Mexican police find body of missing 18-year-old woman in motel water tank

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Mexico City, Debanhi Escobar
Flowers on the facade of the Attorney General's office surround an image of Debanhi Escobar during a protest against the disappearance of Escobar and other women who have gone missing, in Mexico City.

The haunting story of a young woman left on the side of a highway late at night in northern Mexico has ended in sorrow after her decomposing body was found in an underground water tank at a motel.

Assistant Public Safety Secretary Ricardo Mejia on Friday said that the woman’s body — apparently unrecognisable after what may have been nearly two weeks in the water — had a crucifix necklace and clothing that Debanhi Escobar, 18, was wearing the night she disappeared.

Despite what authorities in the border state of Nuevo Leon described as a massive search for her, the young woman’s body was found by local people.

“The alert was sounded by hotel workers, because of the fetid odours coming from the area,” Mr Mejia said.

State prosecutors later confirmed the body belonged to Ms Escobar.

Ms Escobar’s case made headlines because of a haunting photo taken by a driver who was supposed to take her home that night. It was not clear why she got out of the car, but her father, Mario Escobar, said prosecutors told him that surveillance camera footage suggested the driver inappropriately touched his daughter.

Mr Escobar said that while the driver may not have killed her, he was responsible for his daughter’s death.

The driver, who worked for a taxi app, took the photo to show Ms Debanhi got out of his car alive on April 8 on the outskirts of Monterrey.

The 18-year-old was not seen again until late on Thursday when her body was pulled from a 13.1ft (four metres) deep water water tank at a roadside motel.

Killings of women have increased in recent years in Mexico, rising from 977 cases in 2020 to 1,015 in 2021. And those were just cases classified as “feminicides” – a legal term used in Mexico when women are killed because of their gender. Killings of women overall are much higher.

Disappearances of women are also high, with about 1,600 reported missing so far this year. Officials say 829 of them are still listed as missing and 16 were found dead.

During the week authorities were searching for Ms Escobar, local media reported that the bodies of five other women and girls had been found in the state. The victims had all been reported missing around the same time as Ms Escobar. Four were 16 or younger.

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