London Police Search for Suspect in Murder of Trans Woman Visiting from U.S.

London Police Search for Suspect in Murder of Trans Woman Visiting from U.S.

After nearly two weeks investigating, London police are now appealing to the public for leads in the March 28 murder of 33-year-old Latina trans woman Vanessa Santillan, reports the London Evening Standard.

Officials found Santillan fatally beaten on the head and neck inside a Fulham apartment at 9 p.m., responding to a neighbor's phone call. Santillan, who was born in Mexico, had immigrated to the U.S. and stated recently on her website that she was "visiting" the U.K. from Miami, Fla., notes the Standard.

Originally reported by local media as a cisgender (nontrans) murder victim, since authorities revealed that Santillan is transgender, media have remained respectful of her gender identity but highlighted her work as a "high-end escort" — a detail police believe may be related to her murder.

Santillan maintained a personal website where she was openly trans and wrote about trips she'd taken around the world with her clients. She was reportedly last seen in public the evening before her death, spending time in London's West End with a small group of friends before returning to the apartment in the early morning hours.

Police have publicly urged anyone who knew Santillan to come forward. "We want to speak to anyone who saw Vanessa on Friday or Saturday," lead Detective Rebecca Reeves told the Standard. "We need to know why this has happened and we want help from anyone who knew her while she was in London."

"Vanessa's parents are devestated by the loss of their daughter," Reeves added. "She was living many miles from home, but she was regularly in touch with her family, and she last spoke to them on Friday, 27 March."

Police arrested a 23-year-old man in connection with Santillan's murder, but he has been released on bail as the investigation continues.

Worldwide, a transgender or gender-nonconforming person — mostly women of color, like Santillan — is murdered nearly every two days. Notably, that figure that does not include unreported murders or victims not identified by their authentic gender identity in death. 

The U.S. has seen a particularly brutal start to the year, with eight trans women killed within the first two months of 2015 in what advocates call an "epidemic" of antitrans violence. The deaths have prompted activists to call on media to stop misgendering murder victims and to report on the murders as a national crisis.

Anyone with information on Santillan's murder is asked to call London police's Incident Room at 020-8721-4868 or the anonymous Crimestoppers tip-line at 0800-555-111.

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