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Week December 16th to December 22nd 2004.
CRACKDOWN ON CRIME
Recent spate of killings brings police reinforcements
By David Eade
THE MINISTRY OF THE INTERIOR HAS REINFORCED GUARDIA CIVIL ON THE MEDITERRANEAN COAST TO COMBAT IMMIGRATION MAFIAS AND THE THREAT FROM ISLAMIC TERRORISTS.
In the view of the recent killings in Marbella, the number of National Police to fight organized crime on the Costa del Sol has also been increased.
The Guardia Civil will have an increase of 1,202 officers for its units distributed along the Mediterranean and the Balearic Islands dedicated to preventing Islamic inspired terrorism. The maritime service in the Straits of Gibraltar that counters illegal immigration and drug trafficking will receive 120 additional officers whilst another 120 officers will be sent to carry out other maritime duties in the Algeciras and Cádiz zones.
NEW SPECIAL POLICE UNITS
The ministry is also determined to tackle organized crime on the Costa del Sol. It is targeting the large international gangs that are using the latest technology and modern methods of moving money. Two new special police units are to be formed to work alongside the existing drugs, organized and violent crime groups. They will gather intelligence on gangs and liaise with international law enforcement agencies in the criminals’ countries of origin, especially eastern Europe.
‘MAFIA TYPE’ GROUPS TARGETED
In a press statement the Ministry of the Interior explained that the trafficking of hashish from Morocco across the Straits of Gibraltar was largely responsible for the existence of organized criminal gangs on the Costa del Sol. These groups were largely made up of criminals from France, Britain, Italy and Germany.
The ministry pointed to the occasional outbreaks of violence between these criminal groups that resulted in the so-called ‘settling of accounts’. These are provoked by the theft of shipments of drugs, arms and often result in murders of which a number have occurred in Marbella this year including the recent slaying of two innocent people.
During 2004 police on the Costa del Sol seized 5,200 kilos of heroin, 21,812 kilos of hashish, 190.3 kilos of cocaine, 51,541 ecstasy tablets in 63 actions against 35 organized gangs. In Andalucía the total number of people detained this year stands at 490 in 86 actions involving 49 criminal groups.
MARBELLA SLAYINGS STILL A MYSTERY
By David Eade
IF THE NATIONAL POLICE HAVE MADE ANY PROGRESS IN IDENTIFYING AND CAPTURING THE FOUR MEN RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SLAYING OF A SEVEN-YEAR-OLD BOY AND AN ITALIAN HAIRDRESSER AT THE RECENT HOTEL ANDALUCÍA PLAZA SHOOTINGS NEAR PUERTO BANÚS THEN THEY ARE KEEPING MATTERS CLOSE TO THEIR CHESTS.
After the shooting an Algerian-born French businessmen went to the National Police to say he thought he was the intended target. He had been in the hairdressers at the time of the shooting and his friend – bodyguard, who was waiting in their car outside the hairdressers, was one of those injured. The companion was arrested in his hospital bed for the possession of a gun that was found beneath their car.
Police have stressed that neither the Frenchman nor his companion have any previous convictions in Spain. The businessmen is said to be involved in high fashion, owns several shops in Puerto Banús and commutes between his homes in Paris and Marbella. He was allowed to return to his home after being interviewed by police.
The police say they do not know the identity of the four attackers nor have they yet found the man who entered the hairdressers before the shooting and asked for an appointment in English. He is said to have acted in a very suspicious manner and left the shop seconds before the shooting started.
Whilst police still believe the shooting bears all the hallmarks of a “settling of accounts” between criminals they have stated that the modus operandi suggests that they had no clear identity of their target. More than 70 shots were fired in the assault and the two victims were hit by 16 bullets between them.
SPECIAL SQUAD IN ESTEPONA
Meanwhile in neighbouring Estepona the civilian security group has formed a special squad of local police officers to tackle organised crime. The town hall fears that this violence may spread from Marbella to Estepona. The new group of officers will pay special attention to the many urbanisations in the east of the municipality bordering on to Marbella where a Rumanian gang is said to have already carried out robberies.
‘Bomberos’ warn of holiday fire risk
By Oliver McIntyre
The Benalmádena Fire Department has issued a report warning residents of the increased risk of fires during the holiday season and providing some fire-safety tips. The ‘Bomberos’ decision to issue the warning and advice this year was motivated by the sharp increase in fires in the town during last year’s holiday season, when the department responded to 22 fires between December 20 and 31. The increased risk of blazes during the holidays is due to things like Christmas lights and decorations, the use of space heaters, and large feasts left cooking for long periods of time on the stove or in the oven, say the firefighters.
The department warns against overloading electrical circuits when installing Christmas lights and decorations, and avoiding the excessive use of socket adapters or multipliers. Homemade or spliced extension cords should not be used. The Bomberos also warn against the use of paper or other highly flammable ornaments on Christmas trees. Candles should always be located where visible and not at risk of setting nearby furniture or curtains afire, and the same goes for space heaters, which should also have proper ventilation for air flow. The Fire Department recommends maintaining a close eye on food cooking in the kitchen, and not leaving it untended while in process. Finally, the Bomberos advises that all homes should be outfitted with smoke detectors.
Wanninkhof family does not want King tried alone
Decision to drop charges against Vázquez and Graham appealed
NEWS Staff Reporter
THE PROVINCIAL COURT IS SET TO HEAR THE APPEAL AGAINST A FUENGIROLA JUDGE’S RULING THAT PROVISIONALLY DROPPED ALL CHARGES AGAINST DOLORES VÁZQUEZ AND ROBERT GRAHAM IN THE ROCÍO WANNINKHOF MURDER CASE AND MADE TONY ALEXANDER KING THE SOLE SUSPECT TO FACE CHARGES FOR THE MURDER.
The appeal, filed by the lawyer for the Wanninkhof family, is to be heard by the provincial court on December 20.
The family of the slain 19-year-old Mijas woman has doggedly insisted that Dolores Vázquez and Robert Graham go to trial alongside King. Vázquez, once a steady romantic partner of the victim’s mother, was previously convicted for the murder, but was later released from prison when the higher courts annulled her trial. The victim’s mother, Alicia Hornos, and her lawyer continue to maintain that the evidence originally used to convict Vázquez is still valid as evidence of her involvement in the crime. In the appeal, they also request that additional testimony be taken from King’s cellmate at the Alhaurín prison, Robert Graham’s ex-girlfriend and others.
In September the Fuengirola judge rejected the Wanninkhof family’s initial appeal of her decision to drop the charges against Vázquez and Graham. She found “absolutely no evidence directly connecting Dolores Vázquez to the death of the young woman or to the Britain Tony Alexander King.” The prosecutor’s office is in agreement with the judge’s decision to try only King.
JUDGE CLOSES MOTRIL CASE
Meanwhile, a judge in Motril has ordered the provisional closure of another case that King has had some connection to. The case involves the unsolved disappearance of a teenage girl, María Teresa Fernández, in August 2000. The judge decided to shelf the case after finding no credibility in the testimony given by King in October, when he said he suspected his acquaintance Robert Graham of having killed the girl. He was called to testify because of a statement he had made in a letter written from jail, in which he said he “would make [Graham] pay for what he did to Rocío and the girl from Motril.”
Málaga protest against prostitution planned
By Dave Jamieson
Residents in Málaga are threatening unprecedented protests against prostitution in the city centre. Referring to “the serious situation in which we find ourselves,” the collective ‘Centro Sur’ says it will create road blocks, stage demonstrations and patrol the streets to bring to an end the problems arising from prostitution in the area.
The group’s vice-president, Pedro Pérez, claimed the situation had become “truly unsustainable” around Alameda Principal, Alameda de Colón and Tomás Heredia, adding that, “the residents’ quality of life has notably declined.” Centro Sur is actively seeking the support of other similar collectives in city areas affected by the problem, with the intention of organising “a huge demonstration in the city streets.” But Sr Pérez says that, if necessary, his group will go it alone, “because we can put up with it no longer.”
Members of Centro Sur say they are tired of female residents being stopped in the street to be asked how much they charge, the high levels of noise plus the attacks on many of their private vehicles, which have been broken into and robbed.
The councillor responsible for the area, Rosa Agüera, said that there exists no legal means to prevent the practice of prostitution, although the Law of City Security allows for a series of penalties of as much as 300 euros. Local residents say that part of the problem is the number of derelict buildings in the area and the opening of several sex shops, saying that, little by little, the controls over prostitution have been lost by the authorities and the problem has continued to grow.
End in sight for Marbella-Ojén conflict
Mayors propose joint industrial estate on disputed land
By David Eade
OVER TWO AND A HALF YEARS HAS PASSED SINCE THE MUNICIPALITIES OF MARBELLA AND OJÉN RECEIVED A REPORT FROM SPAIN’S NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC AND GEOLOGICAL INSTITUTE TO BRING TO AN END A BOUNDARY CONFLICT THAT HAS RAGED FOR THE PAST CENTURY.
But the work of the institute’s technicians failed to achieve an agreement between the former warring mayors of Marbella and Ojén, Julián Muñoz and Francisco Manuel Vázquez.
Now all that is about to change after Marbella’s current mayor, Marisol Yagüe, has proposed to the new mayor of Ojén, Juan Pedro Gómez, that the two towns jointly develop an industrial estate that is proposed for disputed land at La Mina. It is hoped that an accord on this zone, which is at the centre of the boundary dispute, will help the municipalities come to an agreement on where the limits of their authority lie.
The initial signs are promising. The mayor of Ojén has met with the Marbella councillor responsible for public works and his technicians. He has also had a conversation with Mayor Yagüe, who he says seems keen to end the century-old conflict between the neighbouring towns.
Mayor Gómez explained that the intention is to build the industrial estate together and at the same time solve any lingering border disputes. He added that if the estate were half in Marbella and half in Ojén, the towns would regularise any small boundary differences that exist.
GOOD FOR EMPLOYMENT
Plans for the new industrial estate are to be incorporated in Marbella’s revised Urban Growth Plan (PGOU). Ojen’s mayor welcomes the project, as he believes it will be good for local employment and also because it will see the two municipalities working hand-in-hand on its development.
The boundaries between Marbella and Ojén were established in 1870. However, over the years development, modifications to boundaries and the building of urban zones has led to confusion and dispute over where the actual dividing lines stand.
Cártama sports centre moving forward
By Oliver McIntyre
Cártama Town Hall announced last week that it has secured the property for the creation of the town’s new sports complex, described by municipal sources as “one of the governing team’s most ambitious projects.” An agreement has been signed with the owners of the property, making way for the 90,000-square-metre complex, called the Centro Deportivo Sociocultural del Guadalhorce. It the property sits in what is known as the UR1 sector of the municipality, a 600,000-square-metre swath of land between Cártama Estación and Cártama Pueblo.
The future complex is to include a large indoor sports centre, a football stadium, an indoor pool, two basketball courts, two indoor football arenas, four tennis courts, four paddleball courts, an area for playing petanca, a children’s playground and garden areas. Plans also call for the site to house a fairground, which when not in use for local fairs and festivals will double as a parking area.
No concrete timeline has been established for the project, but the Town Hall plans to make all the preparations necessary to begin work as soon as the municipal Urban Growth Plan (PGOU) receives final approval from the regional government. Mayor Juan Garrido is anxious to bring the project to fruition, viewing it as the “beginning of a transformation of our town, because this complex will be a point of union between the [separated] districts that form the municipality.”
Spa revival planned after 97 years
By Dave Jamieson
It may soon be possible to take the waters at an Axarquía spa that has been closed since 1907. Vilo lies two and half kilometres from Periana, north of Vélez-Málaga, and was first noted for the health-promoting effects of its thermal waters in the middle of the 18th century. In 1828, a facility was opened with accommodation for those visiting the town to bathe in the water, which emerges from the ground at a natural temperature of 21 degrees and is said to be ideal for treating skin conditions.
However, political wrangling between Periana and Vélez-Málaga over the spa’s ownership took its toll and, despite improvements made in 1893, it was abandoned in 1907 after the buildings were destroyed in a violent storm. In the 1990s, Periana Town Hall acquired the site and now wants to renovate it fully, with the intention of attracting tourists to the area.
Over the last 14 years, changing rooms and showers have been installed, but there is more to be done. The work required is estimated at 94,000 euros, a huge sum for a municipality of just 3,400 residents, so Periana is collaborating with the Centre for the Rural Development of the Axarquía to take on the project. Plans call for the creation of five apartments at the spa, including one double unit and one specially outfitted for the disabled, as well as a new car park.
Nursery employee investigated
Accusations lead to Town Hall's inquiry
By Oliver McIntyre
VÉLEZ-MÁLAGA TOWN HALL HAS OPENED AN INVESTIGATION INTO ACCUSATIONS THAT AN EMPLOYEE AT THE VIRGEN DEL CARMEN MUNICIPAL DAY NURSERY IN TORRE DEL MAR MISTREATED THE CHILDREN UNDER HER CARE.
The accusations came from other employees of the centre, who allege that the employee, a co-ordinator of the nursery school, mismanaged the centre's meal programme.
According to the employees, the co-ordinator expressly ordered them not to inform parents about whether or not children ate, or to always indicate that they had eaten well. They also say they were prevented from taking children to the health centre when necessary, and were forbidden from informing parents about falls or other minor incidents that occurred during the school day.
The co-ordinator has been suspended from her job at the nursery school pending the Town Hall's investigation into the allegations.
CENTRE'S OFFICIAL APPROVAL
The Town Hall has issued assurances that the day nursery is operating properly and providing excellent services. It says the meal programme at the school is handled by a contracted catering company that undergoes rigorous quality controls. While not commenting on the ongoing investigation or the legitimacy of the charges against the co-ordinator, the Town Hall insists that the allegations were specifically against her personal actions while working at the centre, not against the centre's operations as a whole.
Ronda's 'jamón' thieves
By David Eade
The approach of the festive season, with the accompanying leap in demand for traditional ham products, has also seen the return of Ronda's 'jamon' thieves.
The first raid occurred recently at the Jamoneria Granadina in the central calle Monterejas that had just re-opened after a change of owner. The thieves struck at night forcing open the metal security grill, smashed the window and made off with 19 hams, 10 shoulders of the prized 'pata negra' plus ten 'high reserve' hams. Police stated that the thieves only took the hams and did not touch any other food products nor take any equipment or money from the shop. It was the same 'modus operandi' as used by a gang that carried out raids in Ronda in the summer and officers believe it could be the same group at work again.
In June the thieves broke in to the warehouse of Dagomca in Ronda and stole 100 'pata negra' hams as well as a vehicle to carry them off in. Other raids saw 300 hams worth 26,000 euros disappear from Jimera de Líbar, a 15,000 euros haul from Farajín plus smaller thefts from restaurants in Cueva del Gato and Teba. The fact that the thieves only steal prized jams has led police to describe them as 'pata negra' addicts. Sellers of hams have been warned to check their security systems. Consumers have been advised not to buy any hams without an invoice but the temptation of buying a prized 'pata negra' at a knock-down price will be too much for most to resist.
The wedding of the year
Village to celebrate Brit couple's marriage
By Dave Jamieson
WITH A POPULATION OF JUST 500 AND A SITUATION 50 MINUTES DRIVE FROM THE COAST, ALFARNATEJO RARELY MAKES THE HEADLINES. BUT AN UNUSUAL EVENT SCHEDULED FOR THIS WEEKEND PROMISES TO PUT THIS VILLAGE, ALMOST THE MOST NORTHERN IN ANDALUCÍA, ON THE MAP.
When Terry and June, from Hull in the north-east of England, visited thearea some time ago and decided to buy a property there, they became the first to purchase in a new development by the Benalmádena based company Costa-Living. However, at that time, nobody knew that a few months later, the couple would be involved in another happy "first" in the village.
When they arranged to make a return visit to Alfarnatejo this month to inspect progress on their investment, Terry decided that the time would be right to marry. However, to avoid any problems with Spanish red tape, he began planning a surprise Gibraltar wedding for June - but he had not reckoned with the warmth with which the local Alfarnatejo people would welcome their first British residents.
The mayor, Antonio Barroso, got to hear of their plans from Costa-Living, and with overwhelming generosity, offered to carry out the ceremony himself in the village which is to become their second home. What better way, Sr. Barroso said, to welcome this new community of foreigners into his town. In addition, he promised the whole village would be invited, there would be free wine and food for all, the local chorus group would perform and there would be entertainment and festivities throughout the day. All Terry had wanted to do was to surprise June but after this display of friendship, he decided to tell her of the plans. And now all is set for Alfarnatejo's Wedding of the Year.
Friends and relatives, including June's two daughters, will be in the village for the ceremony this Saturday, when they will also get a chance of visit the couple's new house. At present, building work continues and it is still in two halves, but, like the happy couple, these will shortly be joined as one.
It will be an historical landmark as the first ever British wedding in Alfarnatejo, as well as being a personal landmark for Terry and June, and is positive proof of the warmth of the welcome waiting for foreigners in many inland areas of Andalucía.
Holiday season drink-driving crackdown
10,000 drivers tested per day
By Oliver McIntyre
POLICE AND GUARDIA CIVIL THROUGHOUT SPAIN ARE CURRENTLY ENGAGED IN A MAJOR HOLIDAY CAMPAIGN AGAINST DRINK-DRIVING, MOUNTING HUNDREDS OF CHECKPOINTS AND ADMINISTERING ALCOHOL TESTS ON THOUSANDS OF DRIVERS.
The campaign kicked off last weekend and runs through December 20, though it is expected that increased alcohol testing will continue in many areas throughout the holiday season, particularly on key dates like Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. In the current campaign, organised by the national Traffic Authority and carried out by the Guardia Civil, as well as by local police in towns with populations exceeding 25,000, some 800 checkpoints have been established throughout the country, testing about 10,000 drivers a day.
In the province of Málaga, major checkpoints are being carried out on 19 different motorways or secondary highways. These come in addition to in-town checkpoints carried out by local police in individual municipalities (Málaga, Marbella, Estepona, Rincón de la Victoria, Torremolinos, Benalmádena, Vélez-Málaga and Alhaurín de la Torre have all beefed up their alcohol testing). Authorities say over 1,000 drivers a day are being tested for alcohol in the province of Málaga during the campaign, about 25 per cent more than during the same period last year.
Major motorways and roads where checkpoints are being conducted include the following: the N-340-A at various points, the A-7, the A-45, the N-334, the A-366 ; the MA-402 ; the MA-5001, the MA-421, MA-5001; the MA-403 ; the A-335, the MA-547 ; and at various points on the A-365, the MA-427, the MA-701, the A-376, the MA-417, the MA-426, the A-355 and the MA-401.
TOUGH SANCTIONS FOR OFFENDERS
The legal limit for blood-alcohol content while driving is 0.5 grams/litre (equivalent to 0.25 mg/litre in the breath exhaled into the breathalyzer machine). For professional drivers and novices (those with less than two years as a licensed driver), the blood-alcohol limit is reduced to 0.3 grams/litre (0.15 mg/litre in the breath). Penalties for drink-driving range from 302 euros to 602 euros, plus potential prison sentences of three to six months and suspension of the driver's licence for one to four years.
In the first weekend of the campaign, Guardia Civil officers carried out alcohol tests on 3,858 drivers in the province of Málaga, of whom 82 tested positive (2.1 per cent). Last year, about 6,900 drivers were tested in the province during the December campaign, with 4.1 per cent testing positive for alcohol.
Tourism sector receives another blow
News Staff Reporter
At the end of a difficult year, the tourism sector along the coast has been given another blow. Two of the major tour operators, TUI and Thomas Cook, have announced surcharges on their air fares to compensate for the substantial increases in the price of aviation fuel. Thomas Cook announced the move last Thursday, applying the increases with immediate effect, while TUI took the step from December 1.
Miguel Sánchez, president of the Tourism Committee of Andalucía's Business Confederation, said, "The rise will not benefit us, but neither is it favourable for the market competition."
In the case of Thomas Cook clients, the surcharge now imposed adds 11 euros to short and medium distance travel, with long-haul fliers having to pay an additional 24 euros, while TUI is adding between 5 and 7 euros to all its charter flights, although both companies have promised to review the surcharges frequently over the coming months. Defending the move, TUI said that the price of kerosene had risen 40 per cent in the last six months.
However, the Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair criticised the traditional practice of applying surcharges, saying that fuel had actually fallen by 30 per cent in recent days.