The Shocking True Story Behind The Search

Netflix’s ‘The Search‘ promises to be another worthy addition to the streaming giant’s collection of shocking true-crime presentations. This one, however, is not a documentary. Instead, ‘The Search’ is a well-crafted drama that successfully manages to depict the engrained, institutional-level corruption and “influentialism” in Mexico.

The story begins as a whodunnit involving the disappearance of a four-year-old girl named Paulette Gebara Farah. It is also revealed that she is mysteriously found between her mattress and the foot of her bed several days after the investigation. Half of the limited series portrays the events before the discovery of her body and the other half after. Several viewers would have wondered the true story behind the incident and how faithful the Netflix production stays to true incidents.

Paulette Gebara Farah’s Death

Paulette Gebara Farah was four years old when she mysteriously disappeared from her house on March 22, 2010. The case became prominent because she lived in one of the most upscale neighborhoods in Mexico in Huixquilucan. She had recently returned from a trip with her father (Mauricio Gebara) and sister. However, her mother, Lizette Farah had gone on a trip with her friend, Amanda de la Rosa, her lover, and multiple other men. Suspicions of her infidelity made Lizette the prime suspect in the case. The case became even more complicated when the family and two housekeepers provided inconsistent statements to the authorities.

Credits: AP

On March 31, 2010, Paulette’s body was strangely discovered in her own room: in a space between her mattress and the foot of the bed. Her room had previously been investigated and searched using trained dogs. Hence, it was extremely strange for the body to have been discovered there, nine days after her disappearance. The authorities closed the case, ruling that she had died by asphyxiation.

Obviously, the public was not convinced. Multiple theories were floated and the case reeked of political corruption. Paulette’s father belonged to an influential family. Her grandfather was close to then-governor Enrique Pena Nieto (he later served as the President of Mexico between 2012 and 2018), and many believed that the authorities were hiding the truth to save the father. There were tons of other theories too. “Around 100 police went through this room of 10 metres… sniffer dogs searched it and they never found the body… who do they want to protect?” PRD Party member, PRD party member Jesus Ortega told BBC. Here is the actual video of the body being found (it may be too disturbing for a few viewers):

To this day, the official verdict of Paulette’s death is one caused by accident, despite multiple loopholes. Both of Paulette’s parents would become prime suspects. However, nothing was proven against either one of them. The attorney Alberto Bazbaz who was responsible for the investigation resigned shortly after the case was closed. It was believed that he was close to Mauricio (something which is not shown in the Netflix series) and that is perhaps the reason that he continued to blame Lizette early on.

This is the reason that, at the start of the investigation, public sentiment was largely against Lizette. However, two years after the case, she confessed that she had been persistently threatened by the authorities. She would say that, at one point, a gun was placed on her head as well. Here is an interview she gave (it is in Spanish):

Of course, this does not exonerate Lizette from the case as well. Most people in Mexico still believe that she is the killer. Furthermore, another theory suggests that she may have killed Paulette along with Mauricio due to the financial strain of raising her at a time when money was tight (Paulette had a language disorder and a physical disability which required persistently expensive treatment).

Alberto Bazbaz’s Questionable Decision

The case of Paulette’s death rocked the nation of Mexico. It exposed incredible levels of corruption existing at some of the nation’s highest institutions. The fact that the people involved would go on to lead “normal” lives, with some holding superior positions in their respective fields is even more shocking.

The attorney that handled the case was Alberto Bazbaz. His character is played by Dario Yazbek in ‘The Search.’ He did retire after the investigation since the case had been bungled and the public sentiment had soured against the attorney’s office. However, he was a close ally to Enrique Peña Nieto who was Governor of the State of Mexico at the time of Paulette’s case. Such ties helped Bazbaz hold some notable positions of power even after his poor handling of the case. He led the finance ministry’s intelligence unit after Nieto’s presidential appointment. Despite mismanagement at that post, he was appointed as the director of Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional (CISEN) in 2018.

Credits: Henry Romero/Reuters

“Political observers said that Bazbaz’s appointment owed more to his links with Peña Nieto’s inner circle than his skills as a law enforcement official,” reported The Guardian. In 2019, Bazbaz and Castillo (who is also a major character in ‘The Search’) were accused of being a part of a network that spied on close to 300 politicians. These accusations haven’t been proven. Castillo, on the other hand, was accused of misuse of public funds when he was the director of CONADE (National Commission for Physical Culture and Sport). Reportedly, 262 million pesos were diverted to shell companies under his leadership.

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