Manuela Cano … serial killer … or just one dangerous dame …?

I wrote about Manuela Cano down below (Sunday, April 25, 2010 : Is the lady a serial killer …?) but this is a story that needs expanding. It now looks as if Manuela Cano did indeed have a hand in the death of Daniel Cano, her second husband, and not only in his death but […]

I wrote about Manuela Cano down below (Sunday, April 25, 2010 : Is the lady a serial killer …?) but this is a story that needs expanding.

It now looks as if Manuela Cano did indeed have a hand in the death of Daniel Cano, her second husband, and not only in his death but in the suspicious deaths of her first husband as well as some of her lovers. She’s already being dubbed a ‘black widow’ here in France.

At first, little was known about the woman’s family background, but neighbors, friends and family, notably the late Daniel’s son, Nicolas, have been talking and now we know more about her than she would like.

She was born of Spanish parents named Gonzalez. The couple had immigrated to France for her father to work in the coal mines of La Mure d’Isére, southeastern France. One of 11 siblings, she had grown up into a beautiful woman; here in France she is being described as une belle femme, une très belle femme même. No photos of her have as yet appeared in the media, but she’s been described to me as tall and slim with her long brown hair combed into a chignon.

Men not only fell for those dark looks, but so too for Manuela’s charm and at the beginning of the 1980s, having left her hometown of La Motte-d’Aveillants, also in Isère, for the town of Grenoble (Pop: 151,000 and 352 miles – 567 kms – from Paris, she, then 23 years old, married a man who has been identified only as Martoia. They had a daughter.

But Manuela also had something else: A lover.

This man, a jeweler, has been identified only as Georges.

He was almost 30 years older than Manuela.

One afternoon, drinking some tea in the back-room of his boutique, he felt unwell. The emergency medics were called and the suffering Georges was taken to hospital. His son, having been summoned to his father’s bedside, was sent to the boutique to see that all was well there. The son found the safe open and some items of jewelry were missing.

Then, suspicious at the sudden collapse of his otherwise healthy father, the son had two tea bags he found in a bin at the boutique, analyzed. The forensic laboratory’s report was not a surprise to him; one of the tea bags contained a large amount of sedatives.

Georges, once he was back on his feet, confronted Manuela, and yes, she had the jewelry. Of the sedatives in the tea bag, she knew naught.

As she returned the jewels to Georges, he decided that he would not lay charges against her for attempted poisoning.

Just a few months later, Martoia also felt unwell. He actually dropped into a deep coma. The doctors found that he had taken a large amount of sedatives. The police did not suspect foul play (people do try to kill themselves don’t they?) but the Martoia-Manuela marriage ended.

Manuela was at the time working behind the bar of a bistro, the Bar du Centre, in the commune of Brignoud, on the outskirts of the town of Villard-Bonnot. She was then in her early 30s, and she was the bistro owner’s lover. His name was François Collado. One night he was found dead in the basement garage of the home he shared with Manuela. He had gassed himself. Despite that his family said that he was not suicidal and indeed had no reason to kill himself, the police did not investigate his death; he had, they concluded, committed suicide. He too had a large amount of sedatives in his system.

Manuela’s grief was short because soon she had another lover. This poor guy was not to be in the world for much longer either: A farmer, he died in a fire in his granary. That time, the police took Manuela in for questioning but several witnesses came forward to say that she was not at home at the time of the fire.

One of the witnesses was a man named Daniel Cano. In his 40s and bringing up his son Nicolas on his own, he had met Manuela in the Bar du Centre. Some in his entourage did warn him to watch out for Manuela because of all the sudden deaths of the men in her life, but he pointed out that it was just sheer bad luck that she had had so many of her loved ones die.

In 1997, Manuela and Daniel were married and the couple moved into a small two-story house on an estate in Villard-Bonnot. His son Nicolas, then 7, and her daughter (her name has not been revealed) lived with them.

Daniel with his 1950s look of short hair and mustache, worked as a maintenance man for an installer of central heating plants. He was good with his hands and not only renovated the couple’s house, but also did reparation and building work for the neighbors. Said Nicolas to the local newspaper, Le Dauphiné Liberé: “My father was always there for me. Every weekend he came to watch me play rugby. He took me to watch all the big rugby matches in Paris or Lyon. Together we renovated my grandparents’ house.”

Manuela was by then the owner of a driving school at Brignoud. However, in May 2005, she lost her license to operate a driving school (one has to have a license in France for just about everything) because she and a driving inspector were ‘selling’ driving licenses at €2500 ($3200; £2150) each. She received a 10-month suspended sentence and was fined €5000 ($6340 ; £4300).

Having been left with financial problems because of having lost the driving school, Manuela and Daniel began to play the slot machines in a nearby casino. Not that it rescued their financial situation; on the contrary it worsened it and Manuela mortgaged their home without Daniel’s knowledge.

Then, at four o’clock on the morning of September 28, 2008, Daniel summoned the fire brigade: an upstairs bedroom was on fire. When they pulled up he was standing in front of the house with a hosepipe trying to put out the fire. He was in his pajamas which had been burnt slightly; his feet had been burnt badly and he had to be given First Aid treatment. He was also badly shaken. Manuela was there too, and she was as calm as if she was out for a stroll. She was also fully dressed, and her explanation for this was that she’d been unable to sleep so she got up and got dressed and went downstairs.

The explanation that Daniel gave for the fire was that one of the family’s two dogs must have knocked over a decorative candle. The locals, when they heard this, smiled and pointed out that there were too many deaths and too many fires in his wife’s life.

On October 31, 2008 – one month and 3 days after the fire – Daniel was dead. And he had died by fire.

That morning one of the villagers saw a burnt-out Citroën AX car in a field outside the commune. On the rear seat lay the burnt remains of a man: Daniel.

The police immediately questioned Manuela and according to the weekly true crime magazine, Le Nouveau Detective, she told them: “This morning on waking, Daniel was not in bed with me. I also saw that the AX and the dog Happy were missing. This is all I can tell you.”

An autopsy revealed that Daniel had a large amount of prescription drugs in his system. The drugs had been prescribed to Manuela.

Despite that the entire region was whispering that Daniel had not killed himself, the police did not arrest Manuela. But strange are the ways of the police: They were painstakingly checking Manuela’s background. They bugged her phone and scrutinized her bank accounts. They learned that she had not only inherited the house but was also the recipient of a €100,000 ($127000; £86000) life insurance police she had taken out for Daniel.

Therefore with Daniel dead, Manuela’s money problems had been solved. Solved, at the strike of a match, so to speak.

Mais non!

At the end of March, the police took Manuela in and locked her up in the prison in Chambéry. She’s not been charged yet, but is being held on suspicion of the murder of Daniele Cano.

Only one person, Ronald Gallo, Manuela’s lawyer, appears to believe in her innocence, and he would wouldn’t he?

As for the rest of France, Manuela Cano is the black widow of the Isère.

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

One Response

5-9-2010 at 13:46:59

Nice lady! You would think men wouldn't be so gullible, Cano in particular after all the other men in her life who died.

By the way, you have a couple of typos.

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