Rapist who built hiding place in kitchen units arrested in Spain

Esteban Vacas Garcia, one of Europe’s most wanted men, had been on the run since 2006

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 September, 2018, 11:59am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 September, 2018, 9:07pm

Spanish police have arrested one of Europe’s most wanted fugitives after discovering he had built a hiding place into the kitchen units of the home where he grew up.

Esteban Vacas Garcia, 49, had been on the run since 2006, when he was convicted of repeatedly raping his partner’s 15-year-old daughter.

He disappeared days before he was sentenced to 16 years in prison for rape and sexual assault, and had eluded police for 12 years despite being on Europol’s most-wanted list.

But this week, officers from Spain’s national police tracked him down to an address in Salamanca, in the Castilla y León region.

“He was finally found in Salamanca, where he had been living in the family home where he grew up, only leaving the property on rare occasions and always in the early hours of the morning,” the force said in a statement.

“[On Wednesday] afternoon, officers went to the property with a court order. Once there, they found that the fugitive had built a hiding place under the kitchen counter in which to hide himself when the police arrived.”

Police said he had “disappeared without trace” before he was sentenced for his crimes.

“He repeatedly raped one of his partner’s daughters, who was 15 at the time, taking advantage of his position of authority and using both force and violence,” said the statement.

“He also threatened to kill her mother and sister if she told anyone about what had happened.”

Officers had looked into whether he had gone into hiding in the south-western region of Extremadura or had fled the country.

They also kept an eye on his family and close friends throughout Spain.

But a public appeal in November 2016 – in which Vacas Garcia’s photograph was circulated on Twitter – yielded “positive results” and officers eventually established that he was in Castilla y León.