On May 23, Spanish police arrested four people accused of hanging a colored mannequin bearing the image of Madrid footballer Vinicius, with the banner "Madrid hates Real", at a bridge near Real Madrid's Ciudad Deportiva on January 26. The four suspects were later released, charged with "incitement to racial hatred" among other charges. They have also received a restraining order that prevents them from approaching the Brazilian player of Real Madrid but also from accessing the Santiago Bernabeu stadium or any other field of La Liga.
On Tuesday, the Spanish press revealed the underside of this particular investigation called "Operation Sandra". It was during a radio program entitled "Julia en la Onda" on the Onda Cero channel that these revelations were made. During this program, two specialized journalists retraced the investigative process out of the ordinary.
The mannequin, hanging from the bridge and passed off as Vinicius, was actually an inflatable doll. Initially, investigators found the doll and a 16-meter-wide banner reading "Madrid hates Real", one of the slogans used by the Frente Atlético (Atlético de Madrid's ultra group). However, the Frente Atlético has always denied having anything to do with this racist attack.
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With the door of the official supporters' track closing quickly, local police began pulling the wire from the inflatable doll to "look for valid footprints to compare," but of the 10 prints found, only three were complete. "The world of inflatable dolls is a bit complicated, because they are often sold second-hand, there are people who use the same doll... So fingerprints lead nowhere. So the police are trying to follow the trail of the main piece of evidence, this black doll with Vinicius' T-shirt," explains one of the journalists on air.
A model sold for 24 euros
For the authorities, the inflatable doll would be a model called Sandra, sold at 24 euros in 58 online stores and dozens of physical stores in Madrid. Police tried to count all the shops to trace potential buyers, reporters said.
The model of inflatable doll allegedly used by the authors of a racist message against Vinicius.
The investigators could have given up in front of the immensity of the task but it is finally from social networks that will come the decisive clue. Scrutinizing social platforms, investigators located a member of Frante Atlético nicknamed "Ángel" who on the night of the match against Real Madrid, published an image of the inflatable doll with the Real Madrid shirt in front of a wall.
The inflatable doll of the crime.
Police then managed to locate the wall near a clearly identifiable bar. In the same vein, the authorities cross-checked this information with the location of the mobile phone of this "Ángel". And the latter of course "matched" on the famous bridge of Valdebebas at the end of the night, where the model with the effigy of Vinicius Jr had been hanged.
On this basis, they were also able to locate two other members of the Frente Atlético and another young man. After tracing their credit card purchases, police discovered that they had been drinking beers together before meeting again to commit their crime.
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DNA tests carried out on the inflatable doll made it possible to formally identify two men, one of whom was identified as the famous "Angel".
Ironically the story and "Operation Sandra", the model of the inflatable doll used by the suspects was ultimately not what the police were looking for. It was a dark doll with a height of 1.50 m called "Indian".