Kidnapped wedding party killed in Mexico

Police searching for a bridegroom who was kidnapped at gunpoint as he walked his new wife out of a wedding ceremony said yesterday that their mutilated bodies, together with those of his brother and uncle, who were also kidnapped, had been found in the back of a pick-up truck abandoned in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez.

Rafael Morales Valencia, his brother Jaime, and his uncle Guadalupe Morales Arriola, were apparently tortured for several days before being killed and dumped in a Toyota Tacoma with Texan licence plates. They had been taken hostage on Friday night at the El Señor de la Misericordia Catholic church, moments after organ music signalled the end of the marriage service.

Violent killings by gangs linked to the drug trade have reached epidemic levels across much of northern Mexico, and in Juarez alone 856 have been reported so far this year. But Mr Valencia's murder has nonetheless shocked the jaded public: previously, church property was considered to be one of the few no-go areas for organised criminals.

"I'm confused, frustrated and in despair. My wife, she is devastated," said the victim's father, who is also called Rafael. "I never thought something like this would happen to us. He was married like for five minutes, and then everything happened. There was no reason for this to occur."

All three of the kidnap victims were US citizens, who had legally emigrated from Juarez several years ago, so the FBI is now involved in the hunt for Valencia's killers. Sources at the agency described the attack, telling the El Paso Times how gunmen burst into the church and ordered to congregation to lie face down on the floor.

One man who attempted to flee the building was shot in the back and killed. The three hostages were pulled from the bridal party and frogmarched to a car. Unusually for a kidnapping that seems to have involved score-settling, no ransom note was ever received.

An estimated 4,300 killings have been linked to organised crime in Mexico since 2006, when the country's president, Felipe Calderon, launched a "war" on drug cartels which control routes by which cocaine is smuggled from South America, where it is produced, to the US.

Though several prominent cartel leaders have been arrested or killed, that has sparked fierce fighting between rival gangs seeking to take control of newly-vacant territories. Juarez, where 2,600 people have died, is a particular flashpoint because of huge profits on offer to anyone who can control local routes over the Rio Grande to El Paso. Transporting cocaine across the US border increases its street value by 3,000 per cent.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
News
peopleComedian launches stinging attack on PM
Life and Style
The collection displayed Versace’s softer side, with models wearing flowers and chiffon dresses in unusual colourings
fashionVersace haute couture review
News
Andy Murray shakes hands after defeating Andreas Seppi of Italy in the third round of Wimbledon, Saturday 4 July, 2015
Wimbledon
Arts and Entertainment
'The Leaf'
artYes, it's a leaf, but a potentially very expensive one
News
Yoko Ono at the Royal Festival Hall for Double Fantasy Live
people'I wont let him destroy memory of John Lennon or The Beatles'
News
Could Greece leave the EU?
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'