Mexico City: They were told a gang had confessed to slaughtering their children and incinerating their bodies, but parents of the 43 missing Mexican students cling to slim hopes their sons met another fate.
Spending most days at the teacher-training college the students attended in the southern state of Guerrero, the parents refuse to believe they are dead until DNA evidence proves otherwise.
Authorities have warned it could take a while for experts to match DNA with the charcoal-like remains that were found in a river near the city of Iguala, where the students vanished six weeks ago.
"What we heard hurt us a lot: That our sons were dissolved, that they burned them, and finally dumped them," said the mother of missing student Martin, who like many other parents refused to give her name.
"But all we want is proof, not words," she said.
Their insistence on scientific evidence from independent Argentine forensic experts highlights their deep distrust in authorities that have been accused of coercing confessions in the past.
For weeks, relatives have demanded that the students be found, after police linked to the Guerreros Unidos drug gang attacked their buses in the city of Iguala on September 26.But Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam announced Friday that three gang suspects had given a gruesome account of how they disposed of the bodies.
The gangsters told investigators that police handed them the students between the towns of Iguala and Cocula.
They then took them to a landfill, killed them, burned their bodies in a funeral pyre for 14 hours and tossed bags of remains into a river.
"It hurts to imagine that what they tell you is true," said the mother of a student named Antonio as he held her newborn baby alongside her husband.
"One thinks, `How did my son die? What did they do to him? How horrible! And it hurts. But in the end we know that they have considered them dead" since the investigation started, she said.
The parents have been gathering at the teacher-training college in Ayotzinapa, near Guerrero`s capital Chilpancingo, for more than a month.
It was here that their sons harbored dreams of escaping a life of poverty to become teachers in rural towns where children grow up in families that only speak indigenous languages.
The college, decorated with murals of communist icons Karl Marx and Che Guevara, is a breeding ground for leftist activism in one of Mexico`s poorest and most violent states.
Anger over the Iguala case boiled over again late Saturday, when hundreds of fellow students burned a dozen trucks and tossed firebombs at the state government headquarters.
Parents voiced disappointment that President Enrique Pena Nieto pressed on with a trip to China on Sunday amid the crisis.Back at the school, a ghostly calm reigns. An altar with candles was installed for the three students and three bystanders who died when Iguala police shot at the buses.
Activists, neighbors and students organize food donated to the parents in the campus square.
On Saturday, two students played guitar and sang the anthem of the Raul Isidro Burgos Normal Rural School.
"Ayotzinapa always, always smiling/But it knows about pain," the 20-year-old students crooned.
"We are sad, tired to see that we have exhausted all our options," said one of the young men, who declined to give his name.
"What`s the use of burning the state of Guerrero or the entire country if there`s no response," he said.
Prosecutors say police attacked the students on the mayor`s orders over fears they would disrupt a speech by his wife.
The students say they traveled to Iguala to raise funds but they hijacked four buses to move around -- a common practice among the radical aspiring teachers.
While they wait for DNA results, relatives brace for the worst.
"We are very afraid, scared that this is true. But for now we won`t accept this until we get final results from our Argentine team," said Meliton Ortega, uncle of one of the students.