Latin America & Caribbean

Colombian serial killer confesses to 20 murders

Jaime Ivan Martinez Betancurt's was arrested and his home was searched Image copyright Colombian Prosecutor's Office
Image caption Jaime Ivan Martinez Betancurt had been living in Guarne for three and a half years

A Colombian man being held over the disappearance of a woman in January has confessed to murdering her and 19 other people, prosecutors say.

Maria Gladys Arango, 51, disappeared after going to meet someone in the town of Guarne, in Antioquia province.

Police managed to trace her last steps to a farm owned by 44-year-old Jaime Ivan Martinez Betancurt.

Under questioning, Mr Martinez admitted killing Ms Arango, his wife and two children and at least 16 other people.

The motive for the killings, which are thought to have happened over the past 10 years, is unclear. Most of the victims are thought to have been women.

Police said that when they arrived at Mr Martinez's farm they found Ms Arango's jewellery neatly stowed away in a plastic box.

Forensic experts are carrying out tests on human remains found buried in the grounds of the farm.

Confession

After initially denying having had anything to do with Ms Arango's disappearance, Mr Martinez told police he had strangled his family in November.

Neighbours said Mr Martinez had moved to Guarne, east of the city of Medellin, three and a half years ago.

They said they were suspicious of him, especially after they did not see his wife or seven-year-old daughter and five-year-old son for months.

Police said Mr Martinez used his wife's mobile phone to send messages to her family in her name, pretending she had left him with the children and moved to another area of the country.

Officials said they would go through the reports of missing people in Guarne and other places where Mr Martinez had lived to see which ones could have been his victims.

Last year, Colombians were shocked when a homeless man in the capital, Bogota, confessed to killing at least 11 women.

Colombia, where almost seven million people have been internally displaced by decades of violence and armed struggle, has had a number of cases of serial murders which have gone undetected for a long time.

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