Traspinedo crime: The ‘Esther López case’, in the footsteps of…

Source: Traspinedo crime: The ‘Esther López case’, in the footsteps of…

Found on: 2022-07-12 03:40:00

The 20 agents that make up the Department of Investigation and Reconstruction of Traffic Accidents (DIRAT) of the Civil Guard have spent years – even before the department was formally created, in 2013 – trying to unravel with millimeter precision, through programs computer systems and physical formulas for mechanics, dynamics and kinematics, the ultimate causes of accidents involving vehicles. Investigating accidents that sometimes hide crimes. But rarely have they come across a case as difficult as the one they now have in hand: the fatal outrage of Esther López, 35, in the Valladolid town of Traspinedo, which occurred on January 13 and is still unclear. The DIRAT reports will be key in the trial.

Investigators from the Central Operative Unit (UCO) of the Civil Guard and the Valladolid command, united in the investigation of what initially seemed like a disappearance and then a homicide or perhaps a reckless homicide, suspect Óscar S., 40 years, a friend of the victim, with whom she went out that cold winter night. Esther López died of multi-organ failure and hypothermia (she bled for hours at five degrees below zero), but the injuries that her body presented are “compatible” with those that can be caused by being run over at low speed by a Volkswagen T-Roc like the one in Óscar S. The man went to Valladolid to wash the car the next morning, according to several security cameras.

The damage to a vehicle, no matter how small, and its movements in the minutes immediately before and in the hours after the events are the material for analysis by DIRAT agents. Also the type of road and the place, position and state in which the body is found. These investigators are capable of reproducing a disaster with accuracy (and the quality of a good video game) on a computer screen. They did it with the fatal accident of soccer player José Antonio Reyes, with Farruquito’s run over or with the Angel Nieto accident. They prepare “between 10 and 15 reports” a year. And each investigation takes “about three or four months.” They are claimed by the courts or by the Civil Guard itself for the most complicated cases and anywhere in Spain, as if they were “the UCO [equipo de investigación de élite] of traffic”. The case of Esther López, they say, is a challenge.

The first thing they did when they reached the curb at the entrance to Traspinedo where the woman’s body was found 23 days after her death was, as always, “trying to mark the final position of the vehicles and people involved in the accident ”, explains Captain Juan Francisco Cocaña, with 25 years in the specialty and who describes the mechanics avoiding referring specifically to the Traspinedo case.

no crime scene

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Thus, the first great difficulty of this case arose. Her body had been transferred to that place “in the first hours after her death”, and the investigators suspect that the accident did not take place there: “The remains of sand on Esther’s clothes do not add up; neither the position of her body, nor that of her belongings, such as her bag or cell phone, ”point out sources from the investigation. In addition, there was also no trace of the vehicle allegedly involved: “With the ABS it is already very difficult to find traces of braking on the road, tire friction…”. And thirdly, “there are no remains of the impact: glass, materials on the road.” In this case, since the place where the hit took place is not known, the agents go almost blind: they have no scene.

Therefore, it is essential to know the details of the autopsy. “The location of the injuries reveals to us what type of vehicle could have caused them; and the degree of them tells us about the speed he was driving, if he was able to stop, accelerate, if the victim saw him coming or was not warned, all also depending on the type of road, “says Cocaña.

“Impact at the level of the buttocks, with hip fracture [la tenía casi girada], head trauma, a cervical sprain, hemorrhagic infiltrates, bruises and dislocations… ”, collects the forensic report. Some damage that “is not sufficient to cause death instantly,” he concludes. “We consider that it is a hit in life, by motor vehicle, produced at medium or low speed, with the confluence in the cause of death of other factors, such as alcohol intoxication, cocaine use and hypothermia” , says the letter, signed by four forensic experts.

What the investigators are looking for now is the reflection of that multiple trauma in the main suspect’s vehicle. “It is like creating a mirror between the geometry of the vehicle and the morphological characteristics of the victim”, they illustrate. For this they have a computer program based on a cloud of points (photogrammetry) capable of detecting the slightest deformity in a millimeter way.

After applying different calculation models and different parameters, the DIRAT experts classify the accident, estimate the speed at which it occurred and enter the data into the computer to create a simulation of what happened, which they then compare with their manual calculations and inspections eye lenses: “We always go to the places, because it is the only way to know how a person can react in that context: if the curve is closed and requires some turning of the steering wheel, if there is an inclination, the type of surface, the visibility… The human factor is fundamental”, warns Cocaña.

The ‘black box’ of the vehicle

But the most important thing in the investigation of an accident is knowing the pre-impact”, says the expert. Vehicle systems are electronic and have all kinds of black boxes in which the traces of their movements are precisely recorded: “For example, navigation systems that record locations, or the airbag, which carries a unit behind it. electronics with activation data (speeds, accelerations, braking, steering wheel turns…)”.

The report of the experts, commissioned by court number 5 of Valladolid, certifies that there was manipulation of the switchboard of Óscar S.’s vehicle in the days after the alleged accident, that the navigation data was erased and that there was an attempt to make a new key. The navigation module, sent to Dresden for the manufacturer to provide the recorded data, has not given any more clues, since Volkswagen merely replied that it manufactures cars, it does not analyze its devices. “Many times we are in the hands of the good will of the manufacturers, who are usually reluctant for fear of having to assume compensation,” acknowledges Cocaña. The same thing happens with the EDR (Event Data Ricorder), a record of vehicle incidents, although “in a matter of months” in Spain it will happen as in the US, where “whoever wants to sell a car has to later facilitate access to the content of that device. “It’s going to be a revolution,” he predicts.

The analyzes in the case of Traspinedo have not finished. The tenacity of this group of traffic agents, together with the advances and results of the Criminalistics laboratory, could be decisive in finally solving the mystery of the fatal attack on Esther López.

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