On October 8 2011, José Bretón said he was taking his two children to play at a park in central Córdoba, Spain. Later he reported the children missing to the police. A huge search operation began with police searching properties belonging to Bretón, eventually focusing on a property belonging to his parents called Las Quemadillas.
The mother of the children, Ruth Ortiz, had recently filed for divorce and José appears to have carefully planned his revenge. He was seeing his children at the weekends as part of the separation agreement but apparently changed the weekend visit especially to fit in with his plans
According to reports in El Pais
, he told his family that he was taking Ruth aged 6 and José aged 2 to the park but was having lunch with friends first.CCTV cameras establish that Bretón was in the park but nobody saw the children.
It's what happened next that has taken the police so long to unravel. Bretón had gone to great lengths to establish alibis, including switching off his mobile phone so he could not be traced.
The El Pais report says
"Between 1.48pm and 5.30pm there is no evidence that his car left the estate and the magistrate believes he spent the time laying false clues."
At just after 6.30pm he reported to the police that he had lost the children in the park. A search got underway but no trace of the children were found and no witnesses could be found to confirm that the children had been in the park.
The search was widened to include the Bretón family estate which was searched more than fifteen times, with dogs, ground penetrating radar and other methods used but no trace of the children was found.
The police did not believe Bretón's story and he was placed into custody on October 21 2011. The man insisted he was innocent and even said that if he could be released from prison, he could find the children as he was sure they would have left clues which would help him find them. Three times he was refused bail.
Whilst the searches were going on, the remnants of a bonfire had been discovered at the Bretón estate "Las Quemadillas". Bretón told police that he had been burning some paperwork and some clothing. Bones were found but were dismissed by the police forensic team at the time as the bones of animals.
Ruth Ortiz was devastated at the loss of her children and did everything in her power to help the police but became increasingly frustrated as they made no progress in the case. With the support of her family she commissioned a private study of the bonfire site and its contents. On Monday August 27 2012, her worst fears were confirmed. The bones found were not animal but human. A second report was commissioned by the government which confirmed the findings.
According to an expert
, who specialises in mass graves from the Spanish Civil War, the bones were of children aged about 2 and 6. Ruth and José had been found.The expert said however that the incredible heat from the bonfire, which had probably been fuelled with petrol or a similar accelarant, made DNA testing impossible.He said:
“The person who lit the fire knew what they were doing”.
On Tuesday August 28, Bretón was taken by police to the site
. At Las Quemadillas, investigators have removed jerry cans that had contained petrol and other materials. Bretón is continuing to insist he is innocent. His lawyer, José Maria Sanchez said:
"He hasn't confessed to anything, and he is not admitting any guilt. He considers it an aberration that people think he burnt his children".
Bretón's parents have now also been arrested.
This would appear to be another terrible case where a father has taken revenge on a wife for divorcing him by killing the children. More and more cases such as that of Ruth and José are being reported around the world. Speaking on Spanish television channel Telecinco
, the head of the investigation said that the motive for the killing was simple revenge and that Bretón was not insane.
Meanwhile Ruth Ortiz has to come to terms with the fact that all hope has gone and her children will never come home.