A husband allegedly murdered his foster carer wife, burnt her body in woods and hid the remains in a shallow grave after taking with him the baby girl they were foster parents to.
St Albans Crown Court heard on Wednesday, how afterwards Rodrigo Giraldo, from Hemel Hempstead, allegedly drove back with the two month old child to the home where he had murdered his wife Margory hours earlier.
The jury was told the couple’s three adult children became concerned that day, January 13, when they couldn’t contact their mother and later that night the police were called.
Four days later a police search team on Northchurch Common on the Chiltern Hills near Berkhamsted in Herts found the shallow grave and the charred remains of the wife in a suitcase.
The 55-year-old husband, a former policeman in Columbia, went on trial pleading not guilty to murdering his 50-year-old wife, Luz Margory Isaza Villegas at their home in Hemel Hempstead on the morning of January 13 this year.
He pleaded guilty to a charge of preventing the lawful and decent burial of his wife who was known to everyone as Margory.
Prosecutor Stuart Trimmer QC said in January of this year the couple who had three grown up children were going through a trial separation, although they were still living under the same roof at their home in Ritcroft Street in Hemel Hempstead.
In September of 2018 with the marriage in “turmoil” and failing, Margory had informed her husband she wanted to separate.
The couple had come to the UK as refugees with their three young children in 1999 from Columbia.
In the UK he worked as a “parking control officer.”
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 living and sleeping in separate rooms, but he would check her bags and mobile phone whenever he could, the court heard.
Mr Trimmer said that having killed his wife, the husband moved his car to the entrance to an alleyway that ran down the side of the home to the rear garden.
He said that enabled him to move the wife’s body which he had placed into a large suitcase, to his car using a trolley.
Out of sight from a neighbour’s CCTV camera he was able, said the prosecutor, to get the suitcase containing his wife into his car.
The jury was told the defendant had can petrol in the car, a yellow handled spade and the trolley cart.
One thing the CCTV camera did catch was the husband walking towards the car with the baby girl he and his wife had fostered back in November of 2018.
“At 2.06pm he is seen to leave the address again this time carrying the baby and approaches his car and drives off,” said Mr Trimmer.
The court was told from the house Mr Giraldo drove towards Berkhamsted and made his way to the nearby Northchurch Common.
Mr Trimmer said that afternoon a group of young people were on the common with their bikes.
The court was told they saw a small fire behind bushes close to where he was.
“They went away on their bikes and came back and saw the same small man with a shovel and filling in a hole,” said the prosecutor.
He told the jury that the accused, having got the suitcase and its contents behind the bushes, had then dug a shallow grave before placing it in the hole.
Next, the jury heard Giraldo poured petrol over the case and set fire to it before covering it up with the soil.
The prosecutor said by now the defendant’s children were trying to contact both him and their mother.
All the attempts to talk to her went to voicemail, the jury was told.
That afternoon said Mr Trimmer the defendant’s son Julian managed to get through to him, probably as he was driving away from the common.
“The son asked his father where the baby was and he said ‘I have the baby with me,” said Mr Trimmer.
“Almost certainly he had finished burning and burying his wife and almost certainly was driving home,” he said.
The jury heard that evening the accused collected his daughter Ana from Luton Airport after she had returned from her weekend break.
During the journey back to the family home in Hemel Hempstead she questioned him about her mother’s whereabouts, said the prosecutor who said she noticed his demeanour was “strange.”
At one point he is said to have told her “Yo lo Mate” which she understood to mean “I killed her.”
To his son Julian he is alleged to have said that day: “Your mum has gone, maybe she will never come back again”
Late that night, the police went to the defendant’s home having received a call from a member of his family that Margory was missing.
He was arrested the next day.
The court was told police were able to get a fix on the area of the common where the wife had been buried by tracking the movement of both her and her husband’s mobile phones on the day of her disappearance.
He said the suitcase was unearthed and inside, the 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”.
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 it was found to contain the defendant’s DNA.
Interviewed by officers, all he would say was that there had been an argument the day of her disappearance and after she had left the house he went out about 3pm to look for her in his car.
“In truth by 3pm he was about to get to the grave and about to take the body out of the car,” said Mr Trimmer.
He told the jury: “Only the defendant knows the events which led to the death of his wife. He has chosen not to tell anyone.”
The prosecutor said the husband was charged with the murder of his wife before her body had been found.
After he had been charged, the court heard he was asked again where his wife’s body was and replied: “I don’t know.”
Mr Trimmer said: “He knew perfectly well where she was. She was in that hole.”