'The Photographer: Murder in Pinamar': What Happened to José Luis Cabezas?

The Photographer: Murder in Pinamar (El fotógrafo y el cartero: el crimen de Cabezas) is the latest true-crime documentary to land on Netflix.

The documentary delves into the case of José Luis Cabezas, an Argentinian journalist who was found handcuffed, beaten, and dead inside a rental car outside Pinamar, an Argentine beach resort in 1997.

The Photographer explores the motives behind Cabezas' death, the controversial investigation into the case, political conspiracies, and the wider context of political corruption at the time of his murder.

What happened to to José Luis Cabezas? Newsweek has everything you need to know.

José Luis Cabezas
José Luis Cabezas, above, was killed after taking a photograph of prominent businessman Alfredo Yabrán. He is the subject of the new Netflix documentary "The Photographer: Murder in Pinamar." Netflix

What Happened to José Luis Cabezas?

José Luis Cabezas was an Argentinian news reporter and photographer from Wilde, Buenos Aires. In the 1990s, Cabezas worked for Noticias, a leading local Spanish news magazine published weekly. Noticias was well known for its investigative journalism, often exposing corrupt individuals in the public sphere.

On January 25, 1997, Cabezas was kidnapped and brutally killed by a gang of men.

Almost one year earlier, on February 16, 1996, Cabezas took a photograph of Alfredo Yabrán and his wife in Pinamar, a resort city on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean that was once visited by wealthy businesspeople, actors, celebrities and politicians.

Yabrán was a prominent Argentinian businessman with alleged links to the Argentinian government. He was notoriously private and did not allow for his photograph to be taken. Cabezas' image of Yabrán, wearing white checked swimming shorts while walking along the beach with his wife, in a black swimsuit, was published on the cover of Noticias in March 1996, exposing Yabrán's identity to the public for the first time.

As detailed in Netflix's The Photographer, Yabrán ordered Cabezas' killing in retaliation for taking the photograph.

Cabezas was kidnapped in Pinamar in the early hours of January 25, 1997, as he headed home from a party. He was beaten and tortured before being shot twice in the head. His body was then placed inside a vehicle owned by his employer, Noticias, and burned. Cabezas was 35 years old at the time of his death.

Just days before he was killed, Cabezas had been working on a story about Yabrán with a colleague, Gabriel Michi, and had been attempting to set up an interview. It became clear to them that Yabrán was not pleased with their reporting.

Cabezas' killing led to mass protests in Argentina, particularly by the media industry, journalists, human rights groups, and Cabezas' supporters who saw his death as an attack on independent journalism. Many were also frustrated justice had not been served for Cabezas' death.

An investigation was eventually launched and several men were arrested, but the general public saw it as a cover-up by Buenos Aires Province Governor Eduardo Duhalde.

It was soon revealed that police officers Gustavo Prellezo, Sergio Cammarata and Aníbal Luna had been watching Cabezas. Yabrán's wife had requested intel on Cabezas just two weeks before he was killed.

In February 2000, eight members of a gang called "Los Horneros," consisting of some police officers and security officials, were sentenced to life imprisonment. They have since all been released or died in custody.

Only one member of the gang, Miguel Retana, confessed to being a part of Cabezas' assassination. He also accused former Buenos Aires police officer, Gustavo Prezzello of being the group's leader and Cabezas' killer.

The two other police officers sentenced for Cabezas' killing were Sergio Camaratta and Anibal Luna. Yabrán's security cheif, Gregorio Ríos, was also convicted.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the mastermind of the killing was Yabrán himself, who took his own life in 1998, one year after Cabezas' death.
The men convicted of Cabezas' murder were:

  • Gustavo Prellezo
  • Miguel Retana
  • Sergio Aníbal Camaratta
  • Aníbal Luna
  • Gregorio Rios
  • José Luis Auge
  • Sergio Gustavo González
  • Horacio Anselmo Braga
  • Alberto Gómez

The Photographer: Murder in Pinamar is now streaming on Netflix.