A ‘controlling bully’ who killed his girlfriend while on holiday in Peru and then buried her body in a shallow grave at her grandmother’s house has been found guilty of murder in a landmark UK trial.
Legal proceedings against Jorge Garay have taken place at Maidstone Crown Court under a new domestic violence law, despite the murder of Karla Godoy which took place 6,000 miles away in the South American country.
Jurors heard an angry Garay murdered a child’s mother by twice wrapping an elastic cord around her neck and applying pressure from behind to asphyxiate her.
He then wrapped the 37-year-old woman’s body in blue plastic tarpaulin and took her on a four-mile journey to her grandmother’s house in a province in the capital Lima, where he dug a shallow grave and buried it.
The trial was the first to be held in the UK under the Domestic Violence Act 2021, which allows courts in England and Wales to try cases in which offenses were committed against the overseas but by a person residing in the UK.
As the trial began, prosecutor Philip Bennetts KC said Garay was jealous because his lover was planning to leave Peru to visit his daughter who was living with her father, Ms Godoy’s ex-husband, in Spain.
But a few hours after her last telephone contact with her aunt on September 23, 2022, she was dead.
Having missed his pre-booked flight to Madrid on the same day, his worried family reported him missing to the police.
Meanwhile, Garay lied to his mother when she asked where his partner was, telling her that Ms Godoy had “boarded the plane and gone on the trip”.
He then returned to the UK on October 1, three days earlier than expected and before his body was found.
Garay was finally arrested in London two weeks later.
Although he agreed to kill his lover, he denied murder but was unanimously found guilty after jury deliberations lasting just over seven hours.
He will be jailed for life on July 28, with Judge Johnson deciding the minimum sentence to impose before he can apply for parole.
The trial heard that Peruvian police spoke to Garay, who lived and worked with Ms Godoy in Dartford, Kent, on October 12, when he admitted to killing her, but claimed he had acted in state of self-defense.
On the same day, he also confessed in a partially recorded phone call to Eric Godoy, Mrs Godoy’s brother.
“He said he [the defendant] had killed her. He said he put her body in his grandmother’s house and buried her there,” Mr Bennetts told the court.
The court heard when the brother asked where Ms Godoy’s body was, Garay said to ‘call the police’ as he had told them the location of the grave. The recording ended with the sound of her crying.
Garay did not testify to the jury.
‘Intimidation, control, jealous man’
At the start of his trial, in which witnesses from Peru, Honduras and Valencia testified either in court or via video link, Mr. Bennetts told the jury: “Although it is not necessary to prove the motive, the evidence you will hear in part suggests that this defendant was a bullying, controlling and jealous man.
“One of the factors that made him jealous was when Karla went to see her daughter who was living with her ex-partner.”
Ms Godoy was born in Honduras but later obtained Spanish citizenship after moving there in 2006. She arrived in the UK in December 2020.
Garay was born in Peru, but also became a Spanish citizen before coming to the UK in November 2020.
The jury heard the couple met in 2021 and started living together in April of that year. On September 12, 2022, they flew to Spain from Stansted Airport.
Silvia Meza, her aunt, told the court that during the visit to her home in Valencia, Ms Godoy grew angry when her ex-husband threatened in a phone call to ‘take back’ their 10-year-old daughter.
Three days later, on September 15, the couple left Madrid for Lima where they spent their time visiting Garay’s family as well as Machu Picchu.
Garay’s mother Maria told police she did not see Ms Godoy after September 18, then received a call from her son three or four days later asking for the keys to the property in the district of San Benito in Lima.
Killer ‘freaked out’ over incident
During his interview after his arrest, Garay gave a prepared statement in which he said he feared for his life when his girlfriend attacked him.
Describing her as ‘mad and angry’, he said they had a ‘huge argument’ during which they insulted and slapped each other before Ms Godoy came at him with a 12-inch knife.
He added that he grabbed her arms, ran over and rammed her down with “all his weight”, and they fell to the ground with Garay on top.
He then said “something crazy” came over him and he grabbed a springy spring as she kicked him and screamed.
Garay said he “freaked out” afterwards, covered his lover in a sheet and “put her in the garden”.
The jury was told that it takes 15 to 30 seconds for a person to lose consciousness from continued pressure around the neck.
This pressure must then continue for at least a minute to cause death, Bennetts added.
Edmund Burge KC, representing Garay, said while he accepted ‘how, when and where’ Ms Godoy died, he had no intention of killing her or causing her any really serious harm while he defended himself.
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