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Martin and Margo were in search of a simpler life; closer to nature and away from their bustling city routine in the Netherlands. In Santoalla, a tiny crumbling village in Northern Spain, and home to just one other family, they thought they had the answer. However, as tensions between the newcomers and the old family grew, the verdant valleys and lush green fields ultimately become the setting for a shocking crime that would take years to solve.

On a wet January morning, Martin left his home between 9 and 10 AM and drove to a nearby town to pick up supplies. A woman would later report seeing him making his way back along the rocky mountain roads to Santoalla. Margo never saw him again. The police found no sign of his body or his vehicle. Did his car tumble down into the valley? Did he simply abandon his wife? Alone and bewildered, holed up in her isolated home, Margo is not convinced. “It must have been something else.”

“The first few years we were very, very happy”, Margo beams, her eyes lightening with the fond memories. The couple tended their crops, raised animals, and immersed themselves in the simplicity of a rustic life off the grid. Bit by bit they built a home that was natural and sustainable: “we were realising our dream”.

However, Martin’s ambitions for development set him on a collision course with Manolo, the old patriarch living next door, who had dominated Santaolla for decades. Martin’s vision of reinvigorating the village through tourism was at odds with Manolo’s stoic resistance to change and his drive to rule over a decaying village he saw as rightfully his. Martin complains to a local news crew that “the old man here thinks he’s the sun king of the village…he’s the mayor of nothing.”

Tensions escalated when Martin sued the family in order to attain ‘common land rights’. If successful, Martin would be entitled to a share of the money paid to the town by lumber companies to fund development projects, wresting power and money away from Manolo. Two months later, Martin disappeared.

For years Margo has lived alone, her only company a local carpenter and the TV crews and journalists that periodically descend on the sleepy village in search of a scoop. Bereft of a husband and an explanation, she is left with only a mystery and a broken dream. “I can live with death…it’s hard to live with a question.” It is only long after the press have lost interest that her questions are unexpectedly answered, and the shocking truth is finally revealed.


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