Spain pilgrims' trail killer gets 23-year jail term

Miguel Angel Munoz (L), pictured on March 14, 2017, was sentenced to 23 years in prison for the murder and violent robbery of 41-year-old Pikka Thiem of Arizona, who was hiking on the Santiago pilgrimage trail in Spain

A man found guilty of murdering an American woman hiking Spain's famed Camino de Santiago pilgrims' trail and cutting off her hands was sentenced to 23 years in jail Tuesday, court documents revealed.

Miguel Angel Munoz killed and robbed Denise Pikka Thiem in April 2015 but her mutilated body was only discovered five months later, after he led police to the spot where her body was buried, following his detention.

Thiem, then 40, had been walking the popular trail in northwestern Spain for more than a month when she decided to deviate to visit a village in the province of Leon.

According to the court in the city of Leon where the trial took place, she lost her way on leaving the village.

She "followed the indications of a yellow arrow which instead of bringing her back to the official route, took her on a path that passes in front of the property" of Munoz, it said in its official sentence.

Authorities suspect Munoz had deliberately put the arrow there to divert pilgrims towards his farm.

When she arrived at his property, he came out and walked some way with her.

But she eventually grew nervous, and he hit her with a "blunt object," killing her. He moved her to a less visible location, the court said, and slit her throat.

He then cut off her hands in what prosecutors allege was an attempt to disguise her identity before burying her body. The missing hands have never been found.

Munoz, 40, was also found guilty of stealing $1,132 (1,066 euros) which Thiem was carrying and which he later exchanged for euros.

He originally confessed to having killed Thiem, but later retracted the confession and said he had only found her body.

During the trial, Munoz refused to take questions in what his lawyer said was due to a breakdown he suffered over a string of problems.

The lawyer Vicente Prieto also said his client suffered from psychiatric problems.

A judge at the Leon court nevertheless sentenced Munoz to 20 years for murder, and another three years for robbery with violence.

In a Facebook post last week when Munoz was found guilty, Thiem's brother Cedric said he hoped one day to "finish my sister's journey and remember the Camino as a pilgrimage in a beautiful country made up of warm loving people."