MADRID (AP) — Spain is in shock after investigators combing the seabed near the Canary Islands found the body of one of two young sisters taken by their father weeks earlier without the mother’s permission.
Coroners have confirmed that the body found in a bag and tied to an anchor at a depth of some 1,000 meters (3,200 feet) belonged to 6-year-old Olivia, the older of the two sisters.
Another similar bag that was empty was found nearby by a special oceanographic research vessel helping in the search, Spain’s Civil Guard said, adding that the search for 1-year-old Anna and their father, Tomás Gimeno, is still ongoing.
Numerous political figures and civil society groups on Friday condemned Olivia’s death and showed support for the girls’ mother, Beatriz Zimmermann.
“I cannot imagine the pain of the mother of little Anna and Olivia,” tweeted Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. “My hug, my love and that of my whole family, who today sympathizes with Beatriz and her loved ones.”
Gimeno and the girls went missing on April 27 in Tenerife, the largest island in the archipelago off West Africa.
Their mother, who is divorced from the girls’ father, alleged he told her she would never see them again.
Investigators launched a wide search on land and sea but narrowed in on the waters off Tenerife after Gimeno’s boat was found empty and drifting at sea.
Interpol also joined the search, publishing the photographs of the two girls and issuing so-called “yellow notices” aimed at locating missing persons.
The girls’ mother had posted several videos of her daughters online in an effort to help find them.
Speaking at a women’s forum on Friday, Queen Letizia expressed “pain and sadness” for the deaths of Olivia and a 17-year-old woman killed by her partner in southern Spain earlier this week.
“I don’t think there is anyone this morning who is not trying to put themselves in the shoes of the people who love these murdered girls,” Letizia said.
Women’s rights organizations have called for protests later on Friday across Spain against the recent uptick of violence against women.
Men have killed at least 18 women so far this year in Spain, according to data from the Equality Ministry, which has recorded 1,096 deaths since 2003, when the country started keeping data on crimes of gender violence. Abusers often use children as means to inflict harm on their partners or ex-partners: since 2013, 39 minors have been murdered in the country by their biological fathers.