The hunt for 19-year-old beauty queen Allison, and her 53-year-old mother Marie-Josée appeared to take a disturbing turn on Monday when French media reported that police had found traces of the younger woman's blood in a freezer belonging to Francisco Benitez.
Citing police sources, France 3 television had earlier reported that investigators in the south-western city of Perpignan, found traces of both women's blood in a freezer at the family home, as well as in a washing machine at a French foreign legion barracks where Benitez worked.
Latest reports, however, indicate that only blood matching the DNA of Allison, and not her mother, was found.
The discovery was made some two weeks ago, but the DNA comparisons came back on Monday.
Evidence found by judicial police in Perpignan suggests that the freezer was carefully scoured and washed, along with a carpet, a few days after the woman mysteriously disappeared, according to France 3.
Furthermore, investigators found the two women's passports in the family home, undermining Francisco Benitez's claim that they had left Perpignan permanently.
Since the mother and daughter disappeared their Facebook and Twitter pages have gone quiet and neither has used their bank accounts or answered their phones. However a suitcase and various personal belongings were found missing from their home.
The pair also left behind their car and pet dog, a sign, say the family’s neighbours, that they did not intend to stay out long.
Benitez hanged himself on August 5th, after weeks of speculation that he had played a sinister role in the disappearance of the women.
A Spaniard who was granted French nationality, Benitez left a letter and video behind, and also sent emails to his parents, bosses and friends to tell them he could not stand the suspicions weighing on him.
He said he was innocent and declared his love for his daughter, sources close to the case said.
“We are a family, like every other family, with highs and lows. People who really know me, know that Allison is my life. Today, I have a lot of uncertainty…A lot of different things are going through my head. I’m hanging on, and hanging on, but I’m at the point of exploding,” Benitez said tearfully in a video published by Paris Match after he was found hanged at his workplace.
In the intervening weeks, fears were raised when it emerged a former mistress of Benitez had gone missing in 2004, under chillingly similar circumstances to the disappearance of his wife and daughter in mid-July.
Firstly, the last sign of life from Benitez’s mistress, the Brazilian Simone de Oliveira Alves, was a text message sent from her phone, telling Benitez she was leaving him.
Benitez told police the two had had a fierce argument, which de Oliveira’s sister Ivana recently suggested could have happened after Simone discovered Benitez hadn’t yet separated from his wife Marie-Josée.
Ivana even claimed that her sister had been pregnant with Benitez’s child at the time she disappeared.
An excerpt from De Oliveira’s official missing person’s report, listing her as “a South American-looking woman, 1.75 metres in height.” Photo: Screengrab/Avis de Recherche
Similarly, Marie-Josée’s last sign of life was a text message sent from her phone to Lydia, her daughter from a previous relationship, telling her she and Allison were leaving Benitez and going to Toulouse.
Secondly, in November 2004, Benitez waited days before reporting de Oliveira missing to police in Nîmes.
Similarly, after the disappearence of his wife and daughter last month, Benitez waited a full week before presenting himself to police in Perpignan on July 21st, only to leave the station without explanation after just 10 minutes.
Four days later, and 11 days after Marie-Josée’s last sign of life, Benitez arrived back at police headquarters in Perpignan with his step-daughter Lydia, and finally filed a missing persons report.