A former Columbian policeman who took a two month old baby girl with him when he burnt his wife’s body and buried her remains was told by a judge that he had been “callous, cold-hearted and evil”.
Rodrigo Giraldo, 56, from Hemel Hempstead, was convicted of murder today (July 29) and told that he must serve a minimum of 19 years of a life sentence before he can be considered for parole.
After setting fire to his wife Margory’s remains he had driven back to their home with the foster child and was to calmly tell his three children that their mother had left of her own accord.
Four days later, police searching Northchurch Common, near Berkhamsted, found the shallow grave and the charred remains of his 50-year-old the wife in a suitcase.
At St Albans Crown Court Giraldo had his head bowed in the dock as he was convicted unanimously of murdering Margory at their home in Ritcroft Street, Hemel Hempstead on the morning on Sunday, January 13 this year.
The jury of seven women and five men heard he had pleaded guilty to a charge of preventing the lawful and decent burial of Margory.
Mr Trimmer said: “The defendant had become obsessive over his wife after she told him she wanted to separate. His children say he was worried his wife was cheating on him and would leave him.” At their home they were sleeping in separate rooms.
The last contact anyone had with Margory was at around 9.30am on the morning of her death when one of their daughters Ana, who was on a weekend break in the Netherlands, received a WhatsApp video message from her.
Having killed his wife some time that morning, Giraldo moved his car to the entrance of an alleyway that ran down the side of the home to the rear garden. It enabled him to move her body, which he had placed in the large suitcase, to his car using a trolley.
Out of sight from a neighbour’s CCTV camera, he was able to get the suitcase into his car. One thing the CCTV camera did catch, said Mr Trimmer, was the husband walking towards the car with the baby girl he and his wife had fostered from November 2018.
On the common, a group of young people on bikes saw a small man with a shovel and then noticed a fire behind bushes where he was digging. Giraldo had poured petrol over the case and set fire to it before covering it up with the soil.
The couple’s children tried to contact their mother that day. After picking Ana up from Luton Airport he told her: “Yo lo Mate” – meaning “I killed her.” He told his son Julian “Your mum has gone, maybe she will never come back again”. Mr Trimmer said Giraldo had caused “pain and upset to his family in the course of investigation by insisting they would find their mother alive”.
Herts police were able to get a fix on the area of the common where Margory had been buried by tracking the movement of both her and her husband’s mobile phones.
Fresh mud and loose stones alerted one officer and upon closer examination “human flesh” was observed. The suitcase was unearthed and inside the charred remains of the wife, dressed in pyjamas with floral bottoms, was discovered. Plastic sheeting had been placed over her head and shoulders. She had blunt force traumas to her neck and face.
Mr Trimmer said bruising within the neck suggested there could have been “strangulation”.
Further findings indicated she was already dead when the suitcase with her inside was set on fire. There was nothing with the body to identify her and the court heard her mobile phone has never been found. But the nozzle from the petrol can had been left at the site of the shallow grave and, when forensically examined, was found to contain the defendant’s DNA.
In the witness box Giraldo, who was aided by a Spanish interpreter, denied he had murdered her after she called him a “son of a bitch”.
He said she was at the sink and had a knife in her hand when she lunged at him. He went on: “I was trying to grab her hand so she would not cut herself or maybe she wouldn’t fall on top of the knife. We struggled a lot. I was trying to avoid her cutting herself. ”
He said he was cut on the hand and his wife tried to scratch his face and hands. He went on: “I was trying to push her away. At some point during the struggle we crashed into a radiator and some parts of the table.”
He said his wife looked as if she going to be sick and collapsed in front of him.
Asked by his barrister, Philippa McAtasney QC why he did not call the emergency services, he said: “At one point it occurred to me, but I didn’t do it. I didn’t do it because I believed she was already dead”.
Judge Michael Kay QC sentenced him to life with a minimum term of 9 years less the 196 days he has already served in jail.
The judge told him: “It was plain from a number of sources you did not accept the reality of this situation. You wanted the marriage to continue you had become obsessive and fixated in your attempts to achieve that. It is plain you thought she was having an affair with another man.
“The murder occurred on morning of Sunday, January 13. Only you know the details of what occurred. I accept there was an argument. It is impossible for me to say how it started or what its content was.”
He went on: “It is obvious it involved strangulation, suffocation or smothering of her.
“That murder appeared to have occurred in the mid-morning. A number of hours passed. During that period, you were calculating how you were going to cover up what you had done.
“Your steps were callous, cold-hearted and evil. It involved considerable thought on your part.”
He said he had caused enormous pain and upset to the children by causing them to believe their mother might still be alive.
After the jury returned its verdict the couple’s son Julian read a personal statement about the death of his mother. He said: “She was the best Columbian mum who made the best Columbian food.
“She was always getting into people’s hearts with love kindness and good humour. Always genuine and real. Her laughter was contagious. She made friends everywhere she went. The world has lost a loving soul.”