The Miss World 2014 Pageant, which begins tomorrow in London, has been marred by the murder of a would-be contestant, Miss Honduras Maria Jose Alvarado, whose body has been discovered following a search that began after she and her sister disappeared on November 13. Miss Honduras had been due to fly to London on Wednesday, November 19, to compete in the competition.
Alvarado, 19, and her sister, 23-year-old Sofia Trinidad, were last seen leaving a birthday party in the city of Santa Barbara last Thursday. Members of the beauty queen’s family reported the disappearance Saturday. Initially, it was reported that the police were not suspecting foul play. The pair was seen getting into a vehicle that did not have a licence plate, following the party in Alvarado’s home town, where she had been visiting her parents before departing for the Miss World competition. The bodies of the two young women were discovered in the nearby village of Cablotales. They had been buried. It is reported that Miss Alvarado had been shot in the back and her sister had been shot from the front. Police believe that the two were killed within hours of their disappearance.
The disappearance was big news in Honduras, a country that has the highest homicide rate in the world, according to a United Nations report. The northern city of San Pedro Sula, not far from Santa Barbara, is considered the murder capital of the world. With approximately one million inhabitants, San Pedro Sula is far from being one of the largest cities in the Americas but it has a homicide rate of 169 per 100,000 people.
Alvarado had an appointment Sunday to try on a dress that she intended to wear at the Miss World pageant. She did not show and, the following day, Police announced the arrest of Plutarco Ruiz, Alvarado’s boyfriend, Aris Valentin Maldonado and two others. One of those arrested is said to be an individual said to be the owner of the venue at which the party had been held. Jose Coello, the local chief of police, stated “Four people are under arrest. They include the owner of the party venue and Sofia Trinidad’s boyfriend. They are being investigated. We hope to establish what role they may have played.” Police also recovered a vehicle and the murder weapon after receiving information from an individual they described as a “protected witness.”
Teresa de Jesús Muñoz Torres, Maria Alvarado’s mother, described how her daughter had always wanted to compete in the Miss World competition “She told me: ‘One day, I will be Miss Honduras.'” said Torres. Maria won the Miss Honduras competition in April, beating out 18 competitors. 120 contestants from around the world will compete for the 2014 Miss World title. The pageant will conclude on December 14.
Alvarado is an IT graduate who wanted to be a diplomat, according to her Miss World profile. The enduring popularity of the Miss World pageant has been tarnished by controversy over whether or not it objectifies women. Bikinis were banned at last years’ competition and there have been calls to discontinue the event. This year, the murder of Alvarado brings a somber note to the competition before it even begins.
Graham J Noble