Twists and turns have come to light in the ‘needle-in-a-haystack’ search for Madrid sixth-former Diana Quer, who went missing in the early hours of August 22 in the family’s regular holiday haunt in Galicia.
The 18-year-old was described as a ‘home-loving girl’ who ‘would never have run away voluntarily’, and her last contact by telephone was a WhatsApp message to a friend at home in Madrid to say a man of gypsy origin was following her at 02.30 and trying to attract her attention.
Described as tall and slim – 1.75m and 55 kilos, or 5’9” and 8st 9lb – with very long, dark hair and wearing a white top, black lace-up shoes, pink shorts and a hoodie, Diana was said not to have made it home that night as her mother would have heard her, given that she ‘sleeps with the door open’.
But her mother, also called Diana, has now admitted through her solicitor that her daughter must have returned home, since she found her pink shorts in her bedroom and a pair of jeans missing.
Diana Junior had taken her spare key to the holiday home in the seaside town of A Pobra do Caramiñal (A Coruña province) where she had spent every summer since she was three, but had left behind her DNI or national identity card and all her money, which was about €20 in cash.
It was initially thought she had been abducted during the walk home from the late-night open-air disco, part of the town’s local fiestas, where she had been partying with friends.
But the ‘man of gypsy origin’, who was found to be one of the fairground workers and had been trying to hit on young women all night in the same way as he did with Diana, has been interrogated and ruled out as a suspect.
And Diana’s mobile phone was switched off from around 04.00.
Police say they could not find any CCTV footage of her in the ‘missing’ hour and a half, and sniffer-dogs have not found any trace of her, alive or otherwise.
They say her GPS locator on her phone showed she was moving at speed down a number of streets, a route consistent with being in a car, although she had not yet passed her driving test.
Her mother said she had ‘very few friends’ in A Pobra and had spent most of the summer revising for her driving theory exam.
One witness claimed to have seen her wearing what looked like a black all-in-one suit and hanging around the Del Valle-Inclán Park in A Pobra at around 07.30.
Another female friend said Diana Quer is ‘very trusting’ and ‘could have easily got in a car with a total stranger’.
Meanwhile, her father, Juan Carlos Quer – who had been in Valencia at the time of his elder daughter’s disappearance – said he had been very concerned to learn about some of the people who called themselves Diana’s friends, insinuating they were a ‘bad crowd’ who behaved in ways that were ‘teetering on the wrong side of the law’.
And as a result of the parents’ regular appearances in the media in an attempt to find their daughter, the family’s private life has been, inevitably and painfully, exposed.
Juan Carlos Quer and Diana López-Pinel have been separated for several years, and Diana Quer and her younger sister, Valeria, 16, were apparently ‘very unhappy’ living with their mother.
Whilst Diana López-Pinel said arguments with the girls were ‘very rare’ and that they had a close relationship, Juan Carlos says he ‘only ever received calls for help’ from the girls.
Shortly before Diana’s disappearance, he had applied for custody of Valeria through the family court, which was – unfortunately for the family, given the circumstances – decided in his favour within days of her elder sister going missing.
Juan Carlos, a wealthy property and motor industry tycoon, said at the time that the custody battle was not related to the current case but that the verdict was ‘a long time coming’ and that Valeria was now much more settled.
It transpired that Valeria and her mother had had a bitter row the night before Diana went missing, and had ended up with the younger sister being taken by her mother to a walk-in clinic, suffering from a panic attack.
Valeria is said to self-harm and have regular anxiety attacks.
And more recently, it transpired that a few hours before Diana Quer went out to the disco at the fiestas, she and her mother, sister and mother’s live-in boyfriend were sitting on the terrace and a row broke out, during which Diana Junior apparently said: “One of these days, I’m getting out of here.”
Although at first, a voluntary flight was ruled out, police are now not so sure – but the fact she did not take any money, spare clothing, her DNI, or her passport which is kept under lock and key at their home near Madrid means this still seems unlikely.
Along with everyone’s worst fears about the Bachillerato (A-level) student is the possibility she may have been kidnapped for ransom, although neither parent has received a demand for money.
Both halves of the family live in a gated luxury urbanisation in Pozuelo de Alarcón – statistically Spain’s wealthiest town, home to footballers and politicians and where the average household income is a net €76,000 a year – in the Greater Madrid region, and Juan Carlos is a successful businessman.
Juan Carlos says he sends his elder daughter a WhatsApp message every night and urges her, if she has run away of her own volition, to make contact.
“We appreciate if you don’t want to tell us where you are – you’re 18 now – but at least tell us you’re okay,” he said publicly in the media.
“There are lots of people here who love you and are worried about you.”
Police refuse to comment on whether there are any suspects, recalling that the case remains sub judice and warning against speculation, given that ‘the family is suffering enormously’.
But they caution that ‘like most missing persons cases’, finding Diana is like searching for the proverbial ‘needle in a haystack’.