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Costa Rica sentences British man to 25 years in prison for killing Czech woman

September 9, 2013

A Costa Rican court has sentenced a 21-year-old British man to 25 years in prison for stabbing a Czech tourist to death in 2011.

Alfred Saunders, from London, pleaded guilty in June to stabbing a graduate student at an ecological tourist farm in northwestern Alajuela. Alexandra Drbohlavova, 22, had been studying at the University of Miami in Florida. On her winter break, she was volunteering at the British-owned farm in Costa Rica.

The court, located in the city of San Carlos in the country’s Northern Zone, handed down the sentence on Friday, according to a report by the news site crhoy.com. Costa Rica’s justice minister told crhoy.com that Saunders would have to complete at least half of that sentence in a Costa Rican prison before applying to be repatriated to the U.K.

A Prosecutor’s Office spokeswoman, Tatiana Vargas, said that an arduous investigation in coordination with the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) convinced Saunders to plead guilty.

“In this case, the trial debate stage was removed, due to the accused accepting the charges, and he surrendered to a brief proceeding,” Vargas said in a statement.

According to the British newspaper The Daily Mail, Interpol had released a preventative alert on Saunders, warning of past violent behavior and mental health issues. Interpol said Saunders could commit violent and sexual crimes in the future. Saunders had been a registered mental patient in the U.K.’s National Health Services, according to British media reports.

Despite this, Saunders entered Costa Rica via the border with Nicaragua. Saunders showed up at the farm, which is near the border, and met Paul Donati, the father of one of the farm’s owners. Saunders had few possessions, and Donati loaned him a tent to stay for the night. Donati awoke and found Drbohlavova at 10:30 p.m. She had been stabbed 15 times, according to police reports.

According to British media, Saunders has high-profile parents. He was living with his mother, a leading psychoanalyst in the country, before he set out on his travels. His father is an English professor at King’s College.

Saunders never spoke about his motivations for the crime. Media reports said that Drbohlavova rejected sexual advances from Saunders.

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