A POOL of blood slowly spread across the tiled bathroom floor, as Carlos Carrascosa desperately tried to revive his unconscious wife María Marta García Belsunce, but tragically to no avail.
When sociologist and TV star María Marta, 50, was found in a blood-filled bathtub in her country club home on Sunday, October 27, 2002, officials initially believed that she had fallen and hit her head on a tap – but the truth was much more sinister.
After her family became suspicious, an autopsy was performed and it was discovered that María had been shot in the head five times before being dumped in the bath.
Not only that, but it appeared someone had tried to cover up the truth – with crucial evidence "accidentally" flushed away, a fake death certificate declaring she died of "non-traumatic cardiac arrest" signed, and "superglue" chemicals found in and around her bullet wounds.
Her husband of 31 years Carlos was later tried and acquitted for her murder, and her family were accused with covering up the crime – yet all were later acquitted, and the case remains a mystery.
It was a killing that shocked Argentina, and wild theories about what happened still to this day make it one of the most talked about unsolved crimes.
Now, as the mysterious case is the focus of new four-part Netflix docuseries called Carmel: Who killed María Marta?, we take a closer look at what happened…
An Agatha Christie-style murder mystery
On the day of her death, María Marta had been due to play tennis with friends within the grounds of the luxurious gated community in which she and successful stockbroker Carlos lived.
However the match was rained off, so she returned home early to prepare for a massage appointment, while Carlos watched the football at her half-sister Irene Hurtig’s house with brother-in-law Guillermo Bartoli.
One theory is that María’s death could have been the result of a robbery gone wrong, with María returning to the house early, and disturbing the culprits.
But what made the crime so shocking was where it had happened – the Carmel Country Club was a private estate of mansions, owned by wealthy residents, and the secure compound was surrounded with secure fencing and security cameras.
This meant whoever killed María would have had to be let in by security – or already be within the compound.
Speaking on the show, former Carmel administrator Julio Teran says: “Getting in wasn’t feasible from the outside. No one ever thought that events could happen inside.
"I’m not saying it can’t be done but no one ever stops to wonder which neighbour will kill another neighbour or rob another house.”
A ‘violent and dubious death’
In the midst of all the chaos and people going in and out of the house, the first paramedic on the scene, Dr Gauvry Gordon, recalled noticing large blood clots in the bathtub and near her body, and said he had no doubt María Marta had suffered an accident, a theory her family accepted.
During the subsequent investigation however, it emerged when the second emergency services doctor on the scene, Santiago Biasi, is questioned, he tells an entirely different story to her family and Dr Gauvry Gordon, revealing that when he examined her head he found at least three holes in her skull and he told the family to call the police.
He described his findings as a “violent and dubious death” in a report, but while he regarded it as a crime scene that shouldn’t be tampered with, the bathroom was cleaned up and the police don’t initially attend.
A sneaking suspicion
As the family mourned and held a vigil for María Marta, according to them it was her brother John who was the first to express concerns about how María really died, becoming suspicious because she was wearing trainers – so how did she slip and bang her head?
Speaking on the Netflix show, John says: “I look at her sneakers and ask my dad, ‘Dad, how did she slip?’ Slipping with sneakers and ending up dead?
“That’s when I started pestering people… And everyone said to me, ‘Actually the doctors left saying it was an accident. They examined her.'”
He wasn’t the only one to feel like things didn’t add up, and so an autopsy was requested by some of her family a month later, after she was buried in her family crypt.
However there are accounts that tell a different story and cast doubt on this version of events.
Following María Marta’s death, the community president Alberto White was notified that the police were on their way, and reportedly called to tell her family.
According to the documentary, a close family friend then asked him to stop the police entering the compound, and said to bribe them if needed.
Hidden bullet holes ‘superglued’ shut
After her body was exhumed, the biggest shock came after the autopsy carried out on December 2, which made the startling bullet discovery.
Prosecutor Diego Molina Pico says: “I never would have imagined what came next.
“I get a call from an examiner… He called and said, ‘We found two holes in the head. Caused by what, we don’t know. A hammer maybe. It could be something.”
Later he called back and revealed there were three more holes.
The wounds were difficult to access due to the presence of cyanoacrylate, a substance found in glue which suggested the wounds could have been tampered with, which was argued could have been down to a lice shampoo she often washed her hair with which contained the same chemical.
In the autopsy, María Marta’s body also revealed marks consistent with a fight.
Dodgy death certificate
Believing there'd been no foul play at the time, the family signed a pre-made death certificate to make the burial process easier.
However the information was false. It claimed María Marta died in Buenos Aires in an apartment in Recoleta instead of at the country club, and the cause of death non traumatic cardiorespiratory arrest – as if she’d had a heart attack.
She was then buried in her well-connected family's tomb, and María Marta’s childhood friend Ines Ongay, who did not live in Carmel, later testified in court that family friend Nora “Pichi” Taylor admitted to her that they had “paid” to have things done the way Carlos wanted them.
In Ines’ testimony, that included paying to have a proper burial and avoid an autopsy – something Nora strongly denied.
Flushing evidence down the toilet
Another event that aroused prosecutors’ suspicions about María Marta’s family was the fact that her brothers John and Horacio, when moving María Marta, found a small piece of lead underneath her body.
Horacio later described it to police as a "thingy", but not giving it any more thought and believing it at the time to be a shelf lug, John flushed it away.
It was a crucial piece of evidence.
Because the house had a septic tank, prosecutors went looking – spending nine hours searching through human excrement and using a metal detector – to locate the small item.
A ballistics expert confirmed it was the tip of a deformed bullet, which revealed the murder weapon must have been a .32 caliber gun, which was never found.
A blood-splattered wall
Connecting the dots – the fake death certificate, the calls to bribe the police, the flushing of evidence, cleaning up the crime scene and blood splatters on the wall, prosecutor Diego began to question the family.
Carlos’ alibi had been at Guillermo Bartoli’s house, his brother-in-law watching football. But ground staff’s testimonies revealed once the game was over Carlos had been elsewhere, at the clubhouse, and the timeline didn’t match up.
However there were other theories, and witness statements, which cast the finger of suspicion elsewhere.
‘She seemed quite nervous’
It was later revealed a lockbox María Marta looked after for the charity she worked for was missing after her murder, and one theory is she interrupted a robbery.
Unpopular neighbour Nicolas Pachelo – who had a history of burglary in gated communities – was also quickly named as a person of suspicion.
But he was only ever interviewed as a witness in the initial investigation.
In the months before María Marta’s death, things had gone missing, like patio furniture and golf clubs – and her dog Tom had been stolen for ransom and she was sure Pachelo was responsible.
Friend Ines also suggests María Marta was worried about something in the run-up to her death, saying: “The last time I saw María Marta she seemed quite nervous, and that stuck with me. That feeling.”
‘An enigmatic woman in pink’
To add to the mystery, a woman dressed in a pink maid uniform was seen by neighbours and spent an hour and a half at the crime scene – but that day no service personnel worked at the residence, and no one knew who she was.
The family had a facial composite drawn up – which they believed matched Pachelo’s wife’s description.
María Marta’s family also claim certain lines of enquiry were not investigated – such as security cameras weren’t working that day, and an unknown car with a fake plate was seen but not followed up.
Incest rumours to cartel connections
As well as the facts and evidence, the Argentinian media latched on to the story, and wild rumours also began to swirl around the case.
One completely fabricated claim was that Carlos and María Marta were siblings, while other stories claimed the family had drug cartel connections, and Carlos was laundering money for them.
Guilty then acquitted
Carlos went on trial for Maria Marta’s murder, and was acquitted in 2007.
But two years later, the Appeals Court overturned the result and found him guilty.
He spent five years in jail before the Supreme Court acquitted him in 2016 after DNA analysis found that he did not match any of the blood samples at the crime scene and he was freed.
Widower Carlos, now 75, features heavily in the Netflix documentary along with María Marta’s family who are keen to prove their innocence, and he says: “My goal is to know who did it. That’s what I’m living for.”
According to the documentary, while the case still so far remains unsolved, a new trial will be held with Nicolas Pachelo and two security guards as the main defendants.
Whatever happened, it’s clear María Marta’s brutal death was a tragedy no one will forget.
Carmel: Who Killed María Marta? is now available to watch on Netflix.
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