Three women found tortured and killed in shallow grave after foul stench

Three missing young women have been found tied up, tortured and dumped dead in a shallow grave.

The gruesome discovery came on April 7 after fishermen on the Esmeraldas River near Quininde, Ecuador, smelt a foul stench and noticed a dog sniffing the ground near the riverbank.

Local media reported that police found the missing women with slit throats, signs of torture, and bound with their mouths covered.

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Diego Velastegui of the Quininde Police told local media: "They were young, had beach clothes, bathing suits, light clothing, shorts."

Police also found a mobile phone with their bodies, which they hope may prove crucial in solving the case.

They have been named as Nayeli Tapia, Denisse Reyna and Yuliana Macias

Nayeli, 22, worked as a model. Yuliana, 21, was a singing student and a member of a band called Las Diablitas. Denisse, 19, was a student at the State Technical University of Quevedo studying agricultural engineering.

The three young women were from Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas, some 84km from their shallow grave. They'd set off from their homes there on April 4 to go to the beach and were reported missing later that same day.

Their families said they did not know who the girls were going to meet.

Investigators believe the women were killed on April 5 in the rural locality of Malimpia, in Quininde Parish.

They have also identified a vehicle of interest, a rental car they believe took them to the crime scene.

Paulina Rueda, Yuliana's aunt, said: "All we want is justice, and if the public knows, they should report who is responsible for this horrible femicide, because it's three femicides in one day."

She said the families of the victims have received threats because of how vocal they have been in their calls for justice.

"I will stand until the last consequences, despite the fact that my life has been in danger since yesterday," she added.

Paulina pleaded with the public to not link the brutal murders to Colombia's drug trade.

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