Latin America & Caribbean

Honduras beauty queen Maria Jose Alvarado found dead

Media captionThe BBC's William Marquez says Honduras will be shocked by the deaths

The bodies of Honduran beauty queen Maria Jose Alvarado, 19, and her sister have been found nearly a week after the two women disappeared.

Ms Alvarado and Sofia Trinidad, 23, vanished on Thursday after being seen leaving a party near the northern city of Santa Barbara.

They were shot and their bodies buried in a field by a river, police say.

Two men have been arrested, and one of them has reportedly confessed to killing and burying the women.

Ms Alvarado had been due to compete in the Miss World contest in London.

The organisers of the contest joined in paying tribute to the dead women.

The impoverished Central American state's record of violent crime has again come under scrutiny.

'Confession'

Plutarco Ruiz, said to be the boyfriend of Ms Trinidad, was detained along with another man, Aris Maldonado.

Mr Ruiz confessed to shooting the two women and then burying their bodies with the help of Mr Maldonado, Honduras National Police director Gen Ramon Sabillon told media.

The bodies were found in the village of Cablotales, near the River Aguagua, police announced earlier.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Police officers in bullet-proof jackets escorted Plutarco Ruiz (second from left ) after his arrest
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Police detained Aris Maldonado in Santa Barbara

The two women were last seen alive in a car without a licence plate as they left a birthday party on 13 November.


Miss World contender

Image copyright None
  • Crowned Miss Honduras in April 2014, Maria Jose Alvarado was due to fly to London for the Miss World contest
  • Her profile on the Miss World site records that she was a student with "aspirations of a career in government, specifically as a diplomat"
  • Quote from profile: "I encourage you to make of Honduras a travel destination, the best is yet to come!"

Full Miss World profile


Gen Sabillon said Mr Ruiz had confessed and led the authorities to the burial spot. No comment from Mr Maldonado was available immediately.

Weapons and a car have been seized as part of the investigation and a "protected witness" has been providing valuable information, National Bureau of Criminal Investigation chief Leandro Osorio said.

'Devastating' loss

"They were not very astute about assessing the people around them," the sisters' mother, Teresa Munoz, told Honduran broadcaster Televicentro, according to AP News agency.

"They were just friendly. They were taken out by people they hadn't known very long."

Organisers of the Miss World pageant issued a statement expressing their condolences, and announcing a tribute this weekend in honour of the dead women.

"We are devastated by this terrible loss of two young women, who were so full of life," they said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Maria Jose Alvarado and Sofia Trinidad at this time of grief."

According to a UN report, Honduras has the world's highest homicide rate, with 90.4 people murdered per 100,000 of the population.


Honduran press review - BBC Monitoring

The story has dominated the front pages of the main Honduran newspapers since the disappearance of the women was announced on Saturday.

All the major papers feature pictures of the beauty queen on their front pages - in which she is seen in formal gowns or bathing suits wearing the Miss Honduras sash or her crown.

In a story headlined "The shattered dream of Maria Jose to represent Honduras at Miss World", La Prensa reports that the 19-year-old had already packed her bags to travel to London this week to represent Honduras at the Miss World pageant in December.

The paper says Honduras has decided not to send another contestant in her place as a sign of respect.


Ms Alvarado had worked as a model on the game show El Show X O da Dinero, hosted by television personality and former presidential candidate Salvador Nasrallah.

"A lot of girls die this way, but because they're not famous, it doesn't get the attention and the crimes go unpunished," Mr Nasrallah said.

"She was a girl of good principles who fell into a trap, a game with guns, and ended up a victim of a violent system.''

Before confirmation of the women's deaths, supporters believing that they had been abducted had protested in Santa Barbara, demanding their release.

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