News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week September 11th to September 17th 2003.
AUTOPSY AND DNA MAIN FOCUS OF COÍN MURDER CASE
Wanninkhof case lawyers request copies of report on link between cases
By Oliver McIntyre
THE PARENTS OF SONIA CARABANTES, THE 17-YEAR-OLD COÍN GIRL WHOSE BODY WAS FOUND ON AUGUST 19, FIVE DAYS AFTER SHE DISAPPEARED WHILE ON HER WAY HOME FROM THE TOWN'S FERIA, LAST WEEK REQUESTED THAT A SECOND AUTOPSY BE PERFORMED, IN THE HOPE THAT ADDITIONAL CLUES MIGHT BE FOUND.
Meanwhile, the lawyers for both sides in the Rocío Wanninkhof case, the 1999 murder of a 19-year-old young woman from Mijas, have submitted formal requests for copies of the report that links DNA samples from the two cases.
The DNA from samples of skin taken from underneath Srta Carabantes' fingernails, as well as a saliva sample from a cigarette butt found near where her body was discovered, match the DNA from saliva found on a cigarette butt at the Mijas location where Srta Wanninkhof was attacked in 1999.
The lawyer for Dolores Vázquez, the suspect in the Wanninkhof case who was tried and found guilty in September 2001, but was released from jail pending a retrial when the higher courts annulled the trial, believes the report will prove his client's innocence. He has announced that he plans to use the new evidence to request that the retrial, scheduled for October 14, be dismissed.
The lawyer for the Wanninkhof family last week filed a request that the retrial not be postponed or suspended. He insisted that the link between the DNA samples in the two cases does not clear Sra Vázquez of guilt, even if it suggests the involvement of another person or persons.
Investigators continue to focus on the DNA results in the Sonia Carabantes case, and last week took voluntary samples from various people within or close to the family or otherwise of interest in the investigation. They are still seeking additional information about a white car that was spotted on the morning of Srta Carabantes' disappearance, and a car lamp-cover that was found with blood on it that matched the DNA from the material found under the victim's fingernails. Police are interviewing local car parts and repair shops to see if anyone had a similar lamp-cover replaced. Due to the presence of blood from the attacker, the police are also on the lookout for anyone who was treated for or seen with cuts or scratch-like injuries in the days following the August 14 killing.
BRITISH COUPLE FILES SUIT AGAINST REAL ESTATE COMP
NEWS Staff Reporter
A British couple who paid 126,000 euros for a country home in Comares and was never given possession of the property has filed charges against the Málaga real estate company that allegedly mishandled the transaction. Denise V. R. found the property on the real estate agency Web site and in December of last year she and her husband signed the sales contract and paid the company a 6,000-euro deposit. Less than a month later they transferred the remaining 120,000 euros of the sale price into the agency bank account. The couple later found out that only the 6,000-euro deposit ever made its way to the elderly woman who owned and was selling the property.
According to the lawsuit, the property owner, after becoming fed up with waiting for the 120,000 euros from the real estate company, ended up selling the house to another buyer in June. The suit charges the real estate company with misappropriation of funds and possible fraud.
The British couple is suing the company for the 126,000 euros they paid, plus the expenses they incurred during numerous trips from England throughout the process. Their lawyer, Santiago Orosa, has stated that he fears there could be other cases waiting to surface. A similar charge was filed against the same real estate agency last October, when another foreign purchaser had to resort to legal action to get back 91,000 euros nearly a year after paying for but not being given possession of a farmhouse in Cártama.
CLOSING TIME FOR MÁLAGA BEER FESTIVAL
City conference centre loses big Brit-initiated "major world event"
By Dave Jamieson
THE BEER FESTIVAL PLANNED FOR MÁLAGA'S NEW CONFERENCE CENTRE LATER THIS MONTH HAS BEEN CALLED OFF, JUST 15 DAYS BEFORE IT WAS DUE TO OPEN.
The management of the city's Palacio de Ferias y Congresos received a letter of cancellation from the festival's organisers last week, although no reason was given for the decision.
The British-initiated plan to hold a beer festival has had a chequered history over the last year or so. In June 2002 it was announced that 'World Beer Expo' - described as a "major world event and without precedent in the beer industry" - was scheduled for May of this year, with the expectation that it would be the most important event of the new Palacio's first year. The 10-day festival was expected to generate 100 million euros, and it was to take place annually thereafter.
In December, it was reported that the venue of the event was to be switched to Málaga's fairground, where exhibitors would create bars typical of the country of their beer's origin. And in March, when the UK organisers pulled out because of the international situation, the event was taken over by four local businessmen and the investment group Inverdies; it was renamed 'Málaga International Beer Fair' and was reduced to a four-day schedule. In April, the event dates were changed to September and the venue returned to the Palacio de Ferias y Congresos. Now, with last week's cancellation announcement, the barrel seems to have finally run dry on the big beer event.
The conference centre's sales manager, Patricia Marín, maintained that the event's cancellation will not damage the image of the complex. However, Málaga's opposition socialist party has blamed the centre's "bad management" for the loss of a "unique international event."
MARBELLA HOMEOWNERS CANNOT TAKE POSSESSION
NEWS Staff Reporter
The property crisis in Marbella continues. The regional government only recognises the town planning ordinance (PGOU) of 1986, having rejected three amendments presented by various GIL administrations. The rejections have deemed 13,000 homes built during the GIL era to be illegal. The new three-party administration is now under pressure from a thousand new-property owners who are waiting for permission to occupy their homes.
The affected property owners, including many foreign residents, are looking to the Town Hall to solve their plight. They say they purchased their homes in good faith; homes that were licensed for construction by Marbella Town Hall but that unknown to the buyers did not meet the legal requirements of the regional government.
In an attempt to solve the problem the councillor for Town Planning, Koke Calleja, the first deputy mayor, Isabel García Marcos, and the second deputy mayor, Carlos Fernández, spent six hours with the regional government's Provincial Commission for Town Planning. The municipal government team hopes the regional government will agree to approve the legality of many of the properties in exchange for the Town Hall presenting a new PGOU that meets with its approval.
LIFELINE FOR MARBELLA TOWN COUNCIL
Regional parliament votes against immediate dissolution
By David Eade
THE NEW TRI-PARTY ADMINISTRATION AT MARBELLA TOWN HALL, UNDER MAYORESS MARISOL YAGÜE, HAS BEEN EXTENDED A TEMPORARY LIFELINE BY THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT.
The Izquerida Unida and Grupo Mixto groups at the Andalucía parliament had presented a motion calling for the immediate dissolution of the Marbella Town Council. However, the move was defeated by the joint votes of the PSOE, PP and PA representatives. The parties have stated that they will wait till they have received judicial, economic and town planning reports on the municipality before deciding on what action to take next.
Meanwhile the former mayor of Marbella, Julian Muñoz, has presented his new party. It is called the 'Unión Popular de Marbella y San Pedro' (UPM-SP) and has dedicated itself to promoting the dissolution of the new administration. At a press conference to launch the UPM-SP, Sr Muñoz condemned the new municipal government as a 'house of witches'.
There is also consternation at Marbella Town Hall after the Labour Court reinstated Juan Antonio Roca as Marbella's head of town planning. Sr Roca is a close confident of former Marbella mayor and GIL-party founder Jesús Gil, and was surprisingly sacked from his post by Julian Muñoz just before the no-confidence motion of August 13 that removed Sr Muñoz from office.
Alberto García, an executive member of the new UPM-SP party, said that the reinstatement of Sr Roca is "evidence that he and Jesús Gil y Gil continue to pull the strings of town planning." PP spokeswoman Angeles Muñoz said that the reappointment is evidence of the weight that Sr Roca carries, and that he would be treated as another member of the new tri-party government team.
Mayoress Marisol Yagüe has described Sr Roca as the best town-planning technician in Andalucía. However, both of her deputy mayors, who were the former leaders of the PSOE and PP parties in the Town Hall, have stated that he should play no part in creating the new town planning ordinance.
INFORMATION AT ANY COST
By Oliver McIntyre
Callers dialling one of the country's 13 different '1-1-8' numbers for telephone information service are being charged widely varying rates depending on which number they call, according to the most recent study by the consumer-watchdog group Facua. When calling from a regular landline phone, the difference between the cheapest and most expensive of the 1-1-8 numbers is 463 per cent; charges for mobile-phone calls to the 1-1-8 lines vary by as much as 1,025 per cent.
According to the Facua study, the 1-1-8-2-8 information line operated by Retecal and the 1-1-8-1-8 number run by Telefónica are the cheapest alternatives (0.32 euros and 0.35 euros per call, respectively). Neo-Sky's 1-1-8-8-1, Multiasistencia, Gestion y Ayuda's 1-1-8-2-4, and the 1-1-8-1-9 line operated by Gavilanes Siglo XXI are the three most expensive. All three charge by the minute, as opposed to a flat per-call fee. A two-minute call to the Neo-Sky number from a landline phone, for example, costs 1.80 euros.
Telefónica also operates a second information line (1-1-8-2-2), which is over three times more expensive than its 1-1-8-1-8 number (the rate for latter, as the replacement line for the old 1-0-0-3 line, is regulated by the Government). However, when callers dial 1-0-0-4, the main Telefónica customer-service line, the recorded message tells them, "If you would like information regarding telephone numbers, please call 1-1-8-2-2 or 1-1-8-1-8."
Facua recommends against using the service offered by many of the information lines to directly connect the caller to the telephone number he or she was seeking. The patched-through call continues to be charged at the elevated 1-1-8-line rate, meaning a caller from a landline could pay as much as 38 times the normal per-minute cost for a local call.
MIJAS AQUIFER DROPS BELOW 1995 DROUGHT LEVEL
CHS commissions study of heavily drained Costa water resource
By Oliver McIntyre
THE CONFEDERACIÓN HIDROGRÁFICA DEL SUR (CHS) IS COMMISSIONING A STUDY OF THE SIERRA DE MIJAS AQUIFER, AN IMPORTANT COSTA DEL SOL WATER RESOURCE THAT HAS BEEN HEAVILY IMPACTED BY LARGE-SCALE DEVELOPMENT AND POPULATION GROWTH IN THE AREA.
The level of the aquifer - a 200-square-kilometre area of natural underground water filtration and collection reaching depths of up to 335 metres - is dropping an average of 25 metres a year. It is currently at a lower level than it was in 1995, the peak of the region's most recent severe drought.
The CHS estimates that the Mijas aquifer has the capacity to collect some 75 cubic hectometres of water annually, mostly from rainfall and from the Río Grande river. Torremolinos, Benalmádena, Alhaurín de la Torre and Alhaurín el Grande are the principal users of water from the aquifer.
Acosol, the water company for the Association of Western Costa del Sol Town Halls, estimates that 30 to 40 per cent of the water consumed in the region comes from the Mijas aquifer, with the rest provided by the La Concepción reservoir located between Marbella and Istán. According to the CHS, La Concepción, which was created to help handle the growing water needs during the tourism boom in the region, is under-utilised by some Costa municipalities. In periods of heavy rain, it sometimes has to offload water, as its 56-cubic-hectometre capacity becomes overloaded. A project to enlarge the reservoir is currently in the planning stages.
Towns in the region have begun to realise the need to rely more heavily on reservoir water and drink less deeply from the natural aquifer. This year marks the first time Torremolinos has contracted reservoir water for part of its supply, a move Benalmádena made in 2002; Fuengirola and Mijas have largely weaned themselves off the aquifer. The two Alhaurín's still depend exclusively on the Sierra de Mijas reserves, though Alhaurín de la Torre has already begun drilling in search of additional water sources.
MORE RESERVOIR WATER
The Junta de Andalucía Public Works Department last week indicated that it wants to convince Costa municipalities to take more of their water supply from La Concepción, and to only draw from the Mijas aquifer during the summer months. One of the reasons the towns have tended to rely more on the aquifer is that water from La Concepción is more expensive due to the more complex treatment it needs prior to distribution. The water from the Mijas aquifer has a naturally high level of purity and a balanced salt content.
Last week the CHS officially put out to bid the study it is commissioning on the Mijas aquifer and how to best manage it. The project has a 188,000-euro budget and a 15-month timeline.