Representatives of the family of Mario-Cesar Deus Yela, the Spanish national accused of murdering his three-year-old twins in Hout Bay on April 6, say the family is in “pain” and still in the dark about what exactly happened.
In an exclusive interview with the Sentinel at the V&A Waterfront on Sunday June 4, the family’s lawyer, Victoria Jacas Escarcelle, and Mr Yela’s brother, John, revealed the family were frustrated by delays in the case and were no closer to finding the truth.
They also painted a picture of Mr Yela as a loving father who had no history of mental illness. Aside from being a respected dentist, Mr Yela also holds the position of Macedonian honorary consul in Barcelona.
Mr Yela is accused of killing his twins, Maximo and Octavia, at the Princess Beach flats where he was staying while exercising his visitation rights. The children had also visited him in Spain in December.
The Wynberg Magistrate’s Court has previously heard that the twins’ mother, Julia Engelhorn, divorced from Mr Yela in 2015, had found them dead after arriving at his flat on Thursday April 6. Her ex-husband was scheduled to return home to Spain that afternoon.
“The reality is that Mario’s family is destroyed by what has happened,” Ms Escarcelle said.
“They never thought this was possible. Mario is a normal person, and everyone who knows him knows him as a person who loves his children and looks after them,” she said.
“This case has been suspended six times already, and we have been told that the investigation is not yet completed. The family is in a lot of pain because they don’t know anything.”
Ms Escarcelle and John Yela flew into Cape Town last Friday, June 2, before returning to Spain on Monday this week. At the weekend, they visited Mr Yela at Pollsmoor Prison’s medical wing, where he is being detained. They also consulted with Mr Yela’s South African lawyer, William Booth.
Mr Yela said his brother seemed “very tired and depressed”.
“When I spoke to him, he said he was not able to remember what happened. There is a lot of emotional pain for us.”
The family were also concerned about conditions in the prison hospital.
“This is not only bad for Mario but for all the prisoners. There are too many people there, and the food is very bad. We also know that gangs control the prison, so we are very worried.”
John Yela said the situation was putting him, his wife, child and mother under tremendous strain. “The absence of information is very painful,” he said.
Ms Escarcelle and John Yela said the situation was being exacerbated by what they said were conflicting media reports.
“Some reports indicated that the twins had been strangled, while others claimed they had they had been stabbed.
Ms Escarcelle said she was the family’s lawyer, but even she did not know the facts.
“There are different versions of what happened in the media, and that is making it more painful for the family and friends.
“It seems some people are bending things in the media, but the fact is that we just don’t know.”
There has been widespread speculation that Mr Yela either tried to commit suicide or was stabbed, due to injuries he sustained to his abdomen shortly after his arrest.
He was admitted to Victoria Hospital before being transferred to Pollsmoor’s medical facility.
However, the family representatives said it was “impossible” that he had tried to take his own life.
“He is a doctor, and would know how to take his own life,” Ms Escarcelle said.
They said he had, however, been suffering from kidney stone ailments, and while he had been treated, “the problem has not yet been solved”.
The family representatives said Mr Yela had many friends in Spain, all of whom were shocked by his arrest for the murder of his children.
“There are many of his friends who believe that he is innocent, and this was done by somebody else.
“There has never been any violence with Mario, and there have never been any mental health problems.”
John Yela said the pain felt by Ms Engelhorn over the death of her children was shared by the family, although for her it would be worse.
“That is why it is so important that we know the truth,” he said.
Mr Yela’s formal bail application has been set down for Monday July 3.
According to Mr Booth, court proceedings had been delayed due to an apparent backlog at the state mortuary, which had held up the autopsy results, as well as by the preparation of a mental health report on Mr Yela: Questions sent to Mr Booth this week were not answered at the time of going to press.
A representative for the lawyer said he had been very busy and emails had been forwarded to him by his personal assistant.
The Sentinel also sent questions to Juan Smuts, the lawyer speaking on behalf of Ms Engelhorn.
His legal secretary, Michelle Carstens, said he had been out of town and would be returning on Wednesday, too late for our deadline.