A RUTHLESS Spanish terrorist has been revealed as the subject matter behind one of the UK’s biggest TV hits of the last few years.
Former ETA killer Idoia Lopez Riano – aka La Tigresa – was the inspiration behind Villanelle, the psychopath viewers just can’t get enough of.
Played by Jodie Comer in the hit BBC series Killing Eve, she’s the cold-hearted killer for hire with an eye for fashion – and herself.
Incredibly vain, but equally brutal and lacking in any empathy, the Russian mercenary embarks on a cat-and-mouse game-cum-love affair with an MI6 officer played by Sandra Oh.
But in the real world, the assassin who inspired the multi-lingual Villanelle is the former terrorist who was found guilty of killing 23 soldiers and policemen – and rumoured to be behind many more.
Luke Jennings, who wrote the novels behind the series, revealed that Comer’s character was actually based on Riaño, the infamous Basque separatist hitwoman, who was behind some of the worst bombings Spain has ever witnessed.
Jennings revealed how he first came up with Villanelle while reading about Riaño, who was behind the death of 12 young policemen from one car bomb in Madrid in 1986.
She was allegedly so evil she would seduce off duty Guardia Civil officers in bars in Bilbao and San Sebastian to later extract key sensitive information during pillow talk.
“She was clearly a psychopath and completely, completely without empathy,” Jennings said.
The vanity of Villanelle, which sees her often staring longingly at herself in mirrors and shop windows, also rings true of Riaño, who once became too distracted by her own reflection while en route to kill a policeman.
“At the key moment, Idoia, who was supposed to be doing the killings, didn’t actually see him because she was so entranced with the window of a fashionable store and her own reflection in it,” said Jennings.
Indeed her vanity was even noted by her killer compatriots, including fellow terrorist Juan Manuel Soares Gamboa, who once said she cared more about her appearance than murder.
In the TV series, Villanelle opts for female lovers who usually wind up dead or extremely damaged.
Riaño, who began her killing streak at just 20 years old, hid out in Algeria for seven years before being finally snared in France in the 1990s.
She is now 55 and is free after being released from jail in 2017 following a 23-year sentence.
Having lived for some years in Andorra, where her sister lives, she is now living in Barcelona, where she works for an NGO.