Mexican state launches probe after prosecutors accused of covering up femicide

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -A Mexican anti-corruption authority said on Monday it had launched an investigation into the state attorney's office of Morelos, after a top official accused prosecutors there of covering up the killing of a young woman found on a highway last week.

Hours earlier, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum accused Morelos' state attorney's office of covering up the killing of 27-year-old Ariadna Lopez, after it ruled out evidence of violence and said she had died of alcohol intoxication.

An investigation by Mexico City prosecutors later concluded Lopez had died of multiple force trauma, and revealed security footage showing a man who claimed to be Lopez's friend carrying a body from a Mexico City apartment after she disappeared on Oct. 30.

Cyclists found Lopez's body in neighboring Morelos state days later and shared photos online to help identify her.

The Morelos prosecutors' office could not be reached for comment.

"In this case it is evident the Morelos prosecutors' office wanted to hide the femicide, presumably because of links with the presumed killer," said Sheinbaum, who has been tipped to become Mexico's first woman president in a 2024 vote.

"It was the duty of Morelos' prosecutors' office to carry out the investigation," she added. "Without the intervention from Mexico City, this femicide would have gone unpunished."

Morelos is a central state with one of the highest rates of femicide in a country where some 10 women on average are killed every day

Morelos' state anti-corruption prosecutors' office said later on Monday it had opened an investigation into "possible crimes" committed by employees of the attorney's office during the investigation into Lopez's death. It said it has begun its investigation autonomously to clarify the alleged acts of corruption.

Mexican authorities said two people linked to Lopez's alleged killing were in police custody.

On Friday, authorities said five women were found dead in Morelos.

(Reporting by Carolina Pulice; Editing by Sarah Morland, Aurora Ellis and Leslie Adler)