Missing boy found dead in car boot
POLICE in Spain found an eight-year-old boy dead in the boot of his stepmother's car, the government said on Sunday, in a missing children case that has gripped the nation.
Hundreds of officers had been mobilised in the search for little Gabriel Cruz after he went missing in late February in the southeastern Spanish village of Las Hortichuelas.
"This morning, the Civil Guard stopped the companion of Gabriel's father while she was transporting the little boy's corpse in the boot of a car," Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said.
A missing person's alert with a photo of the smiling boy went viral in Spain via mobile messaging services and social media.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy tweeted his condolences: "I share with all Spaniards the pain of losing Gabriel. Rest in peace."
The tragic discovery comes after hundreds of Spanish police and volunteers searched for the missing boy on March 3. Around 1000 people were involved in the search, a Guardia Civil police spokesman told AFP.
Gabriel was reported missing on February 27 after he left his grandmother's home in the small village of Las Hortichuelas to go play at a friend's house nearby.
His relatives alerted police who published a missing person's alert with a photo of the smiling boy, which went viral in Spain via mobile messaging services and social media.
Police and volunteers scoured the countryside in the area on foot and on horseback, using helicopters and drones to try and locate him.
Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said police had also searched waters off the coast nearby.
Gabriel's parents gave several tearful interviews to Spanish media, saying he knew the area well and could not have got lost.
"(We) hope we will get Gabriel back soon and that he will return home with his family, which is where a boy who is only eight should be," his father Angel Cruz told reporters on March 3, before breaking down in tears.
Gabriel's parents also addressed an 8000-strong crowd at a rally, which was organised with the hashtag #TodosSomosGabriel (#WeAreAllGabriel) to support the search for the missing child.
Last week a man was detained for stalking Gabriel's mother Patricia Ramirez, though authorities stressed he was not held in connection with the disappearance.
The man, named as Diego Miguel, had become "obsessed" with Mrs Ramirez and in 2016 was ordered by a judge to stay away from her and given a three-month suspended jail sentence, according to court documents seen by AFP.
But he broke this order several times, including in the hours when Gabriel disappeared, and was detained, authorities said.
Police said they were investigating, but Angel Cruz said he believed the man had nothing to do with his son's disappearance.
Following the discovery of Gabriel's body on Sunday, social media saw outpourings of grief and condolences.
"Pain, anger, impotence and sadness for little Gabriel. My most sincere condolences to the whole family," said one tweet from national basketball star Felipe Reyes.