Two Peruvians arrested in relation to disappearance of Spaniard Nathaly Salazar

E arlier this week, it was reported that two men had been arrested in relation to the disappearance of Nathaly Salazar Ayala, who went missing in the Cusco area two weeks ago. In their statements, they claimed that she died in a zip lining accident in Moray, and that they tried to hide her body in the Urubamba river out of fear. However, there are doubts about the veracity of their account.

Salazar, 28, grew up in Spain and had come to South America to have the backpacking adventure of a lifetime. She began with the country of her birth, Ecuador, and was making her way south. She reached Cusco in December, but was last seen leaving her hotel on the morning of January 2nd, asking a receptionist how to get to nearby Moray. She was reported missing shortly after when her family had not heard from her.

On the 13th of January, Peruvian police located a van in the district of Maras, which they had been searching for in connection with her disappearance. Maras is the place which Salazar had last informed her family that she would be visiting. One of the suspects, Jainor Huila Huamán, 19, was apprehended inside the van and did not resist arrest. Shortly after Luzgardo Pillcopata Amaru, 21, was also arrested.

They both admitted “incidental” involvement in Nathaly’s death, as well as colluding to hide evidence. The two claimed that the young woman died instantly in a crash whilst out zip lining. They said that after she had died they became scared that no one would believe it was an accident, and decided to get rid of her body by throwing it in the Vilcanota-Urubamba River, near the Macchupicchu Cachimayo electric power station between 6.30 and 7 pm on the January 2nd. However, the Foreign Intervention Team of the Spanish national police have yet to find Nathaly’s body despite searching in this area.

A family who were on the zip line at the same time as Nathaly also testified to the police. Apparently it had been raining heavily, and a couple with two young children were trapped on the zip line. Nathaly offered to help the two guides evacuate the family, as she had professional experience in adventure sports. According to police sources, Nathaly slipped, and at the same time as one of the men was approaching on the zip line and crashed into her. The man still had injuries to his face and a dislocated arm as a result of the crash.

However, Nathaly Salazar’s family remain skeptical as to whether this account is true. Salazar’s sister Tamara stated, “There are many doubts and uncertainties- family and friends do not believe this was an accident. If so, where is the blood?” She believes there are inconsistencies in the statements of the detainees and that they are lying. She also claimed that she didn’t believe the account owing to the fact that Nathaly had completed an advanced course in physical activities and was working in Venta el Moro in outdoor activities, including rafting, canoeing and zip lining. “I have zip lined with my sister before and she knew what she was doing.”

Tamara also states that she believes the two men should “pay for what they have done,” because it was clear to her that “even if it was an accident, at no point did they try to help her or save her, rather they just disposed of her body.”

Salazar’s sister also denied reports saying that Nathaly had known one of the detainees, explaining that she had booked the activity over the internet, and that one of the men was waiting in a nearby town to take her to the zip line site. The company in question has so far failed to provide their license for zip lining, but they claim that the arrested men were not employees and therefore the company is not liable for any responsibility.

Nathaly’s sister was not alone in doubting the testimony of the detainees, and so Peruvian police set up a reconstruction of events yesterday with the help of the Spanish national police and experts in zip lining and other similar activities. Nathaly Salazar’s parents were due to be present. It is hoped that the results of the reconstruction will shine light on what really happened.

In her sister’s words, the family want to find her body so that “this nightmare can end and we can finally know the truth.” For now, the search for Nathaly Salazar’s body continues.

Author: Nicola Phillips
Photo: Nathaly Salazar Ayala

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