From a teenage girl brutally murdered in her bed to an undiscovered body rotting for days – Donovan Tavera has seen it all.
As the first man hired specifically to clean up Mexico’s increasingly bloody crime scenes, the 47-year-old has one of the most gruesome jobs on the planet.
Now, speaking exclusively to Sun Online, he’s opening up on the blood-soaked reality of life in the murder capital of the world and how the crime scenes he has witnessed still haunt him to this day.
Painted as an idyllic paradise for tourists, Mexico saw its highest murder rate of all time last year, with around 95 murders per day, many of those remaining unsolved.
Holiday hot spots such as Cancun and Riveria Maya attract millions of tourists every year but extreme violence is often close by with drug cartels warring over drug territory, regardless of those caught in the crossfire.
A DIRTY JOB
“I’m Donovan, I’m the Cleaner” he says, after devoting twenty years of his working life, in a crusade to remove blood splatter and gore from homicide scenes.
A dapper and methodical man, he remains fascinated by blood, its characteristics and how to efficiently clean it away.
Dressing into protective overalls, a mask and gloves, he first makes a meticulous inspection of the blood spray, doing a mental calculation of how long it will take to clean up. With one crime scene taking anywhere up to twenty hours to painstakingly scrub.
He explains: “It all depends on where and how the blood was shed. In the bathroom, on the walls, or on the mattress. If it’s on the interior or exterior of the building.
“Once blood is shed you can catch illnesses and diseases from it. So you have to be methodical and do the cleaning step by step.”
Sometimes to lighten his mood, he puts on headphones, listening to the strains of Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden.
Donovan has seen it all in his time, but one particular case which still haunts him to this day, concerns an adolescent girl who was murdered in her bedroom in a particularly savage and brutal attack. With her whole life ahead of her, her existence callously snuffed out.
He recalls one of his first cases was an elderly man, who’d choked on his own vomit and had lain alone and unnoticed inside in his home for several days, so fluids and liquids were seeping from the body.
He stresses: “You have to listen to people and how they express themselves at the scene.
“Some tell me, if only I had called her or come here earlier, things would have been so very different. Some people die alone, because they lived on their own.
“Once I’ve finished people tend to be more relaxed. The odor in the room and the mood changes. Some people even make a joke, but the pain of the loss will always be there.”
Before Donovan can start cleaning up, the family of the dead person, must by law obtain a certificate from the local authorities to fulfill the legal requirements.
There are pirates and cowboys, says Donovan, who overcharge, taking ‘blood money’, but creating an even worse mess than they’ve found.
He points out that it’s difficult and definitely inappropriate to try and clean blood up with a broom.
Sadistic drug gangs often carry out on their own form of justice in the city – hanging bodies from motorway bridges or even beheading their victims with chainsaws, leaving corpses in the street as a warning to others.
Just last year, Brits were horrified and children left vomiting after being caught up in the violence when a lifeguard was shot at a Tulum resort popular with tourists.
Despite being gripped by a global pandemic, March saw its worst-ever month for murder rates, with the homicide tally at 3,000, up from 2,766 in February.
The highest recorded since July 2018 when 3,708 were murdered, meaning Donovan has plenty of work to do in the country’s capital.
The father to a nine-year-old daughter, saw his first dead body at just 12-years-old.
He lived upstairs with his parents and sister in a third-floor apartment and spotted a body below sprawled on the pavement, lying in a pool blood.
Rather than being horrified or scared, he began to eavesdrop and was fascinated by the grisly scene.
He said: “The blood was clotting, darkening, changing into different shades, hues and tones. This caught my attention.
“I’d never seen a body before, but I didn’t feel fear or repulsion. Actually it definitely caught my attention.
“I was asking what would happen to the blood and the crime scene, rather than what would become of the body.
“I put this question to my parents, my uncle who now works with me and even our family doctor, but no one could give me a transparent answer.”
Donovan took it upon himself to study medical books, journals and statistics and was eventually able to find a publication all about forensic cleaning.
He then took his first steps into his morbid career back in 2000, having to learn as he went along in hands-on fashion.
Distraught and bereaved families are able to find Donovan via the internet and by word of mouth and a documentary about his work on Mexican television also helped place him on the map.
Donovan’s wife and nine-year-old daughter know about and respect what he does and says “It’s taken me many years to learn the processes, and I feel proud of my professionalism. I can feed my family and pay my way. I’m honest, truthful and responsible.
“People used to laugh when I told them what I do. But now, those people understand it for what it is. They have stopped asking me what it smells like.
“I still have faith in humanity. I plan to continue this job for many more years. When I`ve completed my work, people often come up, thank me and shake hands. Other work is coming up all the time.”
View more information: https://www.the-sun.com/news/856408/mexicos-first-crime-scene-cleaner-reveals-reality-of-work/