Spanish farmer accused of murdering lost American on Camino de Santiago pilgrimage

Tom Porter
Denise Thiem

A Spanish farmer has gone on trial accused of killing an American woman who had got lost on the popular Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail.

Miguel Angel Muñoz Blas, 40, appeared in court in León on Tuesday (14 March) accused of the murder of a 41-year-old Denise Pikka Thiem, from Arizona, The Local reported.

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Thiem went missing in August 2015 in a rural part of the north-western province while following the famed pilgrimage, whose routes lead to the city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.

Five months later Munoz was arrested when Thiem's body was found on his land.

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Munoz's lawyer claimed shortly after his arrest that his client had said Thiem had appeared on his property lost and asking for help.

"He claims she asked him to show her the way, then got nervous and somehow, and this has not been made clear, it ended with him hitting her," his lawyer, Vicente Prieto, said.

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After his arrest, Munoz led police to the grave where he had buried her body. According to the coroner's report, she had died as a result of serious brain injuries caused by repeated beatings.

After initially confessing to the killing, he now claims that he only found the body.

Police say that Munoz put up fake yellow arrows used to mark the trail to deceive pilgrims.

Munoz is also accused of stealing more than $1,100 (£905) Thiem was carrying and allegedly exchanging them for euros at a local bank days after she disappeared, according to court documents seen by The Associated Press.

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