Netflix’s latest true-crime mystery deep-diving into the murder of two young girls
Opening shot: The pristine beaches of a seemingly perfect Costa del Sol coastline in Andalusia, Spain. Somewhere along that beachfront roams a sexual predator about to change the lives of several families forever.
Murder by the Coast, recently released on Netflix, is a true-crime mystery focusing on the death of Rocío Wanninkhof in 1999. Under Spanish director Tània Balló, the documentary explores the twisting story of a missing teenage girl, a frenzied media that stirred resentment and prejudices, and a woman wrongly convicted of murder.
The media itself has become a familiar villain in true crime cases. Their aggressive and menacing role in the car accident death of Diana, Princess of Wales, is still hotly debated.
Public interest is piqued even higher when crimes involve a missing and possibly murdered child. Their need to get the highest ratings in a high-profile case can lead to the sensationalization of the story and the accused leaving the public with judgments that are already formed.
From the American case of JonBenét Ramsey to the Australian tragedy of Lindy Chamberlain, it has become obvious that media criticism can influence the verdict in a trial, especially when family members are suspects. In nearby Portugal, the now infamous disappearance of Madeleine McCann in 2007 was the poster child for media misconduct. They hounded the parents and the police, resulting in years of hardship for the grieving family, who were never charged with the murder.
The media was quick to jump on Rocío’s case, labeling her mother’s ex-partner as a scorned lover who killed her in an act of revenge. The media focused more on Dolores Vázquez’s sexuality than the actual evidence pointing towards her innocence, and thus began a public trial well before she faced the courtroom.
A Same-Sex Affair Leads to Accusations
If you followed this story on other true crime shows, you might have only gotten half the truth. Rocio’s mother had been in a long-term relationship with a woman that ended several years before Rocio’s disappearance (and later discovered death). Her mother’s ex-partner, Dolores Vázquez, was like a second mother to Rocio. She became a prime suspect in the case after it was learned she had been fighting with her mother over financial matters.
The press quickly zeroed in on Vázquez and the coverage was ugly. They painted her as a “dominant” and “masculine” lesbian woman, which they framed in the most negative of terms. Afterward, despite only having circumstantial evidence, a jury ended up convicting her of the murder.
As any good true crime fan knows, the story isn’t over if the criminal is behind bars halfway through the documentary. It can start to feel a bit procedural as if you already know what’s coming … right up until the twist.
Without giving away any spoilers, a new event unfolds and the people of the community (and the frenzied press) learn some shocking information.
You’ll be hooked on this one straight through to the end and it will leave you with one simple question: did she do it?
Streaming now on Netflix.
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