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Patricia's family will seek custody of granddaughter if Elche teen 'cannot look after her'
PATRICIA Aguilar's parents say they will apply for custody of their granddaughter if medical and psychological reports show she is not capable of looking after her – even if they are only awarded temporary foster care and have to move to Lima for the duration.
As Patricia herself is now 19, meaning she is no longer a minor, they cannot decide for her, but are hoping she will recognise she was a victim of a sect and will be willing to return to her family – or be deported.
The missing teen from Elche (southern Alicante province) is in Perú illegally, as EU citizens can only stay in Latin America for up to three months without a visa or any other entry requirements, but as her daughter was born in Perú – in mid-June – she has Peruvian nationality by default.
Patricia left home just after her 18th birthday, having dropped large hints that it would be her 'last' and being very concerned that all her friends and family were present.
This was on January 7, 2017, and she was found last week in a hut in a perilous part of the Peruvian Amazon 'where even the police will not go', extremely thin and malnourished, with a baby girl who 'had never been vaccinated' and was 'covered in insect bites'.
The hut had a net instead of a roof 'to keep the snakes out'.
She had been groomed by cult leader Félix Steven Manrique, 34, who lured young women by telling them God had chosen them to repopulate the earth, and who initially kept his female captives in an apartment in Lima where neighbours described them as 'highly submissive', 'covered in bruises' and 'walking two steps behind him' whenever they left the building.
Later, they were taken to a series of huts in the Amazon.
The women were beaten and repeatedly raped, and their children were described as 'extremely aggressive' with other kids and also very underweight and malnourished.
Women and children alike were only fed once a week.
Patricia has a congenital heart condition, according to her cousin and family spokesperson Noelia Bru, meaning her pregnancy and labour would have been very high-risk – but she gave birth alone in the jungle with a local tribe woman to help deliver the baby, and no medical attention.
Her mother Rosa Poveda said to be very emotional but ecstatic that her daughter has been found alive, said that although she never truly lost hope after Patricia disappeared, she had many moments where she believed her to be dead.
The family has not yet been able to speak to Patricia or see their new granddaughter – they do not even know the baby's name – as she is in a women's shelter in Lima and undergoing extensive medical and psychological examinations.
It is not even clear as yet whether Patricia will be in denial about her ordeal and refuse to accept that she was groomed and captured.
Noelia Bru reveals that due to criminal investigation resources being so scarce in Perú and, in particular, in the Amazon region, the family has funded the search in full, partly from their own savings and partly from public appeals.
Her father Alberto Aguilar, currently in Perú, was due to fly home on July 12 but has chosen to extend his stay and, as his wife says, he 'will only come back to Spain if Patricia and the baby are with him'.
Alberto arranged for the headquarters of the cult, known as 'Gnosis', to be traced and paid to hire a safari vehicle for plain-clothes police officers to accompany him.
He then funded the cost of renting a hut next door to where Manrique and two other women, one of them said to be legally his wife, were based, and listened in to their conversations.
This was how they found out where Patricia and the children were – in a wooden cabin an hour away by vehicle.
Alberto paid for his daughter, the two other women and all the children to be flown to Lima, where they are now in shelters.
“But I didn't pay for his [Manrique's] flight – he can run behind a bus for all I care,” Alberto said.
Manrique was immediately arrested and remains in custody.
It turned out he had 25 mobile phone numbers currently active and used six of them to track his victims constantly, never leaving the room where he lived with two of the women.
He did not work, but lived off his women's efforts.
Patricia's family has condemned the lack of support from the Peruvian government – they apparently said they would get in touch with their foreign office 'days ago' and have not done so – meaning the Spanish embassy is their main hope.
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