This coming June 23rd, Netflix premieres “The Wanninkhof-Carabantes Case” (Murder on the coast), produced by Brutalmedia, directed by Tània Balló featuring the tireless investigative efforts of Lisa Berger. And there’s nothing quite as pivotal to the success of any true crime project than investigating and documenting the information well.
Twenty years on, this is the first documentary film to reveal everything that happened after the murder of Rocío Wanninkhof and Sonia Carabantes, safe in the realms of history and with the temporal distance, it’s a little easier to be objective, especially knowing how things panned out in the end.
A story that couldn’t have come at a better time as Spanish society begins to dare to peak, opening its eyes, waking up and engaging in some deep soul-searching, both because of the machismo weighing us down, as well as due to the mea culpa from the media and the “injustices” of a judicial system that on many occasions, doesn’t pass muster.
It’s all here, in this documentary (one-shot) in which, after all, what counts is: how a single man can twist the lives of hundreds of women.
This isn’t the Wanninkhof – Carabantes case, it’s the Tony Alexander King case
Herein lies the problem. To this day, the names of women who have been the victims of these crimes are assigned to the case. However, after the murderer has been caught, wouldn’t it be much more helpful to assign the assassin’s name to the case when referring to it in the media, because had that been the case, maybe this murder could have been avoided.
Tony Alexander King strangled to death dozens of women in London. He was sent to prison for 10 years and three months after being released, he did it again. He was sent away again, released again and offended again, only to abscond to Spain while on release, but beforehand, he married a woman, who had a young daughter and who had no idea who he was. In England you see, he’d been referred to as “The Holloway Strangler”.
Now in Spain, he continued strangling and murdering women. First, Rocío Wanninkhof and then Sonia Carabantes (that we know of). Until they finally caught him. They put a name on him and sent him down, where he is still residing today and will be until 2033. But how different things would be if from the very outset the name Tony Alexander king had been widely circulated, warnings to arrest and deport this international criminal and we had nicked him immediately?
The women who took on the legal profession and the police… and won
The point is that when you sit down to watch the documentary, the critical view is constant because we know what happened and we curse ourselves for every second of it.
Since the security forces began the investigation to find Rocío Wanninkhof’s murderer, they focused on a single line of investigation. The one that pointed to Dolores Vázquez. The mother’s ex-partner who they believed was angry at Rocío because she didn’t approve of her mother’s relationship. For the cops, that was sufficient motive, so they locked her up. Without evidence, without crime scene DNA matching hers, without the hair found at the scene of the crime matching hers. Just because she was “somebody you didn’t like, someone who wasn’t friendly, she was gruff and a lesbian in 1999”. She spent 519 days in prison.
That was until they discovered Carabantes’s body, and the conditions enabled them to collect better quality and a greater volume of evidence seeing that she had obviously defended herself. The blood, hair and a cigarette butt found at the scene matched those from the previous crime scene. Suddenly, this changed everything. (This happens at the 34th minute of the movie and it’ll have your hair standing on end).
The police were also incapable of locating Tony King until his ex-wife called them to report him as a possible culprit. Her evidence is one of the documentary’s greatest triumphs. Without her statement, they would never have found King, without Sonia defending herself either. The documentary reveals how it was actually the women themselves who helped each other and solved the crime. Because the police and the justice system had not only erred in their work, but they had also put away an innocent woman, safe in the false belief that they had the culprit behind bars.
The perfect documentary for self-assessment
For years we’ve been witness to the symptoms of a society that’s sick with machismo and that we are trying to cure. We are making progress, albeit slow going, but with documentaries like this we can better indicate where we went wrong: the police by settling for a single line of investigation; the media by feeding audiences a false narrative; and the justice system for sending someone to prison without just cause. It’s time to start laying our cards on the table, because even though Dolores Vázquez was eventually released from prison, her life was cut short. Like that of Rocío, Sonia and their mothers. Like that of King’s own ex-wife and the dozens of women he attacked in England.
We are still the victims of violence today, and although this documentary demonstrates that anything can be stopped through sisterhood, it requires the involvement of every member of society to ensure we can put an end to this suffering, once and for all.