Costa del Sol News - 22nd May 2008

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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The Costa del Sol weekly newspaper, on sale at newsagents.

Week 22nd May - 28th May 2008


Pupils of Swan's School in Marbella raised a stunning 10,000 euros for animal rescue charity, PAD, with their now annual sponsored spell. On hand for the presentation of diplomas and silver cup, sponsored by the Costa del Sol News, were the animal shelter's representatives Barbara and Eddie Griffith with rescue dog Gala. Photo: J. Rutland


EU says a third of air travel websites are 'ripping off' consumers

By Oliver McIntyre

A third of people who buy airline tickets online may be getting "ripped off or misled and confused," according to a European Union report.

In a sweeping review of 386 websites - including those of consolidators and discounters as well as the airlines themselves - authorities identified 137 that required action to punish breaches of consumer law.But only half of the offending websites have taken action to make improvements, according to the EU report.If the other sites do not correct their situation by May 1, 2009, the EU "will have no choice but to intervene," said the consumer commissioner, Meglena Kuneva.The sweep, which included reviews of websites in 13 EU countries and Norway - 11 of them in Spain - detected problems with ticket sales throughout the industry, from airlines to tour operators.The investigation focused on unfair contract terms, and practices such as websites pre-selecting the more expensive of the available flight options.Many sites had multiple problems including misleading pricing, irregular contract terms and advertised offers that were in fact unavailable, according to the report.

Price 'add-ons'

One of the biggest problems detected was misleading information about price, "where extra non-optional charges are added throughout the booking process, sometimes at the end, resulting in a different end price." Such add-ons include taxes, booking fees, credit card fees, handling fees, fuel charges and invoice fees."The EU wants to see the first price advertised being the final price paid," according to the commission. In addition, any limitations on special offers should be clearly flagged and fair contracts should be available in the consumer's native language.Commissioner Kuneva said offending companies that do not shape up could have their websites shut down. "My message to industry is clear, act now or we will act," she said.

Stray bullet kills mother of two

The fatal shot was fired during a nearby dispute over the sale of a car

By Dave Jamieson

A young Málaga mother has died after being hit by a stray bullet fired in a dispute over a car sale. The 33-year-old woman, who had two young children, was killed on Friday afternoon in the La Palmilla district of Málaga.The tragedy unfolded at 1.30 pm in the city's Calle Guadalbullón as the victim was returning to her home after shopping.Reports indicate that she was entering her doorway when she was struck by a shot fired from a .45 calibre weapon and although emergency teams were quickly at the scene, she died shortly afterwards. Police immediately cordoned off the area with local officers supported by National Police wearing bullet-proof vests.Investigators believe that the fatal shot was fired during a dispute between at least two youths in their 20s, said to have been accompanied by a number of women. The argument is understood to have been over a car which one had sold to another for 6,000 euros, while knowing that the vehicle was the subject of a court embargo. Two or three shots were reported by witnesses who also were able to give descriptions of those allegedly involved in the dispute and subsequent shooting.

Man arrested

Police searched various properties in the area and are believed to have recovered three firearms. A 22-year-old man was arrested on Saturday in connection with the investigation.

Petty crime in Nerja car park ruins pensioner's ho

British theft victim cuts short her stay and heads back to UK

By Dave Jamieson

A holidaymaker in Nerja has warned against petty crime in one of the town's car parks. The lady, a former school teacher now in her 70s, is a part-time resident in the Chumbera area but has been so upset by her experience that she has terminated her holiday and returned to the UK early.The incident took place in the early afternoon of last Friday when she was sitting in the Los Huertos car park waiting for a friend and reading the newspaper. A car pulled alongside and the couple in it asked her, in broken English, for directions to the town centre. She helped them and they drove off.It was not until later that she discovered that her purse, which had been lying on the back seat of the car, had been stolen by a third member of the gang while she was being distracted. She said she did not even hear the car door open and close during the theft in which she lost cash, credit cards and other personal items.After reporting the incident to the local police in Nerja, she called the credit card company to discover that the thieves had already tried to take money from her account, she said.

Elderly ladies targeted

After several similar incidents in the area, observers think those responsible may be targeting older ladies who are on their own, and warn shoppers not to throw valuables onto the back seat when they return to their vehicles, to keep doors locked and to be alert for possible attempts to distract their attention.

Investigators say coach crash car was going 155 kp

The data contradicts the driver of the 4x4 that was involved in the accident

By Oliver McIntyre

THE 4X4 that caused the deadly April 19 coach accident on the A7 motorway was travelling at 155.3 kpm at the time of the crash, according to the findings of the Guardia Civil's team of accident reconstruction specialists.The coach was travelling at 99.9 kph at the time of the impact, according to the findings.The specialist team included two of the Guardia Civil's top traffic accident experts, who were sent from Madrid expressly to take part in the investigation.The team used a mix of on-site observations and measurements, data regarding the physical characteristics of the vehicles involved, computer modelling, and other techniques to recreate the accident and calculate the force of impact and the speed at which each vehicle was travelling.The 27-year-old driver of the 4x4, who tested at double the legal limit for alcohol following the accident, remains in jail pending trial, which it is believed could take place sometime in September or October.He faces nine counts of negligent manslaughter and 41 counts of negligence resulting in injury, plus charges for reckless driving and driving under the influence of alcohol.The accident, in which nine Finnish tourists were killed and dozens were injured, occurred shortly after 7.30pm on April 19, at kilometre 224.5, near the border between Benalmádena and Torremolinos.At a court hearing last week, the driver of the bus told the investigating magistrate that the last thing he remembers is attempting to straighten the coach after it was struck in the rear left quarter by the 4x4. The driver, who was in hospital until May 5, had no recollection of the coach flipping or of himself being thrown from the vehicle.

Eight-year jail sentence in triple death case

Illegal immigrants suffocated in hidden van compartment

By David Eade

The driver of a van in which three illegal immigrants suffocated to death while stashed in a hidden compartment as they were smuggled into country has been convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison.It was back in 2004 that a person raised the alarm outside the Bar Merci in the Torreguadiaro area of San Roque after spotting a number of dead bodies. The bar's owner and his wife rushed to the scene and found three young dead Moroccans plus a fourth in a serious medical condition.He spent 15 days in hospital in La Línea suffering from breathing difficulties and serious hypothermia. When he was discharged he was able to help the Guardia Civil in establishing what had happened.One of those who died was the brother of the vehicle's driver, who has now been found guilty of manslaughter. It is understood that there were three people in the vehicle's cab and another six in a hidden compartment built to hold five.

6,000-euro fee

As reported by the Costa del Sol News from the scene at the time, the vehicle was carrying a cargo of artisan products including pots from Tangier. It is alleged that one of those being smuggled in paid around 6,000 euros to come to Spain. However, when the van arrived at Torreguadiaro, three of the group were found to be dead from suffocation and another seriously ill, so they were dumped by the entrance to the bar.The prosecutor was seeking a jail term of 20 years for the driver. However, despite finding the man guilty of manslaughter, the provincial court reduced the sentence to eight years.

Oldest livestock fairwelcomes Alpaca newcomers

British couple pioneered Alpaca breeding in Ronda area

By David Eade

Tuesday saw the start of the Real Feria de Mayo in Ronda, which runs through to this weekend. The livestock fair is the oldest in Andalucía and one of the longest running in Spain, having been established during the reign of the Reyes Católicos.In those days it was a gathering for the horse, donkey and mule breeders and buyers in Ronda plus the surrounding Serranía. Whilst that element still plays an important part in the fair it has now widened its scope to cover all matters agricultural and this year welcomes for the first time a show of Alpacas.The 'Alpacas de Andalucia' will have their own 'Pabellon' marquee at the fair from May 23 to 25. There will be a competition to produce the overall Spanish Champion Huacaya alpaca. Two internationally known and recognised judges, Tim Hey from England and Dr Monyka Portocarrero from Peru, have agreed to judge the competition, which will take place on Saturday at 8pm.The initiative behind bringing this breed to the area is the brainchild of two Britons, Nigel and Ginny Cobb.They moved from London to Somerset, where on spare land they successfully started breeding Alpacas after importing females from Australia and Chile. Now they have relocated to the Serranía de Ronda, where Nigel says their goal is "to provide Spain with a national herd to be proud of in the European Alpaca community."Nigel added: "It has been decided to start the Spanish Alpaca Society (Sociedad Española de Alpacas). The Society will be important for the alpaca industry in Spain, as it will be able to help owners and others interested in the animals with information and act as the mouthpiece with the Spanish authorities."

Alpaca seminars

The Society is putting on two seminars at the Feria, one on Friday at 5pm on caring and breeding Alpacas, and the other at noon on Sunday on veterinary care of the breed.The tradition livestock fair is held from Tuesday to Thursday and then on the Friday and over the weekend it widens to an agricultural fair of which the Alpacas are a part. This will consist of 22 stands covering everything from gardening to planning your wedding. There is a gourmet section, a jamón cutting competition, flamenco dancing, bullfights, a nursery for the kiddies and, of course, all the traditional fun of the fair.

Green light forTorremolinos mega-mall

The project has raised concern among environmentalists and small businesses

By Oliver McIntyre

ON MONDAY Torremolinos town council gave what it called the definitive green light for a plan to build a huge shopping centre and five-star hotel on 150,000 square metres of land near the town's Palacio de Congresos conference centre.The mayor, Pedro Fernández Montes, called it "the most ambitious project Torremolinos has taken on."The final town hall approval comes after an "administrative silence" by the Junta de Andalucía's Public Works Department, which failed to submit any comment or proposed changes to the project during a month-long period, explained the deputy mayor, Ramón del CidThe project, which has raised concern among various groups including environmentalists and small businesses, was born from a 2005 agreement between the town hall and the developer, Peel Developments España SA.The town hall says the company is to invest some 200 million euros in the project and that the mall will create 2,500 direct jobs, with the hotel adding another 150.Early design models for the shopping centre - which the mayor has described as "the greatest mall in the country" - show an expansive building with a large glass dome as its defining feature.The opposition parties voted against the plan, which they say requires an 80 per cent increase in the maximum allowable construction on the site. The environmental group Ecologistas en Acción also opposes it, saying the site is a habitat for protected chameleons and a variety of amphibians.

Washington Irving was a Costa tourist

Discovery prompts call for new tourism trail

NEWS Staff Reporter

Washington Irving, the famous American author who wrote The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Rip Van Winkle, and Tales of the Alhambra, was a Costa del Sol tourist in 1828.Irving (1783-1859) stayed in Málaga, Nerja, Vélez-Málaga, Ronda, and most likely in Yunquera and Gaucin too, while he was on a trip from Madrid to Gibraltar via Córdoba, Granada, the Alpujarras, and the southern coast. Though Irving stayed overnight in only a few places, he passed through or glimpsed many other towns and villages.He recorded his experiences in a personal travel journal that appears to have remained unnoticed by local historians and modern tourism authorities in Spain.The discovery provides a new promotional tool for the Costa's tourist industry, said British journalist and publisher Rob Stokes, who discovered the links in an obscure 1937 edition of Irving's journal of the 1828 journey.The journalist, who lives in Nerja, is sending details to town halls and to the Junta de Andalucía. He hopes that politicians will consider extending the popular Ruta de Washington Irving, a tourism trail that runs 250-kilometres from Sevilla to Granada.The Ruta is based on the author's better-known 1829 visit and on locations that were important in the Christian reconquista of the Moorish kingdom of Granada. Irving included these in his history, Chronicles of the Conquest of Granada."Even if the Ruta is not extended, many new locations can now boast 'Washington Irving estuvo aquí' in their promotional literature, websites, plaques and monuments," said Mr Stokes.

Excerpts to be posted on Web

Excerpts from the journal, and a complete list of places mentioned by Irving, will be available from May 29 as free downloads from, the website of the English language bookshop in Nerja which had the first edition of the 1937 version of the journal."It is a way of sharing the information quickly with everyone that can make use of it for the good of their own towns and villages," said Mr Stokes.

Living in Nerja

The informative guide book, which is regularly updated, has been available since 1995

By John Peatey

A fourth edition of the now well recognised and respected reference book Living In Nerja has been launched by Nerja's town hall.First published in 1995 the publication has become a pivotal source of information for residents on numerous matters. Subjects covered include buying and selling property, how to obtain an NIE number, residence certificates and the town hall census, along with many other items of importance.At the presentation of the latest edition Councillor Emma Hall (centre of photo) paid tribute to the work put into compiling the book by Jacky Gomez (right) and Angeles Ramirez (left) of the town hall's Foreign Residents Department."We are aware that information is constantly changing," she said, "and we often hear conflicting advice from different sources. Numerous telephone calls have to be made checking and double checking the facts. This year we have made the book more user friendly and more to the point."Councillor Hall finished by giving some statistical information regarding the publication. "Two thousand copies of the book have been printed in four languages, English, German, French and Spanish. This edition has been sponsored by the bank Caja Rural de Granada and a number of local asesorías and consultants in the town. As a result of this sponsorship," she concluded, "the price of the book just €1 - the same as it was in 1995."

Málaga mourns death of local officer slain by ETA

Officer Piñuel had volunteered for a temporary post in Basque Country

By Dave Jamieson

Málaga mourned last week as the Guardia Civil officer killed days earlier in an ETA bombing in the Basque Country was cremated and laid to rest in his home city."Cowardly, miserable and criminal." These were the words of the Spain's prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, following the bomb blast near Vitoria last Wednesday which took the life of 41-year-old Juan Manuel Piñuel Villalon hours after he had returned from visiting his family in Málaga. ETA responded with a second, smaller car bomb on Sunday night.Officer Piñuel was killed when the car bomb exploded at 3am outside the Guardia Civil barracks in Legutiano, 15 kilometres north of the capital of Álava province. Four others were injured in the blast, which caused the whole front façade and roof of the three-storey building to collapse leaving one person trapped under rubble for three hours.The slain officer, who was married and had a six-year-old child, became the sixth victim of terrorism in the Basque Country since the ETA cease-fire ended in December 2006. The previous day, he and his family had returned from a weekend break with relatives in the El Palo district of Málaga, where he was brought up after being born in Melilla. He had planned to return to live in Málaga following a voluntary spell of duty in the Basque Country.

Attempted 'massacre'

Juan Manuel Piñuel was in the entrance to the barracks trying to alert colleagues to the presence of a suspicious vehicle when the bomb went off. Twenty-nine people, including five children, were inside the building at the time. The Interior Minister, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, who visited the scene, said that the terrorists' failure to telephone a warning about the device indicated that they intended to cause a "massacre."Five-minute silences were held in many towns across Spain following the bombing and the victim's funeral ceremony on Thursday was attended by Crown Prince Felipe and his wife, along with senior government figures. Sr Piñuel's body was then returned to Málaga for cremation last Friday, where hundreds of Guardia Civil officers formed a guard of honour for the cortege.A second car bomb was exploded late on Sunday night in Getxo in the metropolitan area of Bilbao. A telephone warning in the name of ETA was received and gave police time to clear the area. There were no reports of injuries although damage was caused to nearby property.

Vejer mayor turns deaf ear to beach bar protests

Government backs council's controversial plan to demolish chiringuitos

By David Eade

Vejer's controversial plan to remove the chiringuito bars from El Palmar beach has received the backing of the government's subdelegate in Cádiz. Sebastián Saucedo gave his ''total support'' for the town hall's plan to do away with the bars this summer.Vejer mayor, Antonio Jesús Verdú, had announced he was not allowing the bars to open this year because they have been the cause of numerous complaints by local people and have attracted troublemakers. This move has been met with widespread protests and fears that in the longer term the beach area could be opened up to development ruining one of Cadiz's prized and unspoilt beaches.To date Verdú has turned a deaf ear to the protests of the chiringuito owners insisting that the decision is final and has been made in the public interest. He dismissed the bar owners' anger blasting ''they could travel to the moon and demand from there that we change our minds, but I can assure them that it won't make any difference''.