News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week May 6th to May 12th 2004.
SEARCH FOR MISSING RESIDENT
Family desperate over the disappearance of Helen Mitchell
By David Eade
THE FAMILY OF HELEN PHILIPPA MITCHELL, LAST KNOWN TO BE LIVING IN MONDA, ARE DESPERATE FOR NEWS LEADING TO HER WHEREABOUTS AS THEY HAVE HAD NO CONTACT WITH HER SINCE OCTOBER 25 2003.
Helen Mitchell is aged 40, approximately 5’ 6’’, brown hair with blue eyes. She came to Spain about three years ago first going to Barcelona before settling in the village of Monda. She shared a house in Ronda with a German woman who has since returned to her native country. Her family understand that she worked largely on a casual basis in restaurants and with horses.
SIX MONTHS’ SILENCE
Her brother Ian Mitchell told Costa del Sol News that up to October Helen had remained in regular telephone contact, primarily with her father who is 74 and not in the best of health. When she did not contact them over Christmas, New Year or Easter they became very concerned and reported her disappearance to the Avon and Somerset Constabulary who made contact with the police authorities in Spain.
Ian Mitchell stated that at the time of her last call she was cheerful and in good health. Although the family do not know any of her friends in Spain, Mr Mitchell described her as being ‘naturally gregarious so is likely that she would be familiar to a variety of people’. He added: “We are baffled by her silence which has spanned six months now and her father is particularly anxious for any news.”
NO MOTIVE KNOWN
Costa del Sol News has spoken to a number of British residents in Monda who knew Helen Mitchell but have not seen her in recent months. Mr Mitchell said there is no reason that the family can conceive of that would lead her to deliberately break contact but naturally their major concern is to ascertain that she is alive and well.
If any readers have any information regarding Helen Mitchell they should call the British Consulate in Málaga on 952352300 or email [email protected] in the strictest confidence.
Further arrests in Lemon Falls real estate scam
By Oliver Mcintyre
SPANISH POLICE HAVE ARRESTED THREE MORE BRITONS FOR SUSPECTED INVOLVEMENT IN A FRAUDULENT REAL ESTATE OPERATION IN WHICH A BOGUS COMPANY WAS SELLING PLOTS IN A NON-EXISTENT MOBILE-HOME PARK IN ÁLORA CALLED LEMON FALLS.
In February police made the first two arrests in the case, detaining two British men connected to two additional companies allegedly involved in the fraud. The two men were charged and released pending trial. At the time of the initial arrests, investigators knew that some of the principal scam operators, the ones directly behind the company that sold the Lemon Falls plots via Internet, were still at large. Further investigation led to last week's arrests of the Britons Elaine H. (47) and Paul Michael H. (51) in a Mijas Costa house, and Michelle Maria Louise G., allegedly the director of the company in Windsor, England. According to police reports, the company charged 17,000 euros apiece for 500-square-metre lots in the fictitious Lemon Falls development. It attracted buyers principally via a Web site aimed at potential customers in the UK, but at least one duped customer, Ray Clay from Essex, told BBC Watchdog Reports that he learned about Lemon Falls at a stand operated at last year's Earls Court Caravan and Outdoor Leisure Show.
The investigation into the alleged scam began after some of the buyers contacted police in late January complaining that the company had 'disappeared'. According to documents seized during the police operation, the company appears to have sold 88 non-existent plots valued at a total of some 1.5 million euros, though investigators do not rule out the possibility of even more victims. Police also seized four all-terrain vehicles that were stolen in the UK and had false plates, as well as several fake British passports and driver's licences allegedly used by the suspects during their time in Spain. Due to the strong connection of the case to the UK, both in terms of suspects and victims, Scotland Yard agents reportedly travelled to Málaga's provincial police headquarters to review first hand the results of the investigation.
Thousands affected by bus strike
NEWS Staff Reporter
Thousands of Costa bus riders were affected late last week and early this week by a strike held by workers of the Automóviles Portillo bus company. While the strike did not result in a complete lack of bus service, the reduced routes and fewer overall buses left many riders either late arriving at their destination or looking for alternative transportation.
The CGT trade union, which represents the workers, said it planned to file a complaint with the Ministry of Employment and Social Services, accusing company of maintaining a level of service during the strike of nearly triple the required minimum of 25 per cent established by law. The drivers complied with the company’s strike service level against their will, in order to avoid confrontation with the company, according to the union.
Another strike planned for this Friday
The workers, who are demanding a salary increase and a guarantee of at least two days off a week, plan to strike again this Friday.
Terrorism heightens patrolling and security concerns
Terrorism heightens patrolling and security concerns
By David Eade
THE TERRORIST ATTACKS IN THE UNITED STATES ON SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, AND IN MADRID ON MARCH 11 OF THIS YEAR HAVE BROUGHT ABOUT A MAJOR PRESENCE OF NATO WARSHIPS IN THE STRAITS OF GIBRALTAR REGION, ACCORDING TO THE CHIEF GENERAL OF THE ARTILLERY COMMAND, JUSTO RUIZ SEVILLA.
The military expert was addressing a conference in Ceuta on the control and patrolling of the Straits - the missions, the deployment and the equipment of the coastal artillery command. He stated that after the attacks, working hours had been increased and "we now actively practice daily with the allied boats of NATO that pass through the Straits."
Sr Justo Ruiz explained that with the sensors currently available, the military has the capacity to provide necessary information such as the number of vessels passing through the Straits, but that any concrete action to foil a terrorist attack would not be its responsibility. He noted that before a vessel carrying an unknown cargo enters the Straits, the military can identify it and plot its position, and then NATO vessels can ascertain whether it is transporting drugs or planning a terrorist attack.
The artillery brigade general said that between February 2003 and February of this year 519 allied vessels were escorted through the Straits of Gibraltar. And apart from the transient vessels there was also a permanent NATO fleet stationed at the port of La Goleta in Tunisia, but it was scheduled to leave port on May 3.
The NATO fleet responsible for the Straits is under the command of a German officer, Hans Jorchen Wittauer, with four frigates: the Italian ship Aliseo, Britain's HMS Newcastle, the German vessel Bayer and the Turkish Giresun.
Torremolinos puts conditions on Benalmádena marina
By Oliver McIntyre
At last week's Torremolinos Town Council meeting, the mayor's governing team expressed its 'firm opposition' to neighbouring Benalmádena's marina expansion plans. However, it also indicated that, in the event that the project ultimately receives Junta de Andalucía and central Government approval, Torremolinos would demand several conditions.
One of the conditions is that the proposed capping of the Arroyo del Saltillo riverbed, which Benalmádena has included in its plan to create a new access road to the marina, be performed along the entire length of the arroyo from the motorway to the sea. (The Arroyo del Saltillo runs along the border of the two towns, and its involvement in the project is the reason the Junta de Andalucía has required Benalmádena to seek a joint town-planning authorisation with Torremolinos.) Another demand from Torremolinos is that the new marina road provide access directly to and from the motorway, with no exits onto local Torremolinos roads. In addition, it says the road would need soundproofing panels to protect against noise pollution. Finally, the mayor's team says Torremolinos would not expect to incur any expense whatsoever in the carrying out of the work.
The opposition parties at Torremolinos Town Hall took an even harder line, rejecting the ruling party's concession that approval of the project may be a foregone conclusion, and stating that under no conditions would they support the access-road plan. They urged the mayor's governing team to more clearly state its stance in opposition to the project moving forward.
Meanwhile, Benalmádena Town Hall has submitted a request to the Junta de Andalucía requesting permission to start work on the marina expansion without waiting for the capping of the Arroyo del Saltillo.
Second-hand-home prices jump
25 per cent increase in the cost of second-hand properties
By Oliver Mcintyre
THE COST OF SECOND-HAND HOMES IN THE PROVINCE OF MÁLAGA HAS SHOT UP 25 PER CENT IN THE LAST YEAR, ACCORDING TO THE LATEST HOUSING-COST REPORT BY THE REAL-ESTATE ASSESSOR TINSA, WHICH PRODUCES A QUARTERLY NATION-WIDE MARKET ANALYSIS.
The price increase puts the province in fourth place nationally, keeping with the trend of the six years since the real-estate boom began in mid-1998, since which time Málaga has consistently been among the top price-growth areas in the country.
The current average price per square metre in the province of Málaga, 1,534.30 euros, is almost exactly double what it was in 1998. Unlike in most places, in Málaga prices in the capital city (1,315.10 euros per square metre) are actually lower than the provincial average. Also, the rate of price increase outside the city, at 27 per cent, is significantly greater than the city of Málaga’s 21 per cent. This time last year the city was showing a price-increase rate of 26 per cent.
A NATIONAL TREND
Nationally, the last 12 months have seen a 16.94 per cent increase in the price of second-hand homes alongside a 17.31 per cent rise in new-home prices, according to the Tinsa report. By region, Andalucía, with a 21 per cent increase, was behind only Murcia (26 per cent) and Castilla La Mancha (25 per cent) for price hikes on second-hand homes. The lowest increases were seen in the regions of Navarra, at eight per cent, Galicia (nine per cent) and Castilla-León (10 per cent).
Drug trafficker's partner arrested in UK
By David Eade
Customs and Excise in the UK has told the Costa del Sol News that the partner of Neil Davison, who was arrested for drug trafficking in Estepona in March, has now also been charged. Ellen George lived with Davison in Lowestoft and served as co-director of his company Crompton Marine in the Suffolk port town. Guardia Civil officers arrested Davison when they discovered that a large number of the launches arriving on the Costa's shores from Morocco with cargoes of hashish were manufactured by Crompton. A joint UK-Spanish investigation followed in which Davison and others were arrested in Spain. The Guardia Civil has alleged that Davison was the mastermind of the gang.
Ellen George is charged with possession of criminal property - specifically, one million pounds in cash representing a person's benefit from criminal conduct. She has also been charged with wittingly assisting Davison with the holding and managing of his illegal proceeds between June 8, 2000, and March 25, 2004. Customs and Excise informed CDSN that it estimated Ellen George assisted in the laundering of at least 4.5 million pounds.
Nerja aims for work-free summer
By Dave Jamieson
Nerja is making efforts to clear the town centre of road works for the summer. The Town Hall says that the four municipal projects presently underway will be concluded by the end of June in order to improve traffic flow and reintroduce parking places during the peak holiday period. The major work to the north of the town in the Barriada de los Poetas and the Almijara areas is scheduled to be concluded this month, an operation to replace power, telephone, water and sanitation networks which has cost 30,000 euros. New paving will complete the project which provides parking for 60 vehicles.
The second of the current projects is the renovation of Calle de las Angustias, where 198,000 euros is being spent on infrastructure upgrades and where 20 parking spaces will be introduced. Work to pedestrianise Calle Ferrán, with vehicular access only for residents, is costing 110,000 euros and includes further underground work and new street lighting.
The final project, to add a footpath to the Puente Viejo over the River Chillar and construction of a new roundabout at the neighbouring junction with Antonio Ferrandis at a cost of 450,000 euros, is reported to be making better progress after slipping behind schedule.
Nerja’s population increases substantially during July and August, bringing consequential traffic problems with it, a situation which the Town Hall hopes to ease by ensuring these projects are completed soon. However, further work is planned for the autumn with Plaza de Las Terrazas and Calles Bronce and Méndez Núñez next in line to get a municipal makeover.
Rincón launches major flood investigation
By Dave Jamieson
RINCÓN DE LA VICTORIA IS LAUNCHING A MAJOR INVESTIGATION INTO THE FLOODS WHICH DEVASTATED THE TOWN ON MARCH 28.
An extraordinary meeting of the Town Council last week unanimously approved the creation of a “commission of work and investigation” to evaluate the causes of the disaster and to identify where responsibilities lie. The heavy rains of the last weekend of March brought the town to a halt and caused damages estimated at over 30 million euros.
Opposition parties called for the investigation to be “open and transparent” and asked for the enquiry to include land movements caused by motorway construction north of the town. The councillor for urbanisation, Francisco Salado, confirmed that one of the areas worst affected by flood waters, the Arroyo del Cementerio, had been the site of uncontrolled dumping, while all sides showed support for collaborating in the work to repair damaged infrastructures.
PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS GO AHEAD
Rincón’s Mayor, José Jesús Dominguez Palma, said that the new commission would meet within 15 days to define its remit, and expressed the hope that it would deliver its conclusions quickly. The Town Hall has also asked the water authority to divert one of the channels which contributed to the flooding. In a letter to the Confederación Hidrográfica del Sur, Rincón says that such work would protect Calle San Juan and the Cala del Moral district.
Meanwhile, Rincón’s association of business owners has complained that the clean up operation has not yet concluded. Its president, Francisco Ruiz, said that failure to clear away the mess left after the floods has “undoubtedly” had a detrimental effect on his members’ sales. The association has asked the Junta de Andalucía for 2.5 million euros to compensate for losses suffered by the business sector following March 28.
Greenpeace boards freighter off Málaga
By Dave Jamieson
ACTIVISTS BELONGING TO GREENPEACE BOARDED A FREIGHT LINER MOORED THREE MILES OFF MÁLAGA HARBOUR, SUSPECTING IT OF CARRYING A CARGO OF A GENETICALLY ENGINEERED PRODUCT FROM ARGENTINA.
As she prepared to unload around 20 tons of maize and soya, the vessel “Winner” was approached by an inflatable launch carrying members of the ecology group, intent on preventing her docking. One of the protesters, Marta García, clambered onto the ship’s anchor chain where she remained for nine hours, perched a few metres above the water and displaying a banner of protest, while others lodged themselves on the ship’s cranes and masts.
AGAINST GENETICALLY ENGINEERED PRODUCTS
Greenpeace, which has been mounting an international campaign against the commercialisation of genetically engineered products, then demanded that the legality of the cargo on board the Winner, flying a Cypriot flag, should be checked. For security reasons, the ship’s Greek captain remained at anchor offshore during the protest which Greenpeace said would end only after they were certain that the cargo had not been manipulated genetically.
While the peaceful protest continued, Greenpeace negotiated with the vessel’s Dutch owners, Nidera, demanding that they give up the transportation of genetically engineered products which, according to the ecology group, ‘are leading to the destruction of sustainable agriculture’. Greenpeace’s own ship, the MV Esperanza, remained anchored off-shore while an inflatable craft travelled from it to check on the welfare of the protestor clinging to the Winner’s anchor chain. A spokesman for the group denounced Spain for being the second importer of soya in the E.U., saying they believed that four of the six million tons entering the country annually was either genetically engineered, or contaminated with genetically engineered material.
SHIP FINALLY UNLOADED CARGO
Finally, after several hours, when news came that a meeting had been scheduled for this week at Nidera’s base in Rotterdam, the protest was called off. The Winner was finally able to unload her cargo of 9,000 tons of soya and 11,500 of maize from South America on Thursday, but it was not subjected to genetic trials. A Government official said that, as the ship’s papers were in order and no irregularities had been observed, no such checks were required or had been asked for. He added that if Greenpeace or any other organisation had made a formal complaint, the cargo would have been inspected. In the end, the produce was distributed as planned to manufacturers of animal feedstuffs in Málaga and throughout Andalucía.
Englishman bans smoking in Irish bar
By David Eade
The Flanagan’s Thatch bar in Cortijo Blanco, San Pedro, followed the lead set by pubs in Ireland and banned smoking from May 1. Steve Elson, an Englishman, bought the pub from its Irish owner three years ago. He told the Costa del Sol News that so far the smoking ban had been accepted without any problems.
Steve gave his customers due notice of the smoking embargo by putting up posters in the bar and even appeared on local radio to announce his move. He said: “One or two customers weren’t very happy and said they wouldn’t be coming in but we’ve not noticed any drop in trade, in fact, quite the opposite.”
Smoker Steve said he decided on the ban ‘because I couldn’t stand the smell in the bar anymore, especially as we serve food’. He added: “It was smoky and horrible in the bar which is small. It only holds about 40 people.” Steve has no plans to give up smoking so he too has to pop outside to light up which he says ‘is a bit of a drag in the current wet weather’.