David Guerrero. The child prodigy who disappeared

David Guerrero Guevara was considered one of Spain’s greatest new talents in painting.

The “child prodigy” of Malaga saw his works exhibited in the city’s biggest gallery at the age of 13. His talent, the colors he used and his imagination made him stand out. On April 6, 1987, the “little painter,” as the Spanish press called him, was scheduled to give an interview to a Radio Popular journalist.

He hurried out of his house at 6:30 in the afternoon and never returned.

David Guerrero was born in October 1973.

The disappearance

David never made it to the gallery to do the interview. He was also absent from the painting class he had immediately after. His family reported him missing the same evening when his father drove to pick him up from the art studio and couldn’t find him. The authorities mobilized immediately.

Within the first 24 hours, they concluded that the 13-year-old disappeared somewhere along the 250-meter route that separated his home from the bus stop. There were no witnesses who saw him at the bus stop or inside the bus. Not of course in the gallery or the workshop. The police, having no other evidence, began questioning all of David’s friends and relatives. All they learned was that the little boy had a stomach ache that day and was quite nervous about the interview.

As expected, he had no enemies. The possibility of kidnapping for ransom was also ruled out. On the one hand, no one contacted the family. On the other hand, the Guerreros got by on the meager salary of their father who worked in the textile industry.

After a few months, despite intensive investigations and the publicity the disappearance received, no usable evidence had emerged. So the case was dropped

Portrait of David’s father, as he had painted him.

The Swiss

The case was reopened 3 years later. Hema Calderon, a classmate of David’s from the art workshop, recalled that a few days before he disappeared, the 13-year-old had given her a painting. It was a portrait of a middle-aged man with a hooked nose. “He’s a Swiss I met,” he had told her without giving any further information.

The police considered the evidence important enough to reopen the investigation.

They searched the records of the Málaga lodges and surroundings and gathered all the Swiss patrons at the time of David’s disappearance. There was one that stood out, both in appearance, but also because of a testimony. A maid of the hotel where he was staying testified that while cleaning his room 3 years ago, she had found a paper towel with the following written on it:

David Guerrero. Wellin

It was the first name and the neighborhood where the 13-year-old lived. Immediately, in collaboration with Interpol, the Spanish Police launched procedures to locate the man. Once again they hit a wall. The Swiss, whose details have never been released, had died just a year earlier. Of course, they searched his house in Switzerland, but they found nothing related to David’s disappearance.

So the case went back on file, where it would remain for the next 30 years.

David Guerrero, disappearance, Spain, Malaga

One of David’s last works before he disappeared.

The “death” of David

Although there was no progress in the search, the family never lost hope that David was alive and would one day return. They decided to declare him legally dead only in 2016, shortly after his father’s death.

“It’s just a bureaucratic process, so we can continue. It doesn’t mean we’re not still waiting for David to return.”

Indeed, the family continued to search, regardless of the police. His brother, Jorge, worked closely with a journalist named Daniel Carretero. They had asked to be given access to all the case files – five boxes of documents, interrogation reports and other evidence. What impressed them was a deposition, which had never been made public. A neighbor, who was no longer alive, had said that he saw the 13-year-old in the painting workshop that afternoon.

Then Jorge and Daniel started looking for David’s old classmates and teachers to ask them what they remembered from that time. Soon they received an anonymous phone call:

“Find Hervasius, from the lab.”

David Guerrero, disappearance, Spain, Malaga

Self-portrait of the “little painter”. He made it in 1986.

The “weirdest disappearance”

The anonymous tip received by David’s brother and the reporter was deemed serious enough to reopen the case. No one remembered “Hervasios”, but the police thought it was a nickname. He did not exclude the possibility that it was the same Swiss who was depicted in the sketch. Interpol called the case “one of the strangest disappearances of all time”. And this is because, despite the immediate and massive mobilization of authorities, family and the world, the evidence was almost zero. It was as if the earth opened up and swallowed him.

Unofficially, for the authorities the prevailing version is that David was kidnapped by a pedophile ring. The family seems to think so too.

However, since 2016, the case remains open, although no investigations are carried out.

From time to time, his works are even exhibited and remind of his talent and history.

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