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Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I have nothing but admiration for the family of Mari Luz Cortés and especially the dignity of her father, Juan José.

On January 13 of this year four-year-old Mari Luz went missing in Huelva from close to her family home. At first, because the family are of gypsy stock, it was believed that perhaps her disappearance was linked to a feud. In the event her body was found on March 7 floating in the waters of Huelva’s port and her murderer is believed to be a convicted paedophile living just doors away from her home in the Torrejón area of the city.

I say believed to be as Santiago del Valle has yet to be convicted in court. He has admitted to taking her but claims her death was an accident. His wife and his sister who shared the same house are believed to be accomplices. The fact that this paedophile supposedly killed Mari Luz was dreadful enough but then it emerged that he should have been in prison at the time for other sexual offences.

For Mari Luz’s family from that nightmare came a dream which is now close to becoming a reality. It was achieved by a gypsy family, with all the prejudice this implies in Spain, acting with restraint, dignity and determination. For them there was no showboating, no media savvy family spokesman, no huge public fund.

The family started a petition to demand amongst other provisions that paedophiles convicted of murder were never released from jail. They knew that if they achieved 500,000 signatures then their petition had to be heard by Congress, the Spanish lower house of parliament. In May Mari Luz’s father met with the president of the government, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, with 505,040 people having pledged their support.

On July 23 both Zapatero and the leader of the Partido Popular opposition, Mariano Rajoy, voiced their support for the proposals of Juan José Cortes.

The number of signatures on the petition has now reached two million. Juan José says this extraordinary measure will help prevent future cases of paedophile murders and hence benefit many people. Not only is Cortes seeking the permanent imprisonment of paedophiles but also tougher sentences for sexual crimes against children plus the creation of a register that will be open to the authorities and those who work with children.

One gypsy family, working with quiet dignity, are building a lasting and meaningful memorial to little Mari Luz. They deserve our support and admiration.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a fantastic achievement and a worthy tribute to their daughter. Some lessons to be learnt here I suspect for other parents who have lost their child.