Nation mourns after bloody day of gender violence leaves four dead

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A total of 17 women have been killed by partners or ex-partners in 2008

28 February 2008

MADRID - Hundreds of people gathered outside public buildings across Spain on Wednesday to voice concern about rising domestic violence, a day after four women were brutally murdered by their partners and ex-husbands.

The four murders in Madrid, Cádiz, Valencia and Valladolid on Tuesday amounted to the largest number of killings of women by men in Spain in a single day since authorities started to keep track of domestic violence cases. So far this year, 17 women have been murdered by their current or former partners, four more than during the same period of 2007.

"We have to change a cultural pattern that is very deeply rooted in society, and we cannot let down our guard in this effort," declared Montserrat Comas, the head of Spain's Observatory on Gender Violence, as protestors held a minute's silence outside the offices of the General Council of the Judiciary in Madrid. "This is not a battle of women against men, but of women and men against discrimination."

Opposition leader Mariano Rajoy promised yesterday to be "relentless" and "hard-hitting" against domestic violence if re-elected, using preventative measures and more courts.

The youngest victim of the recent spate of killings was a Bolivian woman stabbed to death in the early hours of Tuesday morning at her apartment in Madrid, apparently by her 29-year-old Bolivian partner, Néstor Wilfredo Villamatas. The suspected killer then went to a friend's home and confessed. Villamatas was subsequently arrested.

Hours later, in El Puerto de Santa María in Cádiz, a 49-year-old woman was stabbed in broad daylight on a street in the city centre following an argument with her 56-year-old former partner. She was taken to hospital but died on the way. Her husband was taken into custody by police.

At around 5pm in Cullera, Valencia, a 45-year-old woman was also killed in public, gunned down by her ex-husband with a revolver as she met with friends in a café. The 58-year-old man, who had been placed under a restraining order in January for threatening his ex-wife, was held by customers of the café until police arrived.

The last murder on Tuesday occurred in the northern city of Valladolid at around 7pm, when Francisco L.F., an avid hunter, shot his ex-wife as she went to visit a friend in the apartment block where the couple had lived. Having injured her with a shotgun blast from a window he went down into the street to kill her before returning to the apartment, setting fire to it and shooting himself.

Relatives, friends and concerned citizens in all four cities joined the protests yesterday, many demanding tougher legislation to protect women. Though the government introduced Spain's first comprehensive Gender Violence Law in 2005, it has so far failed to end the trend. The 17 murders of women by their current or former partners this year follows a total of 71 in 2007, 68 in 2006 and 60 in 2005.

[Copyright EL PAÍS /2008]

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