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Mexico fires 2 officials in investigation into death of young woman

Mexican authorities say two prosecutors have been fired for ‘omissions and errors’ in the search for a missing woman who was found dead last week in northern Mexico

Gustavo Guerrero, attorney general for the northern state of Nuevo Leon, did not describe any mistakes the two officials may have made.

But the motel where the young woman’s body was found in an underground water tank had already been searched several times before her body was finally found, only after a motel worker reported a foul odor coming from of the cistern.

The case of 18-year-old Debanhi Escobar has shocked Mexico after a taxi driver took a photo of her standing alone on the side of a highway the night she disappeared.

The two fired officials — the anti-kidnapping prosecutor and the missing persons prosecutor — apparently participated in the search, which included bringing sniffer dogs into the motel.

But nearly a week after the final discovery of his body, far from being elucidated, the case has become complicated.

Prosecutors showed video from motel security cameras suggesting Escobar entered the motel and wandered around, eventually exiting the camera in the direction of three cisterns near a swimming pool.

Some reports had suggested that the woman may have fallen into one of the cisterns and died accidentally. But prosecutors said her body was found in one tank, her purse in another and her mobile phone and keys in a third.

Eduardo Villagomez, the state’s chief medical examiner, said the woman died of a blow to the head. But he said she was apparently alive when she entered the cistern and there was no water in her lungs.

When asked how this was possible, he replied, “She got up. The water was 90 centimeters (three feet) deep.

The case made headlines because of a haunting photo taken by a driver who was due to take her home that evening. It’s unclear why she got out of the car, but her father, Mario Escobar, said prosecutors told him CCTV footage suggested the driver touched his daughter inappropriately.

“I guess my daughter couldn’t stand the bullying,” the father said.

The driver was questioned and said she got out of the car of her own accord. Mario Escobar said the driver may not have killed his daughter but held him responsible for her death.

The driver, who worked for a taxi app, took the photo to show Debanhi getting out of his car alive on April 8 on the outskirts of the city of Monterrey.

No one saw her until last Thursday, when investigators managed to get her body out of the tank.

Critics are troubled that even when Mexican authorities are prompted to act by public outcry, investigations are rarely very timely or effective.

In the week investigators said 200 staff members used drones, search dogs and reviews of security camera footage to search for Escobar, her body lay not far from where she had been last seen.

Murders of women have increased in recent years in Mexico, from 977 cases in 2020 to 1,015 in 2021. And these were only cases classified as “feminicide”, a legal term used in Mexico when women are killed in because of their gender. Overall, murders of women are much higher.

Disappearances of women are also high, with around 1,600 missing reported so far this year. According to the authorities, 829 of them are still missing and 16 have been found dead.

ABC News

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