By Humphrey Carter
PALMA

EXACTLY a week after Alejandro de Abarca failed to return to Palma Prison after enjoying a weekend release, he was back in police custody yesterday morning as the prime, and only, suspect in the brutal killing of 25-year-old Romanian Ana Niculai whose charred body was found with her hands ties behind her back in her boyfriend's burnt out Audi A4 last Monday night in Muro.

The Guardia Civil and the National Police, with support from specialist officers from the mainland, had been on the trail of the alleged killer, who was serving a ten year sentence for robbery and sexual abuse, for the past week and appear to have followed leads all over the island.

Over the weekend, as it appears the net was closing, security was significantly stepped up at all ports of entry and exit to prevent the fugitive from fleeing the island.

Yesterday, the Central government delegate to the Balearics, Ramon Socias briefed the media on the events of the past week.
The suspect, alias “The Dwarf” because of his stature, was found in a gully in the municipality of Selva at 7.30am yesterday morning.
Key to finally locating and arresting him was a tip off from various residents in and around the village of Buger who called the police to report possible sightings of the alleged killer who apparently kidnapped Niculai in an underground car park in Palma last Monday morning.

An immediate and massive police operation was mounted in the area involving over 20 Guardia Civil patrols and the intense search, which is believed to have continued through the night, ended with the suspect being found in a gully near the local sewage plant.

According to Socias, De Abarca, who apparently tried to kidnap another woman whose motorbike had broken down last Friday but recognised the wanted man from photos in the press and managed to escape, was not armed but he did try to tun away, but the Guardia Civil were too fast.

He has apparently denied being the killer, he told officers he was on a hiking holiday, and is refusing to cooperate with the police and is not making a statement.

Socias admitted that the suspect is a tough character with a long criminal history. “It's going to be difficult to get information out of him,” the government delegate added.
However, Socias and the security services are convinced they have enough physical evidence. De Abarca is believed to have first hid in the area around the Albufera Natural Park near Muro, where he torched the car and where he grew up as a child, so he knew the area very well.

The Guardia Civil, having checked his history, immediately began searching the area suspecting that the fugitive may have sought refuge in one of the many farm houses and outhouses in the rural area.

Then, he is understood to have caught a public bus to Lluc and it is from there he made his way through the ravines and dry river beds to the spot where he was eventually located.

Socias said that, at this stage of the investigation, the police have no evidence to suggest that he had received any help or even had an accomplice, as was initially thought.

Socias used yesterday's press briefing to praise the “brilliant” work of the security forces and stressed that they caught the suspect pretty much as quickly as possible considering his movements and difficulty of the terrain.

The Central government delegate also underlined the need for as much physical evidence as possible to be collected if the suspect refuses to cooperate.
Socias revealed that the Romanian's body was so severely burnt that no physical marks were left.
Apart from DNA being corroborated in Barcelona, forensics are also trying to established where Ana had been sexually assaulted during the nine hours between her kidnapping at 8am and her death - she was apparently killed before being locked into the boot of the car which was subsequently set alight.

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