“The last degree of perversity is to make the laws serve for injustice ”, Voltaire. It is the phrase that I remembered in the face of the inevitable indignation I felt when reviewing the history of Dolores Vazquez in the documentary of Netflix, The Wanninkhof-Carabantes case. However, that feeling will surely be greater in the coming months when we see the true, and deserved, redemption of this wrongly accused woman in a documentary series that she prepares HBO Max.
And it is that Dolores was not only sentenced to spend 15 years in prison for the murder of Rocío Wanninkhof being innocent, but she had to suffer the disfigurement of her image while the investigation, the media and society turned her into a monster based on archaic prejudices. She was singled out for her physique, her gestures or the absence of them, but above all for her sexual condition, being found guilty and released 17 months later when the real murderer was discovered. And yet neither the criminal or social trial asked for forgiveness. Not even the law made exceptions, in this case necessary, to compensate.
HBO’s sister platform, which will soon land in our country and the rest of the world, will tell the full story over six episodes but from Dolores’s perspective with her own testimony, something that the documentary of Netflix did not have. It will be titled Dolores: the truth about the Wanninkhof case.
And after more than two decades, it was about time.
In this way, HBO Max counterattacks by targeting the phenomenon of the true crime genre, obtaining the key testimony that The Wanninkhof-Carabantes case does not have. That is to say, basically, Netflix has opened the wound by going back to the past with its chronicle of the case, but it will be HBO Max who will take the witness giving Dolores the media healing with a kind of sequel even more necessary.
And it’s not that I want to belittle the documentary The Wanninkhof-Carabantes case, that landed on Netflix At the end of june. While it is an exhaustive chronicle of a case that shook the country at the beginning of the new century, does not finish providing new data nor does it have the testimony of those involved. Much less that of Dolores. It is true that it emphasizes highlighting the injustice committed against her, but since it is a review of the murders of Rocío Wanninkhof and Sonia Carabantes, the investigation, involvement of the media and the discovery of the real murderer, Tony Alexander King, does not end serve as the absolute redemption that the terrible story he lived through deserves. His experience and injustice deserve to be told in the smallest detail, listening to it at last, once and for all.
Rocío Wanninkhof was 19 years old when she was murdered in La Cala de Mijas on October 9, 1999. Her body was found more than three weeks later, and in such bad condition that it was impossible to collect forensic evidence that would determine important details, as if she had been sexually assaulted. The clothes, which were in garbage bags, served as evidence to sentence that he had received several stab wounds. However, the lack of conclusive evidence and social pressure would have forced the investigation to take paths that were later shown to be equivocal. For example, as reported in the documentary, the Civil Guard focused on the theory that Rocío had not been raped, believing that the position in which they found the body, with her legs spread, was a simulation of the murderer to mislead the case . In this way, they ruled out sexual assault and influenced the theory that it had been an act carried out out of hatred and revenge.
And so they began to question Rocío’s relatives and friends, leading to suspicions about Dolores Vázquez, a neighbor and ex-partner of the victim’s mother, Alicia Hornos, because her cleaning employee said she had seen her stab a photo of the young woman. She was subjected to surveillance, to the point of tapping her telephone line, while she was observed by a female agent infiltrated in her circle who later declared that she was “cold, calculating and aggressive ”.
However, the investigation suffered terrible leaks causing the suspicion to reach the media that soon published photographs of Dolores walking through her neighborhood, with phrases that indicated her as “alleged murderer of Rocío ”, directly with first and last name.
And it was at that moment that the right to the presumption of innocence disappeared. The social trial began before the media influence, even with the support of the victim’s mother and the defendant’s ex-partner, forever changing the life of Dolores Vázquez.
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The Civil Guard officially detained her in September 2000, and although Dolores repeated her innocence with an alibi that placed her with her mother and another relative and with a history of calls that confirmed that she had been at her home, the prosecutor pointed out the existence of microscope evidence that supposedly confirmed that two fibers in his clothing corresponded to fibers found in the corpse. This test was later repeated with a DNA analysis that concluded that there was no similarity, but even so the prosecution continued, denying him the request for provisional release and while the media sensationalism had already penetrated deep into Spanish society. In the street, and before the trial, Dolores was already guilty, being greeted with cries of “murderer”, while dozens of arms beat the cars where she was transferred handcuffed from barracks and courts.
It was said that Dolores was jealous of the victim to the point that Rocío’s own mother publicly accused her in the media of having murdered her daughter “for revenge”, Y because she didn’t want to resume the relationship. It is likely that a mother’s pain in the face of such a tragedy required an urgent culprit. Perhaps even Alicia Hornos was a victim of media and social manipulation. “Mentally it is very vindictive ” she said in other media, while Dolores’s family called her a “liar.” And although Dolores denied the argument, speaking of how much she had loved Rocío and the family relationship they shared, it was of no use. The people had decided their guilt manipulated by a media crush that today we can see as an example of lesbophobia.
Various media and the prosecutor’s office would have influenced him to paint a negative image, defining his character as masculine and dangerous for the mere fact of having maintained a lesbian relationship. This is how the writer and activist of the LGBT community, Beatriz Gimeno, describes it in her book Building the perverse lesbian (Gedisa Editorial, 2009), where he dedicates a complete chapter to detail the prejudicial harassment that was done to her. First by resorting to extolling the fact that she was single and childless, as a misogynistic example of a cold woman, someone with a dark and suspicious halo. Then his physical image began to be described, detailing it as “strong complexion” (The country) Y “great corpulence (ABC) [La construcción de la lesbiana perversa, páginas 104-105], resorting to that description to justify an enormous masculine force that would explain the independent action in the crime. Basically, that it justified that Dolores could have moved her body alone.
Even the media emphasized that Dolores played sports and was fond of martial arts, as if that were synonymous with aggressiveness. Her gestures were questioned, calling them cold, not transmitting emotions, forgetting that she was also suffering the death of a young woman she had loved, in addition to being suffering a terrible injustice.
And so, as Beatriz Gimeno describes in her book, Dolores’s body became “a metaphor for the social fear of the masculinized lesbian ” [página 107]. Her public image became the old stereotype of the perverse lesbian, jealous of women, and manly, sheathing fear and mistrust, then serving as the definitive key to sentence her in a social judgment based on prejudice.
Rocío was found guilty and had to spend 17 months in prison being innocent, and with the terror of knowing that she would be unjustly locked up for a long time, until a DNA test collated after the murder of another young woman, Sonia Carabantes, pointed out the real murderer . The Civil Guard, the prosecutor, the jury, media sensationalism and society had been wrong.
Rocío left prison without anything changing. It was neither compensated as expected, nor did it fail to suffer public scrutiny. “For me, the fight is not over ” he said in 2013 when he spoke at a hearing of prosecutors, lawyers, jurists and judges of the Pombo Foundation in Madrid dedicated to the presumption of innocence and parallel trials. He asked for “Spanish society is shown that I am innocent and that I have always been ”, emphasizing on highlighting people’s looks every time they recognized her in a store or on the street. She highlighted the thoughts that haunted her “The 24 hours of the day” What “the insults ” received, in a speech that denoted fatigue, sadness and pain.
“I’m still asking someone to tell me a pardon, something ”.
Dolores Vázquez tried to make the government pay for the injustice committed by asking for compensation of four million euros. However, both the National Court and the Supreme Court denied it, justifying that he should have channeled his claim through another article. It was in 2015 that their battle was lost. The Supreme Court ruled that they did not exclude the claim for compensation or that they question their guilt, but that they should have made their request with article 293 of the Organic Law of the Judiciary, and not with 294.1. But, since the three-month period to apply the correct article had already elapsed, he could no longer claim any compensation (Fuente: Confilegal).
According to a psychiatric study referred to in an article by The country of the year 2013, the damage caused to Dolores was valued in numbers: the specialist “assigned a value of 35, when 100 is that of a normal person“. A number that reflects a woman who for a long time was suspicious of every phone call, noted where she had been each day and memorized the license plates of the vehicles that passed near her. An unfair experience that, according to the State Bar, would mean a payment of 62,280 euros.
Faced with the nightmare that she lived and continued to live under the public eye, Dolores Vázquez left for the United Kingdom where one of her sisters had settled. It was only in 2020 when he would have returned to his native Betanzos in Galicia.
Undoubtedly, two decades after the ordeal, I believe that society and justice still have a pending account with Dolores Vázquez. And it is something as simple as asking for forgiveness, acknowledging the mistake made with your mouth wide open and learning. But everyone, justice, the media and the street. Learn from the prejudices that punish us as a society, that lead us to think the worst of others.
Netflix Y The Wanninkhof-Carabantes case They manage to give visibility to Dolores Vázquez by removing social, judicial and media awareness with the review of the entire case. However, his real and personal nightmare we will know through his own testimony with six 50-minute episodes in the second half of 2021 on HBO Max (they have not yet confirmed exactly when given that the launch date of the platform is unknown in Spain). It will be then when the empathy and solidarity that he did not receive perhaps, finally, knocks on his door, after living inside two parallel sentences, the judicial and the social, giving an unexpected turn to his life forever.