News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week November 6th to November 12th 2003.
MISSING BRIT IN BELATED DEATH NOTICE
Family not notified for three weeks
BY DAVID EADE
THE WIFE OF SEVENTY-NINE-YEAR-OLD GEOFFREY DOWNER OF SOTOGRANDE WAS SHOCKED TO DISCOVER THAT HER HUSBAND, FOR WHOM A SEARCH WARRANT HAD BEEN ISSUED, HAD IN FACT DIED TWENTY DAYS EARLIER AT LA LINEA HOSPITAL.
Geoffrey Downer went missing from his home in Sotogrande on October 9. He was due to keep a business appointment that day on the urbanisation but, as he failed to turn up, the estate agent he was due to meet kept an eye open for him at his home.
After six days there was still no sign of Mr Downer on the urbanisation so the estate agent contacted his wife in the UK. Mr Downer was a keen golfer and had come to Spain ahead of his wife to open up the house and play some rounds at the Club de Golf Sotogrande where he was a member.
Initially his wife thought he had probably decided to tour some of the new golf courses in the area. As there was not a phone at their home and Mr Downer did not have a mobile phone, his wife agreed for the Guardia Civil to be contacted ahead of her arrival in Spain.
SEARCH WARRANT ISSUED
When the Guardia Civil broke into the Downer's home they found no sign of him having been there for several days. On her arrival, Mrs Downer made an official missing person's report to the Guardia Civil and a search was started. An appeal for anybody who had seen him was also launched in the local media.
It was only then discovered that Mr Downer had been involved in a head-on collision in his British-registered Volkswagen Golf GTI on October 9. He had been taken to La Línea Hospital, where he was operated on but died on the next day due to his injuries.
Mrs Downer told CDSN that she was angry and mystified as to why she was not contacted earlier about her husband's death. She said that the authorities claimed that he had no identification on him but she has since discovered that he was carrying his UK driving licence and the car contained his UK insurance as well as other documentation. In addition, the car's number plates were intact, so the police could have asked the British authorities to contact her.
Mrs Downer was told by La Línea Hospital that it had notified the British Consulate in Málaga that a Briton had died at the hospital. However, she says she was not at that time contacted by the Consulate or the Foreign Office either in the UK or Spain.
BRITISH CONSULATE NOT NOTIFIED
At the time CDSN went to press, the British Consul in Málaga, Bruce McIntyre, was not available for comment. However, a source at the Consulate unofficially described the basic sequence of events, indicating that the Consulate was not informed of the death until October 30, the same day it arranged for Mrs Downer to be notified.
JUNTA AND CITY AT ODDS OVER MÁLAGA METRO
Town Hall backs down, but disagreements remain
BY DAVE JAMIESON
WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE FINAL MEETING OF THE TECHNICAL COMMISSION CONSIDERING MÁLAGA'S NEW PUBLIC TRANSPORT SYSTEM, THE METRO, LAST WEEK PRODUCED MORE DISAGREEMENT BETWEEN THE CITY AND THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT.
After a four and a half hour meeting, the two sides failed to reach an accord on a number of aspects of the work which is due to begin next year. The first stumbling block was on three points along the line of the metro which the city has proposed as interchanges, where the metro, railway services and buses would coincide. The Junta rejected the plans for such construction, at the Renfe station, at Guadalmedina and at the Plaza de Torrijos, on grounds of cost - more than 100 million euros - while the city said that financing would come from commercial businesses operating at the three interchanges, an argument dismissed by the Junta.
The day after the meeting, however, Málaga's Mayor, Francisco de la Torre, appeared to back down on the issue, saying, in a letter to the Public Works office at the Junta, that 'there should not be a brake' on the metro project. In the same letter, however, he described as 'unacceptable' that the metro's fiscal management was 'in Sevilla, and not in Málaga, where it should be'. He asked for all the project documentation to be sent to Málaga, 'out of respect for the Málaga people', and for the project's future management to be based in the city.
There remains disagreement over the level of involvement by EMT, the company which runs Málaga's municipal bus services, and over the question of whether to run the service underground in the Teatinos district, an option which the City says will add 19 million euros to the cost. It's not thought that the present lack of accord will delay the start of work on the metro's first two lines which, with the Teatinos underground stretch, have been budgeted at 374 million euros. Invitations to tender for the work were due to be issued this week.
LINES TO SHARE LA MALAGUETA TERMINUS
However, a number of details of the metro are not in dispute. Lines One and Two will share an eastern terminus in the city centre at La Malagueta, Line One then running 7.2 kilometres almost due west to Teatinos and Line Two running 6.3 kilometres south-west to the Martín Carpena sports stadium. There will be 19 stations in total, with those at Cruz de Humilladero, Carlos Haya and the Renfe rail terminal the deepest, at 15 metres under the surface. The six trains on Line One will take 15 minutes to travel from terminus to terminus, and, with five trains on Line Two, services will run every six minutes at peak times.
METRO LINK BETWEEN FUENGIROLA AND MARBELLA
By David Eade
The Ministry of Public Works of the regional government has stated its preferred option for a rail link between Fuengirola and Marbella. After carrying out a technical study it has come down in favour of a metro link between the two resorts.
The regional authority has ruled out a rail link because of the lack of land on which to construct it and because of the effect it would have on existing urbanisations. It believes that there would be great demand for a metro link (115,000 passengers per day) and that the trains could travel at a high speed of 110 kilometres per hour.
The Madrid metro seems to be the example that the regional government wishes to follow. It points out that funding for the extension of that metro from Nuevos Ministerios to Barajas airport, which has been in service since May 2002, was 80 per cent funded by the EU's Cohesion Fund.
Spain's Minister of Public Works, Francisco Álvarez Cascos, will meet next month with the regional government's president, Manuel Chaves, in Sevilla. The main topic will be the Costa del Sol rail link. In addition the regional government has maintained informal contacts with the European Investment Bank to discuss funding of a metro project.
The Andalucía authority noted that the extension of Line 8 of the Madrid metro to Barajas cost 280 million euros and the train covers the journey in just 12 minutes. The distances between Fuengirola and Marbella being similar the project certainly seems feasible.
The cost of a metro link between Fuengirola and Marbella is estimated at between 540 and 720 million euros. The project would see the extension of the system to Estepona as a second phase. However the central government is still carrying out its own study into the feasibility of linking Fuengirola with the port of Algeciras.
MYSTERY OVER MOTIVES FOR BRITON'S VIOLENT MURDER
By David Eade
As reported in last week's CDSN a 67-year-old Iranian born British subject was stabbed to death in the entrance of the Edificio Arash at 146 Avenida de España in Estepona 10 days ago.
He was stabbed five times in the head at around 8.15 on Monday October 27 suffering a major blood loss. However despite the fact that the crime took place in broad daylight in one of the town's major thoroughfares no witnesses have come forward.
The courts have imposed a news black out but further details have come to hand. The man has been named as Fereidon F and he lived and maintained an office in the same building. According to the police he is married with sons living in London and other family members in Canada.
Police believe the violent stabbing was the work of one person but the motive is still a mystery. Robbery has been largely discounted as none of his possessions seemed to be missing.
Fereidon F has no known criminal convictions and was not believed to be involved in the drugs trade, which seems to rule out 'a settling of accounts'. Officers are now following other possible lines of enquiry to discover whether it was a crime of passion or if there were sexual or monetary motives.
AXARQUÍA FIRE COVER COMMISSION STARTS WORK
Panel of eight to oversee restructuring of emergency service
By Dave Jamieson
THE AXARQUÍA'S RESTRUCTURED FIRE-COVER ARRANGEMENTS CAME A STEP CLOSER TO REALITY LAST WEEK WHEN A COMMISSION WAS APPOINTED TO OVERSEE ITS IMPLEMENTATION.
A meeting in Vélez-Málaga, attended by the mayors of the 31 participating municipalities, resulted in the creation of an eight-member panel that will be responsible for transforming the existing bases in Vélez and Rincón de la Victoria into the new service, with a main base at Vélez-Málaga, reinforcements at Rincón, Periana and Nerja, and four smaller units at Alfarnate, Colmenar, Cómpeta and Canillas de Aceituno. This year's costs of 241,000 euros and next year's of 1.4 million euros will be shared between the provincial government and the municipalities, according to their population and geographical size. The only Axarquía municipality so far not part of the plan is Arenas, although its local council was expected to give its approval sometime this week.
The new structure - to be developed by the Commission of four PSOE mayors, one mayor from each of the PA, IU and PP, plus a chairman from the provincial government - will include an initial staff of 35 fire-fighters, rising to 45 by the end of 2004.
TRAGEDY KICK-STARTS PLAN
A review of fire services in the region and the consequent restructuring was accelerated after a house fire at Periana last July took the lives of two young brothers. Questions about the time taken for fire service crews to arrive were raised immediately after the tragedy. Periana does not have a fire station, and emergency services, which had to travel the 30 kilometres from Vélez-Málaga to tackle the blaze, reportedly took 20 minutes to arrive, during which time neighbours, including the village's mayor, attempted to extinguish the flames.
Two days after the tragedy, the president of the Málaga's provincial committee, Salvador Pendón, said that the new fire cover arrangements could be functioning this year, and not in 2005 as originally planned, although the implementation, subsequently planned for October, was later delayed for administrative reasons.
NEIGHBOURS SUPPORT ALHAURÍN INDUSTRIAL PARK EXPANS
By Oliver McIntyre
Alhaurín el Grande Town Hall last week reported that the owners of property that will be affected by the planned expansion of the town's industrial park have expressed their support for the project. The announcement came after Mayor Juan Martín and Urban Planning councillor Gregorio Guerra met with the property owners to discuss the details of the plan and to get their approval.
"The result of the meeting ... was very positive, with all of them expressing their approval and their desire for it to move forward as soon as possible," said Sr Guerra.
The expansion plan calls for the creation of a 450,000-square-metre facility, which the Town Hall envisions as not just a traditional industrial park, but rather a mixed-use zone including offices, service-oriented business, leisure activities and shops. Once further study of the project is completed and actual plans are drawn up, the Town Hall will solicit written approval from the affected landowners.
ROUNDABOUT MISUSE CAUSES ACCIDENTS
NEWS Staff Reporter
Local Police in Vélez-Málaga say that improper use of roundabouts in the municipality has led to numerous road accidents. They have named 30 points of serious traffic conflict in their area, with 14 in Vélez itself, 11 in Torre del Mar, and the rest in smaller towns including Caleta and Almayate. Already this year 176 accidents have been recorded at these black spots, a figure which includes only those incidents requiring a police presence.
In Vélez, there have been 13 accidents on Avenida Villa de Madrid and 11 on or around the Camino de Málaga, while along Avenida Juan Carlos I, several incidents have been reported, particularly at roundabouts. Police say that while speed reduction measures and new signalling has reduced the accident rate by 90 per cent in some cases, the incorrect use of roundabouts, which otherwise improve traffic flow, has contributed greatly to the numbers.
TORREMOLINOS PROSTITUTION RING BUSTED
NEWS Staff Reporter
Police in Torremolinos have taken down a suspected prostitution ring that illegally brought women from Eastern European countries into Spain to work in the sex trade. They arrested 16 people on charges of sexual exploitation, documentation falsification, crimes against workers' rights and crimes against foreigners' rights. Two others were arrested for being in the country illegally. The arrested individuals range in age from 20 to 44 and include German, Lithuanian, Russian, Ukrainian, Moldavian and Spanish citizens.
According to the National Police, the investigation of the group began after two of its members were detained by French police on August 28 at the French-Belgian border. The French officers seized two automatic pistols and ascertained that one of the men owned a Torremolinos nightclub, which was later inspected by Spanish authorities. Spanish police also searched a Torremolinos apartment, where they found some of the women allegedly controlled by the group.
The women exploited by the ring were mainly from ex-Soviet Union countries, where they were picked up and then taken to Germany before being brought into Spain under false passports allegedly provided by the suspects. In the Torremolinos operations the police seized six false passports, along with 3,800 euros and a vehicle.
SPAIN CLOSES ITS BORDER WITH GIBRALTAR
Virus stricken liner Aurora causes a commotion
BY DAVID EADE
SPAIN CLOSED ITS BORDER WITH GIBRALTAR ON MONDAY AS THE VIRUS STRICKEN P&O LINER AURORA ARRIVED AT THE ROCK.
The move was prompted by the Gibraltar Government's decision to allow the vessel to dock and those passengers who were free from infection to come ashore.
This was the first time the border had been closed since it re-opened in 1985. Franco had closed the crossing in 1969 to express his anger at the referendum in which the people of Gibraltar overwhelming voted to remain British.
On Monday the border was closed as the Aurora sailed into Gibraltar leaving many workers and tourists stranded. It was finally re-opened 13 hours later two hours after the Aurora left port. Spain claimed that the closure was a provisional measure to protect its citizens' health but British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw described it as 'unnecessary and disproportionate'.
ARRIVED FROM PIRAEUS
The £200 million Aurora arrived in Gibraltar with 1,800 passengers and 800 crew from the Greek port of Piraeus. It was reported that the vessel had been banned from docking there. However Greek officials have denied the accusation claiming that the captain opted to remain in international waters thus preventing health inspectors from boarding.
Whatever the truth of the matter medical supplies and two doctors did join the vessel in Greece before it set sail for the Rock. Passengers struck down by the Norwalk virus have been ordered to stay in their cabins. The illness, which causes vomiting, and diarrhoea lasts for two days but victims remain contagious for a week.
P&O and the Gibraltar port authorities had been in contact with the Aurora as it sailed from Piraeus to the Rock. However both were at pains to assure the people of Gibraltar that they were not in danger from the virus as it was being contained on board the vessel.
BOARDED AT SOUTHAMPTON
One theory as to why the luxury cruise liner has been stricken in this way is that the Norwalk virus was brought on board the Aurora as she took on passengers at Southampton at the start of the cruise.
Cases of Norwalk have been reported at Southampton's General Hospital since the beginning of October. There were also reports that people were being advised to stay away from the hospital because of an outbreak of the highly contagious infection affecting 65 patients and 22 staff. A similar outbreak is said to have occurred at Bournemouth's hospital were a number of wards were closed.
KING TO TESTIFY IN WANNINKHOF CASE
By Oliver McIntyre
Tony Alexander King (a.k.a. Tony Bromwich), the confessed killer of two young Spanish women, is scheduled to testify on November 13 before the Fuengirola judge hearing one of the cases, the 1999 murder of Rocío Wanninkhof in Mijas. In recent statements to court and to the press, King's lawyer, Adrián Broncano, indicated that his client urgently wanted to testify. Sr Broncano also stated somewhat mysteriously last week that: "The memory of (King's) daughter plays an important role for him, which will soon come to light."
King's friend Robbie Graham, who recently underwent a controversial hypnosis-induced interview in which he may have implicated Dolores Vázquez in the Wanninkhof case, is scheduled to testify before the Fuengirola judge on November 10. In the Guardia Civil-conducted interview, Mr Graham allegedly recalled that a woman who might be Sra Vázquez (he referred to her by two separate nicknames and never by her actual name) paid King to carry out the crime. Dolores Vázquez was previously convicted of the murder, but the trial was later annulled on a technicality and the retrial was indefinitely postponed when King confessed to the killing after being arrested for the murder of 17-year-old Sonia Carabantes in Coín earlier this year.
King's lawyer stated last week that his client 'denies having received money from Dolores Vázquez or anybody else for committing any crime'. King's ex-wife, Celia King, is scheduled to testify before the Fuengirola judge on November 11.
Meanwhile, the Coín judge hearing the Sonia Carabantes murder case has requested additional reports and clarifications from the autopsy of the young girl. Among other things, the judge indicated he wants to compare forensic evidence from the autopsy with testimony given by King regarding the exactly how events unfolded on the night of the crime.
RENTAL CAR COMPANIES SHUT DOWN AIRPORT ACCESS
NEWS Staff Reporter
Some passengers were forced to rush to the airport on foot from as far away as the old N-340, or Carretera de Cádiz, on Monday, when local rental car companies used 170 vehicles to block access to the airport as part of a protest. The companies have been trying for two years to get Aena, the company that runs the airport, to provide them certain amenities, such as better facilities for customer contract signing, an improved pick-up and drop-off area, and free half-hour parking, according to the rental car association Aesva.
The blockage of the airport access road took place at about 10:15, causing long a long traffic backup out to and along the old N-340. The situation was brought back to normal around 12:30, following police intervention. Though some people had to get out of cabs or other vehicles and walk or run the rest of the way to the airport, there were no complaints filed regarding missed flights due to the protest, according to Aena. No incoming or outgoing flights were delayed by the protest, during which there were 21 landings and 17 takeoffs.
FRIGILIANA GOES UNDERGROUND
The old town of Frigiliana is to be transformed by a number of improvements approved for next year. Mayor Javier López said that the most important of these would be the elimination of overhead electric cabling over a large area of the historic village. The Department of Tourism and Sport have agreed a budget of 60,000 euros to have the wires routed out of sight, below the road surfaces. At the same time, a major construction job will provide a new underground car park for 500 vehicles, half of which will be rented by residents, together with a leisure and commercial area of 800 square metres. Work on this project by the company Cruz del Pinto will start shortly.
A further major project will be the urbanisation of Los Bancales, which will take six months and cost 515,000 euros. In addition, the Mirador de Los Bancales and the Jardines de la Era will be upgraded.