A body found in a bag 3,000 feet down on the Atlantic Ocean seabed off Tenerife is ‘almost certainly’ that of missing six-year-old girl Olivia Gimeno, Spanish authorities said.
The schoolgirl has not been seen since being snatched with her toddler sister, Anna, by her fugitive father on April 27.
Interpol issued so-called ‘yellow notices’ for the girls last month – a step to help locate missing persons, often minors, or help identify people who are unable to identify themselves.
Olivia Gimeno has not been seen since being snatched with her toddler sister, Anna (pictured together), by her fugitive father on April 27
Anna and Olivia disappeared with their father Tomas (pictured), sparking a huge search operation
Olivia and Anna’s mother, who is divorced from their father, Tomas, alleges he told her she would never see him or her daughters again.
Now, authorities say a body, thought to be Olivia’s, has been found in a sports bag deep underwater and weighed down by an anchor.
The discovery has also sparked fears however that the body of one-year-old Anna may never be found if it was in the holdall.
The girls’ mother, Beatriz Zimmerman, has been informed of the discovery.
A spokesman for the investigating magistrate who is in charge of the ongoing judicial probe provided an update on Thursday night.
He said: ‘Pending more conclusive forensic tests, the body could almost certainly correspond to that of Olivia G, the youngster who vanished on April 27 with her one-year-old sister and their father.
‘The body was found by a robot from the search vessel Angeles Alvarino at midday today around 1,000 metres below the water some three miles off the Tenerife coast.
‘It was inside a sports bag attached to an anchor. Next to it was another empty sports bag.
‘The body was taken to dry land for an autopsy. The vessel called Angeles Alvarino is continuing its search.’
The tragic update comes just hours after a Spanish rescue ship found an oxygen cylinder and a duvet cover in the sea, with a child safety car seat belonging to Anna also previously spotted floating in the water.
Police have been probing the theory that Gimeno was helped by at least one other suspect in carrying out a premeditated kidnap, local reports suggest.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez also reacted to the discovery on Twitter.
He wrote: ‘I cannot begin to imagine the pain of the mother of little Anna and Olivia, who disappeared in Tenerife, following the terrible news we have just heard.
‘I send a hug and my love and that of my whole family, who today show solidarity with Beatriz and her loved ones.’
The Canary Islands’ president Angel Victor Torres added: ‘Weeks hoping to receive hopeful news and today we receive the worst possible, one that freezes our soul, about the little girls from Tenerife, Anna and Olivia.
‘Our condolences, encouragement and strength for their mum Beatriz, her family and friends. Canary Islands devastated.’
Interpol issued so-called ‘yellow notices’ for the girls last month – a step to help locate missing persons, often minors, or help identify people who are unable to identify themselves
A wanted poster in Spain appealing for help in tracking down the father, Tomas Gimeno
A huge social media campaign was launched when the disappearance first emerged, in a desperate effort to help and support the girls’ mother.
The appeal was backed by a number of high-profile figures, including football star Cristiano Ronaldo’s partner Georgina Rodriguez.
In a post to her 24 million Instagram followers, Ms Rodriguez wrote: ‘I want to use my reach on this great social network to make sure this reaches as many people as possible.
‘These are two sisters who are being searched for in Spain and abroad. They are called Olivia and Anna and are aged six and one.
‘Their mum is seeking maximum publicity for this video to try to find them as soon as possible and bring them home.
‘I hope with all my heart that the girls are found safe and well and can hug their mum again soon.’
Authorities have said throughout the investigation that they were exploring all theories, including the possibility of the girls being dead, though relatives desperately clung to hope of them being found safe and well.
Gimeno, who had never accepted Ms Zimmerman’s relationship with a new Belgian partner after they broke up, took the sisters without the mother’s permission and departed Tenerife on a boat at the end of April, local reports said.
The vessel was later found empty off Puertito de Guimar, which is on the east corner of the island just over 10 miles south of Santa Cruz.
Police loaned a boat from the Spanish Institute of Oceanography to search for clues around where they last detected signal from Gimeon’s mobile.
Olivia and Anna’s mother, who is divorced from their father, Tomas, alleges he told her she would never see him or her daughters again
Now, authorities say a body, thought to be Olivia’s, has been found in a sports bag deep underwater and weighed down by an anchor
A spokesman for the Civil Guard said previously: ‘This afternoon the boat belonging to the Spanish Oceanographic Institute, Angeles Alabrino, which was in Tenerife combing the sea bed following the disappearance on April 27 of Tomas Gimeno with his daughters Anna and Olivia, found human remains.
‘Those remains correspond with the body of a minor and were discovered in the search area that had been determined by investigators.
‘The remains have been taken to the Forensic Medicine Institute in Santa Cruz where they will be analysed for the purposes of identification.’