MEXICO CITY/MADRID: Tragedy has struck senior world football official Angel Maria Villar and his family with the kidnap and murder of a niece in Mexico writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo confirmed the news in a radio interview and statement before a formal statement with more details were released by the Mexican prosecutors’ office.

Angel Maria Villar . . . Spanish FA president

Maria Villar Galaz had been seized last Tuesday night in the Mexico City business zone of Santa Fe outside the offices of IBM Mexico where she worked. The kidnappers then took her on a tour of bank cash machines to withdraw money before contacting the family, demanding a ransom of €9,000.

Villar and his family contacted the Spanish authorities. Her husband flew to Mexico to negotiate with the kidnappers and paid a sum.

Garcia Margallo said: “The amount was a little less than they had asked for and we thought it would come out safely but unfortunately that has not happened. The murder is very sad and very unexpected news.”

The body was found two days after the kidnapping in a canal in Santiago Tiaguistenco, about 20 miles south of the city centre. Death was due to asphyxia.

Information about the kidnap negotiations had been kept secret so as not to jeopardise negotiations. A first the authorities had stated, erroneously, that she had been kidnapped in Toluca.

The timeline of tragedy reveals that the kidnap happened hours before Villar, in his role as first vice-president of UEFA, had presided over the extraordinary election congress in Athens which saw Slovene Aleksander Ceferin voted in as new president of the European federation.

Villar, a former Bilbao and Spain midfielder, was apparently unaware of his niece’s abduction at the time.

The 66-year-old has been president of the Spanish federation since 1988. He had stood initially for the UEFA presidency but withdrew his candidacy two weeks before the election.

Spanish and international sports organisations, federations and clubs have sent messages of condolence and support to the Villar family.