they lose control, but, on the contrary, because they control everything. The murderers are always cool, smart and controlling. ” And so it was supposedly, and more and more clearly for the public, Dolores Vázquez.

At this point, the documentary shows that there was no firm evidence to blame Vázquez for the murder. “There is no irrefutable evidence that incriminates Dolores Vázquez, but the evidence against her accumulates,” read El Country in a headline; and so many accumulated that in the end it was those signs that finally condemned her. It is striking to say the least that, except for the ABC, no mass media would choose to collect a single positive opinion of her before she was tried and at a time when the police claimed they had no conclusive evidence. The insistence with which it was commented that he did not get along with the children of his former partner contrasts with the fact that it was never mentioned that Vázquez took care of his invalid mother on a daily basis.

Both the book and the documentary recall that the word of her assistant was worth the word to convict her, who once said that she had seen Dolores tear a photo of Rocío with a knife – although she would explain at the trial that, since she did not speak Spanish, Vázquez simply he had tried to explain what had happened by staging the stabbing – and other grotesque evidence, such as the testimony of a seer.

That is why it cannot be understood that both the judges and the popular jury attributed the guilt of the murder without the contribution of lesbophobia: as Beatriz Gimeno argues, it was the character of the perverse lesbian who became Dolores Vázquez who was sentenced to 15 years in jail. The only thing missing was a motive consistent with her image for the resolution: even without any testimony giving an account of it for sure and while Dolores affirmed that Rocío was like a daughter to her, it was claimed that she hated her for having been the cause of the break with his mother. “The mechanism of lesbophobia worked perfectly by taking for granted that the simple existence of a lesbian relationship between two women had to be in itself a source of bad relationships between family members, by assuming that the normal thing was that the girl who lived in that family, upon reaching adolescence and becoming aware of the situation, rejected the lesbian, Dolores, “explains Gimeno.

With this information we come to the end of the documentary, although, in reality, not the end of this story: to this day Dolores Vázquez has not received compensation from the State or society, not even in the form of forgiveness. This is what Tània Balló emphasizes at the end of the documentary, with capital letters on the fade to black: the media, judicial and social lynching suffered by Dolores Vázquez has not been repaired in any way. “The magnitude of this tragedy encompassed much beyond the known,” explains the director, who has not counted on the voices of Vázquez or Rocío’s mother, Alicia Hornos, to respect her silence. “This is a case that has many victims, all of them women, and what I wanted is to give them a space of recognition.”