EXCLUSIVE By Jon Clarke in Arriate
SKIN under the nails of dead teenager Maria Esther Jimenez Villegas could be the vital clue to the arrest of her murderer.
Investigators believe that a series of fingerprints and a crucial DNA match will lead to an arrest or arrests ‘today or tommorrow’.
So far over 50 people – the majority youths – have been questioned about the brutal death of the 13-year-old, known locally as ‘Esther’.
A number have been called on three seperate occasions to give evidence over the incident that has stunned the normally sleepy village of Arriate, near Ronda.
Her body was found last Thursday in a pool pump house on the edge of the village of 4,200 people, following a 24-hour search.
A fireman found her body sitting upright with her jacket pulled over her head.
Her face had been ‘beaten beyond recognition’ by a stone, said to be the size of a rugby ball.
According to police sources she died from being hit over the head, but may have layed unconscious in the pump room for a number of hours.
She was not sexually assaulted, although a sexual motive has not been ruled out.
Her killer, or killers, had shut the door of the pump house with a pole and pushed rocks up against it.
Police forensic teams worked hard over the weekend scouring the plot of land, where local kids frequently hung out at night.
They were working on the assumption that Maria Esther, who had learning difficulties, was lured to the murder site by someone she knew.
According to sources close to the family, Esther, as she was known, had been bullied at school and was frequently seen out late at night on her own.
“She was regularly seen talking to boys a number of years older than her,” said one local parent. “Many people were concerned about her, but mostly because they feared she might get pregnant.”
The girl, whose parents had two other children, had lived in the village for five years, having moved from Paterna, in Cadiz.
“She was a very friendly girl, who was very trusting and naive,” said Ana Eloy Salazar Marin, 59, who knew her well.
“She often used to pop in and see me and I gave her snacks. I liked her visits but it was ultimately not normal that she wasn’t hanging around with children of her own age.
“She was a very nice girl often going out in the country to collect flowers. Not 100 per cent all there, but you wanted to look after her.
“I am sure the killer is local and it will be so tragic for the village whoever it is.”
In further developments, it emerged that the father of the dead girl, had lost his own brother in mysterious circumstances in childhood.
He told the media that his brother had been killed at the age of 14 and his body was found in a well near the home in Alcala de los Gazules.
His family had been staying in Arriate for the last few weeks picking olives.
Initially police focussed their attention on an apparent boyfriend of Maria Esther, a Romanian youth, the Olive Press can reveal.
Detectives spent hours driving around local farms asking for his whereabouts.
“The Guardia Civil asked me if I knew this so-called Romanian youth,” said one worker at Cortijo Marquez “I think they still want to speak to him.”
Meanwhile half the village turned out for a mass for the girl, who was later buried in her mother’s village of Paterna, near Medina Sidonia.
Villagers clapped for five minutes in an emotional goodbye outside the church and then followed her coffin as it was taken to a departure spot on the edge of town.
Hauntingly, the courtege passed within 20 metres of the scene of the murder.