Murder of Rocío Wanninkhof

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Murder of Rocío Wanninkhof
Born Rocío Wanninkhof Hornos
Died October 9/10, 1999
Mijas, Spain
Cause of death Exsanguination caused by multiple stab wounds
Burial November 21, 1999
Arroyo del Ojanco, Spain
Arrested María Dolores Vázquez Mosquera
(September 7, 2000)
Tony Alexander King
(September 18, 2003)
Convicted María Dolores Vázquez Mosquera
(September 19, 2001)
Tony Alexander King
(December 12, 2006)
Conviction overturned María Dolores Vázquez Mosquera
(February 1, 2002)

Rocío Wanninkhof Hornos (1980 - October 9 or 10, 1999) was a Dutch-Spanish teenage girl who was murdered in her hometown of Mijas, a town in Spain's Costa del Sol notable for its large number of Northwestern European residents (around one third of the total).

In 2001, amidst great popular pressure and a media circus (defined at times as a "public lynching" of the accused[1][2]), a jury trial convicted 52-year-old María Dolores "Loli" Vázquez, the estranged lover of Wanninkhof's mother, Alicia Hornos, for the murder, even though there was no evidence relating her to the crime. This miscarriage of justice has been blamed on prejudices about Vázquez's homosexuality and the fabrication of an unsubstantiated narrative about her being a "dominant", "predatory" lesbian who had seduced Hornos and later killed Wanninkhof because she blamed her for the end of the relationship.[3] Others have also cited malinterpretations of Vázquez's behavior due to her Galician extraction and traditional British education being in dissonance with local social norms, attitudes and expectations.[4]

Three months after Vázquez's conviction, the High Court of Andalusia overturned the sentence and ordered a new trial. However, all charges against Vázquez were dropped when DNA found near Wanninkhof's body was matched to Tony Alexander King, a 32-year-old British sexual offender with a long criminal history in the United Kingdom, and who was also identified through DNA as the perpetrator of the murder of 17-year-old Sonia Carabantes in Coín, in 2003. King was convicted of both murders and sentenced to 55 years in prison.

The whole affair is popularly known in Spain as the Wanninkhof Case (Caso Wanninkhof). Vázquez's conviction has been named as the biggest miscarriage of justice in the judiciary history of Spain since the 1910 "Crime of Cuenca".[3]


View of Mijas from Benalmádena.

Alicia Hornos and Dolores Vázquez[edit]

Rocío was born in 1980 to Willem "Guillermo" Wanninkhof, a Dutch citizen, and his Spanish wife Hilaria Alicia Hornos (known as Alicia), a native of Arroyo del Ojanco in rural Jaén province. She had a sister and a brother. Hornos, who claims that Willem Wanninkhof was a domestic abuser, began her relationship with Vázquez while she was still married, in 1982. The following year, Hornos left her husband - who returned to the Netherlands - and moved in with Vázquez. The two purchased a house together, although Vázquez was named as the sole proprietor in the contract.

After her divorce in 1983, Hornos kept legal custody of the children and she raised them with Vázquez as the couple's own. Rocío and her sister Rosa said that they had two mothers at their school, and they signed several times with the surnames "Vázquez Hornos" in place of their legal name, Wanninkhof Hornos. Such was the case of Rocío's own personal diaries. Rosa also claimed that her own relation with Vázquez was one of "affection", even at the height of the media frenzy incriminating Vázquez.

Though Hornos and Vázquez ended their relationship in 1988, they continued to live together for a while, and generally remained on good terms until around 1994. The detonator of their enmity may have been a dispute over the ownership of the house and other properties, according to Hornos's sister-in-law. Hornos continued to reside in Mijas with her children, and later began a new relationship with a Spanish man, Juan Cerrillo, that was ongoing at the time of Rocío's murder and Vázquez's trial.[3]

Tony Alexander King[edit]

Tony Alexander King
Born Anthony Bromwich
United Kingdom
Other names Tony Bromwich
The Holloway Strangler
The Costa Killer
Criminal penalty 10 years in a youth detention center (1986)
5 years in prison (1991)
36 years in prison (2005)
19 years in prison (2006)
Victims 2 (plus 13+ non-fatal attacks)
Span of crimes
Country United Kingdom
State(s) England
Date apprehended
September 18, 2003

King was born Anthony "Tony" Bromwich in 1967. He claimed he was physically abused by his older brother as a child. In 1986, when he was 19, he was sentenced to ten years in a detention center for young delinquents for the non-fatal strangulation and sexual abuse of five women in the London district of Holloway. One victim was also thrown against the pavement during the attack, resulting in the fracture of her nose and jaw. King, who always attacked on Monday and Wednesday because he was with his fiancée on the other days, never penetrated his victims because he was sexually impotent. King was released in 1991 after serving only half of his sentence, but was rearrested six months later for robbing a woman at gunpoint. He was then recluded in regular prison until 1996. Shortly after his release, he changed his name, which is allowed to people convicted in cases of great public notoriety in the United Kingdom. The same year, he married Chilean-born Cecilia Matilde Pantoja when she was two months pregnant with their daughter, Sabrina. King told Pantoja that he had antecedents for armed robbery, but claimed that he had been forced into it because of poverty.[5]

In August 1997, King threatened a Hungarian woman with a knife and attempted to rape her in Leatherhead train station. The attack was recorded by a security camera; after the film was broadcast on BBC One's Crimewatch on September 2, Scotland Yard received numerous calls from viewers who identified the attacker as King. An order of arrest was issued the next day, but King and his wife had already fled to Malaga and found refuge in its large British community. Six months later, British police located King in Mijas, where he was working as a real state agent, and requested him to return voluntarily to the United Kingdom. When he refused, they informed Spain's Ministry of the Interior of King's presence in Malaga, but this notice was labeled "low risk" and was not accompanied by a petition of arrest and extradition. Alicia Hornos worked in King's firm as a maid, but they never interacted.

King's wife (who continued to use his surname) abandoned him in 2000, citing economic problems and her own fear that he was involved in Wanninkhof's murder. However, she didn't report her suspicions to Police, and they were reported to have remained in contact and in good terms by other people. In 2001, King began to work in a local English pub called "Chicken Shack", where he became friends with a coworker named Simon Bowers. Bowers later moved to Alhaurín el Grande and opened his own bar there, "The Simon Arms", employing King as a cook, waiter and bouncer. While working there, King met a local school janitor, Mariluz Gallego, and he moved in with her and her three children. The home they lived in was inside the school and next to a Spanish Civil Guard station.[6] However, King only interacted with the officers once in 2001, when he was questioned for poaching rabbits.[7]

Following his arrest in 2003, the British tabloids News of the World and The Sun claimed that British police were investigating King as a suspect in twelve unsolved murders of women in the United Kingdom that had taken place between 1987 and 1994. Scotland Yard dismissed this information as "pure speculation".[8][9] However, it was later announced that King would be interrogated as a suspect in the 2002 murder of Milly Dowler.[10]



Road to Fuengirola at night.

Wanninkhof said goodbye to her mother and sister around 17:30 of October 9, 1999. She walked the 500 meters between her home in the Mijas residential area "La Cortijera" and her boyfriend's home in La Cala de Mijas, where she stayed until 21:30. According to her boyfriend, she left then with the intention of taking a shower and changing clothes in her home, before reuniting with him and other friends in Fuengirola's fair later that night. This was the first and only time that she made the return trip alone and on foot; usually she would either be driven home by her boyfriend or picked up at his home by her mother or sister. A foreign resident that passed away before Vázquez's trial was the last person to see her alive, walking from La Cala to Mijas.[3]

Wanninkhof's mother and sister contacted her boyfriend and friends the next day, all of whom denied to have seen her at the fair. Though already alarmed, Hornos decided to go for a walk with Cerrillo to ease herself, rather than reporting Wanninkhof's disappearance right away. During this walk, the couple found a pair of running shoes that they identified as Wanninkhof's, a napkin and several blood stains in a vacant lot next to the road used by her. They alerted the Civil Guard, who cordoned the area and started the search with the help of Wanninkhof's family and over one thousand neighbors. Despite the absence of the body, it was apparent to law enforcement from the beginning that Wanninkhof had been murdered. A blood trail began at 1'10 meters from the sidewalk and continued to a blood pool large enough to have caused her death from exsanguination. Next to the pool were dragging marks, and crossing over them and the blood, there were tire tracks made by a small vehicle with a tire model that went out of production in 1993. Because the dragging marks continued over severely inclined terrain that would have made it difficult for one person to drag a body alone, it was believed that the body was dragged by at least two people, then left in a less exposed area of the vacant lot before the vehicle was brought in to transport the body to another location.

"Three or four days" after the disappearance, a taxi driver came forward to say that the night of the crime, at 22:00, he dodged an off-road vehicle driving on the wrong lane at the exact point on the road where the running shoes were found. When the vehicle passed his own, he heard a high-pitched "shriek or scream" that scared him. On October 16, DNA testing confirmed that the blood belonged to Wanninkhof.

Despite the evidence, the family and friends of Wanninkhof stated that they believed she was still alive. A couple that employed her as an au pair offered a reward of two million pesetas for any useful information about her disappearance, and an English resident offered ten million for her safe return.

Discovery of the body[edit]

Wanninkhof's body was found on November 2 near the sporting club "Los Altos del Rodeo", between Marbella and San Pedro de Alcántara. It was nude, disfigured, stabbed nine times, partially mummified and skeletonized. The advanced state of decomposition, only three weeks after the disappearance, raised doubts about its identity. This was attributed successively to carbonization, acid corrosion and flesh-eating wasps. However, Wanninkhof's sister recognized some rings, two T-shirts and other objects found in two trash bags near the body as belonging to Rocío. The T-shirts were torn by the stabs, and no clothes from the waist down were ever found. The autopsy confirmed that it was indeed Wanninkhof's body, and also revealed that she had been beaten first, then stabbed once in the left section of the chest, likely when she tried to flee. This stab was the most damaging, as it affected several organs and pulmonary arteries. As a result, Wanninkhof became instantly paralyzed or unconscious, and her death was quick. Once on the ground, she was stabbed eight more times on a small area of the back, in quick succession, with the likely aim of ensuring her death. The wounds were all caused by the same weapon: a thin, single-edged razor. Sexual assault could not be proven either way, due to the advanced decomposition of the body. The body was left on the ground for several hours before the killer returned and put it on the car, and was later deposited, not thrown, in the second location. It was partially covered by bushes and fallen leaves when it was found.[11][3]

Because a number eight was drawn on one of the bags, it was believed that the bags were not acquired with the intention of using them in a murder, but that they had been repurposed after being already used. The killer was also believed to be familiar with the area where the body was abandoned, as it was only accessible by a trail perpendicular to the N-340 highway, which was very difficult to see from the road.[3]


Trial of Dolores Vázquez[edit]

The trial was done with a popular jury which is a system with no tradition in Spain, having been newly implemented. Most factual evidence exculpated her but the prosecutor relied heavily in attacking the character of Dolores and her lesbian relationship with Rocío's mother Alicia. The verdict repeated word for word the prosecutor's allegations and found Dolores guilty of the murder of Rocío. She was sentenced to serve 15 years in prison. All this was conducted in the middle of a media circus and feeding frenzy.

Dolores appealed and the higher court agreed and declared the case should be retried.

Murder of Sonia Carabantes[edit]

While she was in prison awaiting her new trial, in August 2003, there was a similar crime when 17-year-old Sonia Carabantes disappeared. In their investigation of this case the police discovered DNA which matched DNA found at the scene of the murder of Rocío. A woman soon told police that she suspected her ex-husband and when the police questioned him it was soon discovered that it was, indeed, his DNA. His name was Tony Alexander King and he was an English immigrant who, with his wife and daughter had come to live in southern Spain. It turned out he had a long criminal history and had served time in England for sexual crimes before changing his name and settling in Spain.

Dolores' upcoming trial was first suspended and then the case was closed and she was set free having been 17 months in prison.

Trial of Tony Alexander King[edit]

In 2005 Tony Alexander King was sentenced to 36 years in prison for the death of Sonia Carabantes and to an additional seven years for an unrelated sexual attack he had committed. In 2006 he was found guilty of the death of Rocío Wanninkhof and was sentenced to 19 years in prison for that crime.


Despite Vázquez's exoneration and subsequent conviction of King, Hornos remains convinced that Vázquez was involved in her daughter's murder and has stated this belief repeatedly. She also denies to be homosexual or bisexual, despite admitting her past relationship with Vázquez, and blames the latter on Vázquez's manipulation alone.[3]

Post-trial legal proceedings[edit]

Death of Sabrina King[edit]


Press coverage[edit]

Self-isolation of British communities in Spain[edit]

British-oriented business in Mijas with English-only signs.

In 2003 it was estimated that the whole province was home to 180,000 permanent British residents and four or five times more transient ones, in addition to seven English-language newspapers, eight English-language radio stations and numerous real state firms and pubs staffed and catered to British customers only.

Lack of cooperation between police agencies[edit]

In media[edit]

A miniseries called El Caso Wanninkhof was released on television, with Valentina Bargueño starring Rocío.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Antolín, Matías (September 18, 2008). "El linchamiento de Dolores" [The lynching of Dolores]. Diario de Burgos (in Spanish). Burgos, Spain. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
  2. ^ Rodríguez, Mercedes (June 17, 2008). "'El Caso Wanninkhof', la historia de un linchamiento" ['The Wanninkhof Case', history of a lynching]. El Diario Montañés (in Spanish). Santander, Spain. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Gimeno Reinoso, B. (2008) La construcción de la lesbiana perversa: Visibilidad y representación de las lesbianas. GEDISA, 256 pages.
  4. ^ Gómez, Luis (June 3, 2013). "No hay perdón para Dolores Vázquez" [No mercy for Dolores Vázquez]. El País (in Spanish). Madrid, Spain. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
  5. ^ Cruzado, María José (November 24, 2006). "La ex mujer de King declara que no lo denunció antes porque no tenía pruebas" [King's ex-wife testifies that she didn't report him earlier because she had no evidence]. La Voz de Cádiz (in Spanish). Cádiz, Spain. Retrieved September 26, 2017.
  6. ^ Olmedo, Ildefonso (September 21, 2003). "Durmiendo con el asesino (presunto)" [Sleeping with the killer (presumed)]. El Mundo (in Spanish). Madrid, Spain. Retrieved September 24, 2017.
  7. ^ Peregil, Francisco (September 28, 2003). "El mérito de pasar desapercibido" [The merit of remaining beneath suspicion]. El País (in Spanish). Madrid, Spain. Retrieved September 22, 2017.
  8. ^ Oppenheimer, Walter (September 23, 2003). "Interpol revela que King fue condenado en su adolescencia por dos intentos de violación" [Interpol reveals that King was convicted as an adolescent of two rape attempts]. El País (in Spanish). Madrid, Spain. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
  9. ^ "El asesino de Sonia y Rocío estranguló a cinco mujeres en Reino Unido" [The murderer of Sonia and Rocío strangled five women in the United Kingdom]. El Mundo (in Spanish). Madrid, Spain. September 23, 2003. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
  10. ^ Clennell, Andrew (September 27, 2003). "'Costa Killer' linked to Millie Dowler case". Independent. London, UK. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
  11. ^ "La navaja que mató a Rocío Wanninkhof coincide con la que describió Tony King" [The razor that killed Rocío Wanninkhof is coincident with the one described by Tony King]. El Día (in Spanish). Malaga, Spain. November 30, 2006. Retrieved October 14, 2017.
  12. ^ "La miniserie sobre el crimen que conmovió a todo el país". Radiotelevisión Española (in Spanish). Retrieved March 27, 2018.

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