A few years ago, Jimena Tierra, a well-known Spanish author and criminology expert, presented readers with her investigation into one of the most lurid episodes in Spain’s criminal history, through the book La muerte en un naipe. In her pages, Tierra delved into the dark abysses of the mind of the criminal who received the nickname ‘The Deck Murderer’, who caused terror in the Iberian country in the early 2000s.
The book allows you to follow a detailed timeline of the events that led the ‘Murderer of the deck’, Alfredo Galán Sotillo, to commit a series of heinous crimes. Through meticulous investigations and testimonies from people involved, the author builds a vivid and somber portrait of how the murderer randomly chose his victims and sowed panic in the streets of Madrid.
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What makes this case particularly intriguing, the author suggests, is the “randomness” with which the killer carried out his deadly acts. Jimena Tierra explores how this feature added an additional level of complexity to the investigation, keeping the National Police and Civil Guard on their toes as they tried to decipher the patterns behind the crimes.
Letizia Ortiz, in her role as a reporter in 2003 when she covered the case of ‘The murderer of the deck’
The protagonist of this dark drama, Alfredo Galán Sotillo, became the center of a manhunt that captured the attention of all of Spain. Armed with a Tokarev TT-33 pistol and operating in the shadows, the ‘Card Killer’ carried out six murders and bombings in cold blood, spreading fear in the streets. Despite the relentless efforts of the authorities, Galán managed to evade justice, disappearing like a ghost.
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Surprisingly, on July 3, 2003, the murderer put an end to his terrifying wave of crimes by voluntarily turning himself in at the Puertollano Local Police station. The motivations behind his actions remained an enigma, as Galán changed his statements on multiple occasions, leaving investigators stumped.
‘Shuffle: the signature of the assassin’ (Netflix)
Jimena Tierra, in La muerte en un naipe, sought to shed light on the twisted mind of the ‘Murderer of the Deck’, exploring his motivations, his dark impulses and the disturbing lack of remorse. Despite her attempts to obtain a face-to-face interview with Galán in prison, the author was met with rejection by the murderer, leaving a veil of mystery over his true psychology.
In her investigation, Tierra delved into the court proceedings, the investigators’ statements, and the evidence that led to Galán’s conviction. The author approaches the case with a fast-paced and detailed narrative, providing readers with an intimate look at the horrors that terrified Spanish society at the time.
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As the tale of Death on a Playing Card delves into the dark corners of crime, it also questions the reasons behind the human fascination with evil. Jimena Tierra explores how audiences are drawn to true crime stories and how these narratives, while horrifying, allow us to explore the darker aspects of the human condition.
Ultimately, this book is a fine piece of true crime that, given the circumstances, can serve as a complement to what has been presented to us in the Netflix documentary miniseries: ‘Shuffle: the killer’s signature’. It is about the journey into the twisted mind of the killer and the relentless search for blood from him.
It has always been said that the human being, taken to an extreme situation, is capable of murdering another equal. The reasons are very varied: jealousy, revenge, power, sex, betrayal, justice that is taken by hand when the real one fails… In the case of the so-called serial killers —and the one that brings us here today is not— only the why matters. In the words of the criminologist Paz Velasco de la Fuente, “it is not enough to find out what motivates them to kill over and over again. The question we must ask ourselves is: what do they get by killing? In order to answer why they kill, an attempt is made to determine the motive for the crime; but to answer why they kill, we must look for the ultimate purpose of their actions»
Desire, however perverse, is what makes violence understandable. Without that, the killer may well be a ghost.
Psychological effects of a war?
Alfredo Galán Sotillo, an ex-soldier stationed in Bosnia in humanitarian aid, attacked 9 people in the Community of Madrid in 2003, 6 of whom were murdered. His modus operandi was to shoot at point blank range his Tokarev TT-33 pistol that he clandestinely took out from his passage through the Balkan country. But it was not only the weapon that he brought back from the war, but also a personality disorder that worsened when he returned.
It has been rumored for a long time, especially after the cases that have occurred in the United States, about the psychological affectation that a war can cause in its Armed Forces. According to the psychiatric tests carried out on Alfredo, he did not suffer from any mental disorder. He does, however, a maladaptive personality disorder with paranoid features. He shunned people and felt cheated and betrayed when, after his group from Bosnia was relieved, he was assigned to Operation Black Tide, in Galicia. “He had joined the army to kill. Not to clean tar.”
And he killed, yes, but not only in the army.
«There was no specific motive to kill. It’s just so easy, and I could keep doing it for another twenty years.”
A playing card by chance
“Were the media able to determine his criminal history or at least influence it?”
During one of the first crimes, a playing card appeared under the victim’s body. The press, sometimes too greedy for sensationalism, decided to seize his serial killer, the Deck Killer, mistakenly believing that the ace of cups had been put there by the aforementioned. That nickname increased his narcissistic ego and also spread terror in a country that had read the press a year before when the Tarot Assassin filled its covers. But I’ll go a step further: could the media determine his criminal history or at least influence it? After that crime came more, and after that ace of cups he was succeeded by 2. And 3. And 4.
«What happens when the signature of the murderer has not even occurred to him and it has been the result of chance that a card is in the right place and time, under the body of a victim, causing the press to nickname the Card Killer without even this one having acquired that role?».
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