Shock as teacher is murdered by neighbour with criminal past in quiet village in Huelva

The victim's home guarded by police last weekend and inset, Laura Luelmo, who was found dead.
The victim's home guarded by police last weekend and inset, Laura Luelmo, who was found dead. / EFE
  • The autopsy disproved Bernardo Montoya's denial that he had raped 26-year-old Laura Luelmo, who had just moved to the area to start a new job

The country was shocked this week by the brutal murder of a 26-year-old secondary school art teacher who had just moved to a quiet village in Huelva province to start a new job. Laura Luelmo had disappeared on Wednesday 12 December after going for an evening jog in countryside near the home in El Campillo she had only lived in since the beginning of December.

Laura's body was found, face down and partly clothed, hidden in undergrowth in a ditch on Monday. A post mortem showed that she had died from the effects of a head injury two to three days after she had first disappeared, although there was evidence of strangulation and a violent sexual attack, the report said.

On Tuesday, Bernardo Montoya, Laura's 50-year-old neighbour, was arrested while trying to flee police and denied in a confession that he had raped her, saying he attacked her near their homes before leaving her where she was found. Investigators are now probing that part of his version of events, which implies Laura may have been alive in the ditch for days in an area that rescuers had already searched previously.

Guardia Civil officers said on Tuesday that Montoya "had been obsessed with Laura since she arrived in the village". She had told her boyfriend by phone that his stare was unnerving her.

Details of the considerable criminal record of Bernardo Montoya and his twin brother Luciano soon began to emerge this week.

Bernardo, who had a track record of drug dealing and addiction, had recently left prison after serving separate sentences for the murder of a pensioner and armed robbery.

He was banned from Cortegana, the Huelva village where those crimes were committed, and had also just taken up residence in El Campillo. He had served time for an assault in that village too.

His twin brother is in prison for a murder in 2001, in Cortegana, a village terrorised by the brothers, according to locals. Residents there were angry this week that the suspect had supposedly been allowed to act again so easily in El Campillo.

Laura Luelmo, an accomplished sketcher, had only just moved to Huelva province from a village in her native province of Zamora, some 500 kilometres away, to take a teaching job at a school in the village of Nerva, eight kilometres from El Campillo.