Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Secret Of Asunta Basterra

The bench is unremarkable. The slats have an unevenness. The lowest one droops at an end, another rises and reveals a gap with the one beneath it. The bench hasn't been well-made and it hasn't been well-maintained. What colour is this bench? It's hard to say. The photo is a bluey-grey. The bench might be brown, might be green. Where is this bench? It is in a park in Santiago de Compostela, the Galician city with the shrine to Saint James, one of the Twelve Apostles, and to which Catholics - more than 100,000 of them a year - make a pilgrimage.

But this is not a story about Santiago. It is a story about a bench. Who is sitting on the bench? An eleven-year-old girl. She is wearing slip-ons and appears to have no socks. She has a fleece cardigan with at least three buttons which are buttoned-up. She is looking straight at the camera. The girl is alone but she is not sitting in the middle of the bench. She is to one end, the end where the lowest slat droops. There is space to her left. Space for at least two more people. Two adults. There is a caption under the photo of this bench. It reads: "John's spirit haunts the Alameda".

The Alameda is the park. There is a story about this park. It's only short and it was written in September last year. "Once upon a time there was a happy family: a man, a woman and a son. One day the woman was assassinated. The man had to take retaliation on the person who killed his wife (Anna) but he died as well, because he tried to take retaliation but the bad man killed John, the husband. His body is in the Alameda park and his spirit too. He hopes his wife's spirit will come to him. Every day he sits on the benches."

There is another photo. It is of the same girl. The sun is shining, she is wearing a vest and a pair of shorts. She seems happy. There is a caption to this photo, too. It reads: "Boss of the ghost hunters".

The girl was Asunta Basterra. Last Sunday her body was found on a forest path in Teo, a town to the south of Santiago. Her parents have been arrested and been placed in custody, suspected of either Asunta's murder or manslaughter.

In January last year, Asunta's maternal grandmother died at the family home. In July last year, her maternal grandfather also died. No autopsy was carried out on either. They were both cremated.

Also in July, Asunta posted an introduction to a blog. That is where we can see the photo of her on the bench and the photo of her with her arms folded announcing that she is in charge of the ghost hunters. On 3 September last year she entered a second post. This is the one with the short story. There are no other posts on the blog.

The Guardia Civil believe that there was an issue with the grandparents' inheritance. They also believe that Asunta knew about this; that she knew a secret about her family and about her parents. They also think that Asunta's blog may have something to tell about this secret.

It is of course quite possible that the blog was no more than the product of an imaginative mind. It is in English (some of which I have corrected above) and it says that the blog was being written about "strange sightings" seen in three parks in Santiago. But it wasn't apparently only the work of Asunta. It says that the story of the parks will be told by Asunta Basterra Porto and Sophie Elizabeth Paton. Sophie, it would seem, was an English teacher at an academy in Santiago.

If the blog does say anything that might interest the police, then Sophie is the only person who might be able to shed any light. Alternatively, there may be nothing at all to shed any light on. It may also be that Sophie didn't really have anything to do with the blog, or if she did and she ceased to be a teacher at the academy, this may explain why there were no more entries after 3 September 2012.

The murder (or manslaughter) of Asunta has caused a sensation. It would have done anyway, but the sensation has been heightened because of Asunta's blog. It has been suggested that the girl may, in addition to knowing the family secret, have had some premonition of her grandfather's death and even her own. The photo of her on the bench, now one knows the background, can take on a whole eery meaning. Or it may mean nothing.

But there is another factor, one that may have led Asunta to think that her life was in danger. Two teachers at her school had reported that she was coming to school in a state of sedation. An explanation for this was that she was taking anti-histamines, but now another explanation is being sought.

"John's spirit haunts the Alameda." The photo of the girl on the bench was posted on 18 July 2012. Eight days later, her grandfather was dead.

(Note: There is some criticism of the blog still being available, but it isn't voyeuristic. I don't think it unreasonable to still be able to view it -

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