News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Week January 27th to February 2nd 2005.
FAKE COPS BUSTED
Police impostors preyed on Costa tourists
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
THE GUARDIA CIVIL AND POLICE HAVE ARRESTED 18 PEOPLE FOR IMPERSONATING POLICE OFFICERS IN ORDER TO ROB TOURISTS AND FOREIGN RESIDENTS ON MAJOR TOURIST ROUTES.
The group’s modus operandi was to take advantage of the vulnerability of foreign tourists by dressing up as police officers, intimidating victims and stealing valuables. They would typically follow a tourist’s car and flag it down, then show fake police ID and demand to search the vehicle. They would steal whatever they wanted and flee in their own vehicles. One of the getaway cars was a Lancia Thema; a victim's description of the car was a key factor in leading to the arrests.
In the last four months, the Guardia Civil have received over 50 reports of people being robbed by individuals passing themselves off as police officers. The regular traffic of Costa del Sol tourists and foreign residents driving to and from the UK or northern Europe provided a steady stream of potential victims.
The group carried out the alleged robberies principally on the A-1 (Madrid-Burgos), A-4 (Madrid-Cádiz) and A-6 (Madrid-A Coruña) motorways, as well as on Madrid's M-30, M-40 and M-50 ring roads. Other locations targeted included hotels and the exits to train and bus stations.
EIGHTEEN PEOPLE ARRESTED
Those arrested include 16 men, two women and a minor, most of them of Pakistani, Iranian or Turkish origin and all residing in Spain illegally. They were detained in Collado Villalba and Galapagar, two Madrid suburbs, where police and Guardia Civil officers raided three homes. Officers seized false documentation, numerous mobile telephones, laptop computers, cameras, video cameras and bundles of foreign currency. No firearms were found.
King trial to begin April 11
Prosecutor seeking 34-year prison sentence for Coín murder
By Oliver McIntyre
ACCUSED DOUBLE-MURDERER TONY ALEXANDER KING NOW HAS A TRIAL DATE FOR ONE OF THE TWO CASES AGAINST HIM; ON APRIL 11, 12, 18, 19 AND 25, HE WILL BE TRIED BY TRIBUNAL FOR THE AUGUST 2003 KILLING OF 17-YEAR-OLD SONIA CARABANTES IN COÍN.
In setting the trial date last week, the provincial court also ruled that several items the Carabantes family wanted to submit as evidence or testimony in the case will not be accepted. The first is testimony by Mijas Guardia Civil officers regarding their investigation into the 1999 murder of 19-year-old Rocío Wanninkhof, a killing King is also charged with but for which he has yet to face trial. The second is a transcript of testimony given by then-Justice Minister Ángel Acebes in December 2003 in response to alleged poor police co-ordination in the Carabantes and Wanninkhof murder investigations. Finally, the court ruled against the family’s request for an explanation from Interpol London regarding the information it had sent to Spanish authorities regarding King as a potential threat to women in Spain. The ruling against these pieces of evidence hobbles the private prosecution’s attempt to place civil responsibility on the government for failing to take measures that might have prevented the murder of Sonia Carabantes.
The prosecutor’s office is seeking a total of 34 years in prison for King on charges of murder (25 years), sexual aggression (four years) and illegal abduction (five years). In addition, it is seeking a 300,000-euro restitution payment.
KING ACCUSES GRAHAM
Also last week, King testified as a witness in an unrelated case, the 1995 disappearance of a young man in Marbella. While he gave no specific information about that case, during his testimony he accused his friend Robert Graham of having committed at least two murders in the past, one ‘prior to 1997’ and another involving a man who overdosed in Marbella in 2003.
Briton faces 17 years for alleged murder
NEWS Staff Reporter
The prosecutor’s office is seeking a 17-year prison sentence for a British man accused of killing an elderly woman, also British, while robbing her home in Torremolinos. The crime occurred in March of 2002, when, according to the prosecutor, Richard M., along with an accomplice who has not been captured, entered the home of 66-year-old Diana Dyson to steal her jewellery.
According to the prosecutor’s charges, the victim knew the accused and opened the door for him, after which he struck her on the head with a blunt object, cut her on the neck with a kitchen knife and the smothered her with a pillow to suffocate her. He then made off with 12,600 euros’ worth of jewellery, which his wife, Anne Marie M., allegedly stashed away to be sold at a later date. She faces up to two years in prison for receiving stolen property.
The victim’s body was found the following day by the building’s concierge, who went to check out the apartment after neighbours complained about noise from the air conditioning unit, which had been running all night. According to reports in the Spanish press, during the investigation no family members came forward to claim the body or the stolen jewellery. However, the British consulate in Málaga told CDSN that the British Foreign Office informed the woman’s relatives of her death.
Murdered Italian was a drug trafficker
Residents protest over gangland crime in Marbella
By David Eade
THE 42-YEAR-OLD ITALIAN WHO WAS ASSASSINATED LAST WEEK IN MARBELLA HAD BEEN DEPORTED FROM SPAIN TO ITALY IN 2002 TO FACE DRUG CHARGES AND WAS DUE TO APPEAR AGAIN IN COURT IN HIS HOME COUNTRY LATER THIS YEAR FOR SIMILAR OFFENCES.
These details were released by the government’s sub-delegate in Málaga, Hilario López Luna, after the man, Vincenzo M., died from his injuries in the intensive care unit of Marbella’s Costa del Sol hospital. He had received a single shot to the head while walking in the area between the Playa Esmeralda and Coral Beach urbanizations about one kilometre from Puerto Banús.
A man on a red motorcycle had driven up to the Italian, stopped his bike and then, without any exchange of words, fired the single shot in to his head. The killer then raced off, heading in the direction of Marbella.
Sr López Luna stated that police believe the killing was another so-called ‘settling of accounts’ between drug traffickers. The victim was from southern Italy but was officially registered as a resident of Marbella, where he lived with other members of his family.
SAN PEDRO PROTEST
Days after the latest slaying in Marbella, over 300 people took to the streets of San Pedro to protest against organized crime in the municipality. The demonstration was called by resident, union and political groups after an earlier shooting at the Andalucía Plaza Hotel, where a young child and an Italian hairdresser were the innocent victims of a shooting spree. Protesters marched through the town and cut traffic flow on the old N-340 for about 20 minutes.
Mayor Marisol Yägue and her tri-party government team did not support the demonstration as they considered that it projected a negative image of the tourist resort. Instead the local administration praised the PSOE government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, which it believes is now taking strong measures against the mafia gangs on the Costa del Sol.
Protest and mourning after Vélez murder
By Dave Jamieson
More than a thousand people gathered outside Vélez-Málaga Town Hall on Monday to demonstrate their abhorrence of domestic violence. The protest followed the discovery on Saturday morning of the body of 22-year-old Inmaculada Marfil Cortés in a car park, and the subsequent arrest of her 24-year-old husband, Javier, who is accused of her murder.
Local officials and politicians joined a crowd of over 2,000 for mass at the San Andrés church. The local government declared Monday a day of mourning and at midday a crowd of about 1,000 people met in front of the Town Hall to observe five minutes of silence. The quiet was broken by calls for justice, before the crowd broke up peacefully.
It was reported that the couple, who were only married last September, were known to have had a stormy relationship. The semi-clothed body of Inmaculada was discovered at 8.40 on Saturday in the underground car park of the block where the couple lived near Los Remedios park, but police said that the assault had taken place in their apartment. Her husband, who was quickly arrested by National Police, is alleged to have stabbed and strangled her to death during Friday night and then moved her body to the car park in an attempt to hide it. Investigating officers say their suspect has confessed to the murder, and now awaits a court appearance.
New bus discount cards go on sale
By Oliver McIntyre
Rechargeable ticket-cards that provide discounted rates on the new Málaga Metropolitan Area Transport Consortium buses went on sale Monday, and will go into use on February 1. The cards, good on the buses that travel between the 12 member towns of the consortium, offer riders a 20 per cent to 60 per cent discount on regular fares, according to consortium officials. They are for sale at the Málaga bus station and selected ‘estanco’ tobacco shops (the consortium has not yet provided a list of the specific shops).
The consortium area is broken into zones, with Málaga representing zone A, Rincón de la Victoria, Totalán, Casabermeja, Cártama, Benalmádena, Almogía and Alhaurín de la Torre falling in zone B, and Alhaurín el Grande, Mijas, Colmenar and Pizarra comprising zone C.
With the new card, bus prices range from 0.72 euros for a ride within a single zone to 1.08 for a ride crossing two zone lines. When acquiring a card, there is a one-time 1.80-euro deposit charge that will be returned if the card is turned back in within a year. The cards can be charged with a minimum of five euros up to a maximum of 500 euros.
Rincón learns lessons from flood disaster
Town Hall report identifies what went wrong
By Dave Jamieson
UNCONTROLLED URBAN DEVELOPMENT, THE PASEO MARÍTIMO AND THE COASTAL MOTORWAY WERE THE CAUSES OF LAST MARCH’S FLOODS IN RINCÓN DE LA VICTORIA, ACCORDING TO THE TOWN HALL.
The local government last week issued its report on the disaster, which caused millions of euros of damage as water drained off the hills following heavy rain, wreaking havoc in the town centre. Presenting the report, Public Works and Transport councillor Concepción Gutiérrez said that exceptional meteorological conditions had dropped 229.1 litres of water per square metre in barely 24 hours producing a “potential catastrophe.” She said the drainage system of the municipality had been unable to cope with the deluge and overflowed, sending water onto the Paseo Marítimo, which trapped it instead of allowing it to flow onto the beach and out to sea.
Sra Gutiérrez underlined that in recent years Rincón had seen “an accumulation of periods of expansion and of urbanisation which had not taken into account the way in which building was progressing in a particularly sensitive area.” Land designated for urbanisation in Rincón increased from 16 hectares in 1957 to 950 hectares in 2004, while the coastal motorway “intercepted the drainage network and limited its functionality and capacity,” according to the report. However, the Town Hall’s conclusions make no special mention of the land movements connected with the Parque Victoria development, which was highlighted some weeks ago by the opposition Izquierda Unida party as the cause of the flooding.
Mayor José Domínguez Palma said that corrective measures would be “firmly” adhered to and promised that the town’s revised urban growth plan would become a “benchmark” on the Mediterranean coast. “We cannot forget what happened,” he said, adding that the events of last March had, “shown what was wrong.”
Bolín ‘sceptical’ about marina expansion restricti
By Oliver McIntyre
Following his meeting last week with the Junta de Andalucía’s Public Works delegate for Málaga, Benalmádena Mayor Enrique Bolín said he was “sceptical” about the outcome and the restrictions the regional government is putting on the town’s proposed marina expansion project. The meeting, which was also attended by Montserrat Badía, the head of the Junta’s Port Authority, covered the main sticking points that have so far kept the project from receiving Junta approval: road access to the marina and the amount of space to be devoted to commercial activity.
The result of the meeting, according to those involved, was that it will be the Port Authority that determines the amount of commercial space, making its decision known within the next couple of weeks. But the final size of both the overall expansion and the amount of commercial space will still be dependent on the creation of adequate road access, said the Public Works delegate.
Since the Town Hall first began planning the marina expansion project some eight years ago, the amount of space devoted to commercial activity has dropped from an initially proposed 100,000 square metres to 50,000 square metres, then 26,000 square metres and most recently, 22,000 square metres. According to Mayor Bolín, any less would make the project unfeasible, as investors will rely on the commercial space, along with moorage revenues, to recoup the project’s 60 million-euro cost.
While Sr Bolín conceded that the meeting was “positive and clarifying” in some aspects, he lamented that the long-delayed project seems “more complicated all the time.” Between the Port Authority deciding on the commercial space issue and the modified plans then going through the Junta approval process, it will likely be at least another five or six months before the project can move forward, said the mayor.
La Línea could get rail link
By David Eade
The president of the Federation of Campo de Gibraltar Businesses, Juan Carlos Calvente, has stated that he is convinced that the Zabal 2 industrial estate in La Línea will be operational this year. He said the development, which will be part of the Zona Franca consortium, could be in place by the autumn, resulting in a major boost to the economy of the border town.
Sr Calvente said he also believes that the complex will in the future be served by a rail connection. The rail link is deemed possible because the Algeciras port authority intends to create a line linking the nearby Crinavis docks with the existing Algeciras-Bobadilla line. In theory it would be very easy to continue the line from Crinavis to the Zabal 2 industrial complex, giving industries there a direct link to Algeciras port.
The initial purpose of the rail line would be to allow containers to be transported from La Línea and Crinavis to the shipping terminal at Algeciras. However, socialist MP Salvador de la Encina said that in the longer term it might also be possible to run a passenger service on the line. Before any of this can happen, an environmental impact study has to be undertaken.
Hospital workload doubles in four years
Average wait time for surgery is 62 days
By David Eade
THE NUMBER OF CASES BEING HANDLED BY MARBELLA’S COSTA DEL SOL HOSPITAL IS GROWING AT A FRANTIC PACE; IN 2004 SPECIALISTS AT THE CENTRE SAW 235,000 PATIENTS, DOUBLE THE NUMBER OF JUST FOUR YEARS AGO.
The emergency department attended to 122,000 people, an average of 334 a day, although in the peak holiday month of August that rose to around 500 a day. Over 18,000 people were admitted to the hospital, a rise of 500 on the previous year. More than 93,000 bed nights were recorded. In the cancer department, around 260 patients were treated, with specialists giving over 1,000 treatment sessions. The hospital’s budget rose to 37.5 million euros in 2004.
The average waiting list for surgery is 62 days, with 60 per cent of patients being operated on within two months and 10 per cent waiting between four and six months. The average wait time to see a consultant is 50 days.
No exact data has been recorded of the numbers of non-Spaniards using the medical centre. However, it is estimated that one out of every four patients admitted to the hospital is a foreigner.
ALGECIRAS UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL?
Meanwhile, the Partido Popular has requested that the Punta Europa hospital in Algeciras be classified as a university hospital. The proposal was put forward by the PP’s health working party co-ordinator, Edurne Zabalza, on the basis that the hospital already operates as such in that it has the most prestigious nursing school in the province. She cited recent declarations made by the vice rector of the University of Cádiz, Francisco Trujillo, who stated that he could see a case for granting the hospital university status in recognition of its work in training the province’s professionals in nursing and doctoring.
The PP spokeswoman noted that if the hospital were given university status it would have important economic and material benefits for the medical centre. She also called for an enlargement of the range of services at the hospital, especially the creation of a maternity infant unit, as at present people in the area had to travel to Málaga province for this service.
Alhaurín presents future Gerald Brenan centre
By Oliver McIntyre
ALHAURÍN EL GRANDE TOWN HALL IS PRESENTING ITS FUTURE GERALD BRENAN LIBRARY AND HISPANIST LITERATURE CENTRE TODAY AT FITUR, SPAIN'S MOST IMPORTANT TOURISM FAIR.
Alhaurín has made Brenan, the famous British author who lived out his final days in the Guadalhorce Valley town, the focus of its promotional push at this year's Fitur, which runs through January 30 at Madrid's Juan Carlos I Fair and Convention Centre.
Having spent some of his early writing years in the Alpujarras region of Granada, where he first began to make a name for himself as a Hispanist author, Brenan (1894 - 1987) moved to Alhaurín around 1970, referring to his new adopted town as 'the garden of Eden'. In 1984, the Gerald Brenan Foundation was created in the town, and the author donated to the Town Hall all of his works, his personal library, photographs and other effects, as well as the rights to all of his works.
The municipal library contains some 5,500 books or manuscripts donated by Brenan, as well as a number of photographs, while the Gerald Brenan Foundation, located at the Casa de Cultura, has additional works, photographs and personal effects. The project being presented today at Fitur is the creation of a new municipal library that will include the Brenan Foundation, bringing all of the Brenan materials together in one place, and will also be the location of what the Town Hall is dubbing the First National Hispanist Literature Centre.
Participating in Alhaurín's presentation today at Fitur is another well-known Hispanist author, Irishman Ian Gibson. He is leading a conference titled 'The Hispanist Gerald Brenan'.
School selection to start earlier
Parents have until March 31 to submit placement requests
By Oliver McIntyre
PARENTS WILL HAVE TO SUBMIT SCHOOL SELECTION REQUESTS FOR THEIR CHILDREN EARLIER THIS YEAR THAN IN THE PAST.
For the first time, the school placement requests will be due in March, rather than in April as in previous years. According to the Junta de Andalucía’s Education Department, the change is aimed at better co-ordinating the workload and avoiding paperwork logjams at the end of the ongoing school term.
The requests must be submitted between March 1 and March 31 for all state schools and certified state-sponsored private schools. The final placement lists will be made public by April 21, and any appeals will be reviewed beginning May 7, with responses coming a week later.
The enrolment period for getting children officially signed up at the school where they have been placed is June 1 – 8 for nursery and primary schools and July 1 – 10 for secondary schools.
‘SECOND-TRY’ EXAM CHANGES
The Education Department also announced last week that it has prepared legislation that, once passed, will allow secondary schools to set their own date – either in June or September – for the traditional ‘second-try’ exams offered to students who fail classes. Last year Education changed the make-up exams from their usual September date to June, a move that sparked much controversy and opposition from educators and parents, who argued that holding the exams in June was practically pointless, as it gave the students no time to re-study the material.
The new plan is expected to take effect in the current school term, and schools will need to decide before March whether they will offer the exams in June or September. Some parents’ associations have already expressed concern over the ‘each school decides for itself’ proposal, saying it could create unfair inequality between neighbouring schools.
Low rainfall means drought plans and crop concerns
By Dave Jamieson
The Ministry of the Environment has announced a series of urgent steps in preparation for a potential a drought. Minister Cristina Narbona has instructed all water suppliers to take appropriate steps in light of the very low rainfall experienced across Spain between October and January, normally the wettest period of the year. She assured that at present the situation is “not worrying,” but said an urgent meeting of the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces had been called to urge town mayors to adopt the necessary measures to protect against contamination if the rains fail to arrive. The country’s nine water-supply entities met the minister last Thursday to discuss the situation, which sees national water tables 4.6 per cent down on 10 years ago.
Cuenca Mediterránea Andaluza (CMA), the region’s recently re-named water supply body, says that reservoir levels in Andalucía have fallen below 50 per cent, against the normal figure of around 70 per cent at this time of year. However, supplies are said to be adequate for well over another year, even if substantial rainfall is not recorded.
In the province of Málaga, the six main reservoirs are reported to be 49 per cent full, compared with 60 per cent last January. Rainfall between October and January is about 61 per cent down on last year, raising concerns for cereal crops across the region. Farming authorities say that unless there is rain soon, crops will dry out and be lost in another blow to the sector, which this winter has already suffered frost damage to vegetable crops. The Junta de Andalucía is asking the Ministry of Agriculture to seek aid from the European Commission for growers hard hit by adverse weather conditions.