News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week November 17th to November 26th 2005.
KING SENTENCED TO 36 YEARS
Briton found guilty for Coín murder; trial for Mijas murder still pending
By Oliver McIntyre
Briton Tony Alexander King has been found guilty of the 2003 murder of teenager Sonia Carabantes in Coín, and sentenced to 36 years in prison, two years more than had been requested by the prosecutor and eight years less than had been requested by the private prosecution.
The sentence, issued by the provincial court on Tuesday, 15 days after the trial ended on October 31, consists of 23 years for murder, eight years for sexual aggression and five years for illegal abduction.
At the trial the prosecutor told the court that on the night of the murder, King hid behind a tree waiting for his victim. He attacked her and beat her unconscious, then threw her in his car and drove her to a secluded area where he beat her again, sexually assaulted her and finally strangled her to death with her own top.
King's testimony at the trial differed from previous accounts he had given during the investigative phase of the case, offering his third conflicting version of the events surrounding Srta Carabantes' death. He denied killing her, saying he accidentally hit her with his car but was then himself attacked by a third party and knocked unconscious. He claimed that his acquaintance Robert Graham and Dolores Vázquez were involved in the killing.
Around 35 witnesses were called to testify at the trial, including investigators, forensic experts, King's ex-wife and others connected to him. One important witness was a Mijas carwash employee who testified that shortly after the crime, King brought in his car for her to clean the interior, which was stained with a red substance that King told her was ink.
Sonia Carabantes, 17, disappeared in the early-morning hours of August 14, 2003, while walking home from the Coín fair. Her body was found days later, partially nude, buried under a pile of rocks outside the town of Monda.
Meanwhile, a court hearing was held last week in a second case against King, the 1999 murder of Mijas teenager Rocío Wanninkhof. The prosecutor requested that the trial be scheduled. King's lawyer requested that that the charges be dropped, saying that the only evidence against his client is "one cigarette butt with his DNA." The lawyer for the victim's family requested that the trial be postponed in order to further investigate a bag of Srta Wanninkhof's clothes and other items, some of them blood-stained, which appeared several months ago on her mother's front porch. At that time, the Guardia Civil performed an analysis of the bag's contents and indicated that they had no direct relation to the case.
The judge is expected to decide this week on whether the trial is to be scheduled. If she rules for it to move forward, she will inform the provincial court so that it can open the jury-selection process.
Closed bridge could strand Coín residents
Residents are forced to wade through the riverbed to get to their homes
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
RESIDENTS OF THE RURAL LA JUNTILLA AREA OF COÍN HAVE FOUND THEMSELVES POTENTIALLY STRANDED DUE TO THE TEMPORARY CLOSURE OF A SMALL, ONE-LANE BRIDGE ACROSS A RIVERBED ON THE ACCESS ROAD TO THEIR HOMES.
The bridge, known locally as the 'Toblerone' bridge due to the shape of part of its structure, has been rendered unsafe due to its frequent use by heavy lorries, one affected resident told Costa del Sol News.
"A few weeks ago they put weight-restriction signs on the bridge, but they were ignored – I followed a giant cement-mixer across it," said Pauline Harpin, an Englishwoman who has lived in the area for six years.
Last Friday the bridge was closed, with a metal barrier and a large mound of dirt dumped across the entrance, said Mrs Harpin. A detour was created, sending cars down a tricky small track and then traversing across the riverbed itself. This soon proved more than just an inconvenience, as the heavy rains of Sunday night and Monday morning left the riverbed flowing with water and dangerous – or potentially even impossible – to cross in anything other than a tall four-wheel-drive vehicle, she said.
"This morning a friend tried to drive across and the water came up over the wheels of her car," Mrs Harpin told CDSN on Monday. With the possibility of more bouts of heavy rain, she is concerned that she and other residents of the area – where she says there are over 200 homes – could find themselves trapped. "If there's an emergency, we're knackered," she said.
WORKS TO LAST A MONTH
Mrs Harpin and a Spanish neighbour called the Mayor's Office and were told that the bridge will be closed for about a month, until the necessary repair work is completed. The Town Hall said it had put into place a contingency plan – referring to the risky detour across the riverbed.
So as a drought-stricken region looks skyward hoping for rain and plenty of it, some rural Coín residents are praying for clear skies – at least until the old 'Toblerone' bridge is repaired. But in fact they, too, need the rain, to replenish their rapidly drying wells. They are caught, in the words of Mrs Harpin, "between the Devil and the deep blue sea – no, scratch that, the muddy river."
Arsenal set to buy Málaga soccer club
By David Eade
The English Premier League soccer club, Arsenal, are in the Spanish news this week. It is understood that a company linked to the North London based club is in the process of buying Málaga’s own La Primera football club. In addition the English club is also involved in a property development involving 96 apartments in Casares.
The sale of the Málaga soccer club comes as no great surprise. None-the-less the negotiations with the Arsenal affiliate have been carried out with a great deal of discretion with the personnel involved in the day-to-day running of Málaga’s soccer team probably being totally unaware of what was happening.
The offer for the club is said to be 39 million euros. The owners would receive 15 million euros of this total with the remaining 24 million euros being used to settle the club’s debts. The deal needs the approval of the members of the Asensio family and their decision is expected in the very near future, probably by the end of this week. If the deal goes through it is anticipated that the new British owners will seek a ‘Malagueño’ to be the public face of the club, perhaps holding the title of president.
Meanwhile, in a completely separate development, Arsenal are also involved in the marketing of the Pueblo Real Golf urbanisation in Casares. In a venture under the title Football Village Ltd the North London soccer club is selling to its supporters 96 apartments. The average price of each flat is 350,000 euros and for each sale Arsenal will receive a commission. The project was launched at the club’s Highbury Stadium on October 12 and it is believed that the first apartment was sold to the Gunners’ Sevilla-born forward, José Antonio Reyes.
Nerja's tax rises
By Dave Jamieson
Nerja's municipal taxes are set to rise by an average of 3.3 per cent. Amongst new rates proposed are 52.65 euros for the most common vehicle tax, a rise of 2.65 euros, and an increase of 9.50 euros to 47.45 euros if your car is towed away for any reason by the grua. The recently imposed "garage tax" will be set at 87.60 euros for every three metres of vehicle entrance at private homes, while bars and cafés with tables on outdoor terraces will pay up to 12.80 euros, an increase from 9.10 euros, per square metre.
Parking in the town's underground car park will rise from 95 céntimos to one euro per hour in January, while a municipal wedding ceremony next year will cost the happy couple two euros more at 62 euros. Those on the town's water supply will pay 20 céntimos - 1 céntimo more than at present - for up to 21 cubic metres used, with charges of 42 céntimos, 55 céntimos and 1.06 euros in the upper bands. The new tax structure has yet to be finally approved by a full Council meeting.
Robbery gang busted after Arenas shooting
Crime-fighting shooter took law into his own hands
By Dave Jamieson
FOUR MEMBERS OF AN ALLEGED EASTERN EUROPEAN GANG OF HOUSE ROBBERS AND A BELGIAN SELF-STYLED VIGILANTE HAVE BEEN ARRESTED AFTER A SHOOTING INCIDENT IN ARENAS.
Two Romanian men arrived separately at the Vélez-Málaga hospital suffering from gunshot wounds. The first victim came in with a serious stomach wound which required urgent surgical attention. Guardia Civil officers who were called in by hospital staff were initially able to establish only the nationality of the 23-year-old. The following morning, a second man arrived for treatment to bullet wounds in his legs. Police say the 20-year-old told them that he had been fired at by a single gunman but was unable to suggest a motive for the attack.
National Police officers from Vélez, working with Guardia Civil officers, brought in a number of Romanian residents for questioning, two of whom were later arrested along with the two injured men. Officers searched the homes of the arrested individuals, where they confiscated large quantities of goods thought to be stolen by the gang in a number of robberies throughout the region.
Investigators said the victims had been shot at when they tried to rob a house in Arenas and appeared to belong to a group of Eastern Europeans which has allegedly carried out similar robberies throughout the Axarquía. Officers located the house, where they found bloodstains outside and inside as well as evidence of gunshots on furniture, and established it belongs to a Belgian family who had recently returned to their own country.
The house was being looked after by a Belgian friend of the owners who lives in the area and who police interviewed and arrested as the alleged gunman. A search of the 47-year-old's home produced a rifle, five small firearms and 3,500 rounds of ammunition. Police say he did not to have a firearms licence. The man, who was described as being dedicated to upholding security in rural areas around Arenas, told officers he had detected a robbery in progress during one of his patrols and opened fire.
Controversy and action over drought measures
By Oliver McIntyre and David Eade
Benalmádena Mayor Enrique Bolín stood alone as the only dissenting voice among the local-, regional- and central-government officials who met last week to hash out the details of enforcing the Junta de Andalucía's new emergency drought law.
Sr Bolín left the meeting shortly after it began and he lashed out publicly at the Junta's actions and intentions on drought management, saying people better "pray for rain, because the Junta is going to do nothing for us."
Mayor Bolín's chief complaint about the drought protocol is that it places too much responsibility on the town halls for the enforcement of the new law's mandated water-consumption reductions. The Junta is putting the town halls in "the role of police," he said.
Each town's local police will participate in patrolling for infractions against the water-consumption measures put forth in the drought law. Town halls have the authority to encourage water conservation by way of scaled rates that stiffly penalize heavy consumers. The town halls have two months to draw up their drought emergency plans, laying out action protocols to be followed in the event of worsening drought conditions.
Meanwhile, at the end of a week in which hundreds of thousands of people on the western Costa del Sol have been without quality drinking water, the regional government has called for a massive investment in water infrastructure. The plans are incorporated in the Junta's regional development plan (POT) for the western Costa.
To meet projected growth and increased water demand in the region, the plan calls for an investment of 520 million euros. Central to the project is the establishment of six new water desalination plants, each capable of producing 50,000 cubic metres of water a day.
Alhaurín is top of league for detached houses
Alhaurín also first for green spaces in Málaga
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
ALHAURÍN DE LA TORRE HAS BUMPED MADRID'S UPSCALE POZUELO DE ALARCÓN AS THE SPANISH TOWN WITH THE GREATEST NUMBER OF FULLY-DETACHED HOUSES AS A PERCENTAGE OF ITS TOTAL NUMBER OF HOMES.
The data, released last week by Alhaurín Town Hall, comes from a report prepared by Spain's General Notary Council.
"For urban planners, this is one of the indexes that define a higher quality of life, because it indicates that the town is composed principally of single-family houses," says the Town Hall.
The large number of stand-alone houses in Alhaurín is the result of what local officials call a 'horizontal' development philosophy, favouring small apartment buildings, and houses, over large blocks of flats. Residential buildings in the town centre are limited to three storeys and those in the town's urbanisations restricted to two storeys.
Alhaurín also has the greatest amount of green space, per capita, of any town in the province of Málaga, according to Town Hall officials. They say they are working on projects that will also put the town at the top of the league in municipal services and sports and cultural facilities.
NO TO UNDERGROUND CAR PARKS
Meanwhile, the Town Hall said last week that it has no plans to create new underground car parks in the town, after studies showed that they are unnecessary and economically unfeasible. Opposition parties had complained of a lack of sufficient parking in the town and called for two underground garages.
Court investigates C-section death
NEWS Staff Reporter
A Málaga court has opened an investigation into the death of a 22-year-old Alhaurín el Grande woman who died shortly after giving birth via Caesarean section at Málaga's Hospital Materno Infantil. The woman's family has filed medical-negligence charges against hospital. The baby, a girl, survived the birth and is now at home with her father.
Lorena Plaza was epileptic and her pregnancy was classified as 'high-risk' and handled under special protocol by the hospital. When labour did not proceed smoothly, doctors took the decision to perform the birth via C-section in an attempt to avoid complications. One of every four births at Materno is performed via Caesarean, largely because it is the Málaga hospital that handles the largest percentage of high-risk pregnancies.
Immediately following the woman's death, the hospital launched its own internal investigation, including an autopsy.
According to the hospital's findings, the death occurred after the Caesarean operation had been completed and was caused by "acute cardio-respiratory insufficiency resulting from a thromboembolism," and was not related to the woman's epilepsy. The death, said the hospital, was "a regrettable occurrence that happens in three of every 100,000 births and can not be clinically predicted." The internal investigation indicated that all proper protocol and procedures were followed.
Family ask for further testing
The woman's family says that just prior to the birth she was given some kind of medication to calm her nerves, and that she reacted badly to it. The family hired a lawyer as well as a forensic examiner to perform an independent autopsy, which they say found "anomalies in the body." The family's forensic examiner said further testing is necessary to determine "the cause and the mechanism of the death," and the family has requested that the court order the further testing.
Councillors forced to resign from Marbella council
By David Eade
The Málaga provincial court has confirmed the sentences on the former Mayor of Marbella, Julián Muñoz, and six of his former GIL party councillors. All have received a six-month jail sentence and been barred from holding public office for eight years for their part in the "Banana Beach" case.
In 1998, all the convicted councillors formed Marbella's commission of government under former Mayor Jesús Gil and have been found guilty of breaking the town planning regulations with regards to a development at Banana Beach.
As none of the accused has previous prison sentences and as the term is less than two years none of them will be sent to jail. However the barring from public office for eight years means that Rafael González and Marisa Alcalá have both had to resign from Marbella town council.
Sr González was part of Mayor Marisol Yagüe's administration being the councillor in charge of health and industry. Sra Alcalá was the sole member of the Grupo Mixto B. Their resignations now throws the future governance of Marbella in to further uncertainty.
Both Sr González and Sra Alcalá were elected as members of GIL at the last elections and it is that party that will now supply the new councillors. These are Felipe Plasencia and Mariló Miñones who were 18th and 19th on the 2003 election list. In 1998, Sr Plasencia had to stand down as a GIL member of Benahavís council after being barred from office for six years for an offence committed whilst Mayor of Arenas de San Pedro in Ávila.
This means that Marbella town council now has its fifth realignment in just over two years. It leaves Mayor Yagüe's minority administration with a further member short and the future looks bleak, as there are over 30 court cases in the pipeline that could see further councillors barred from office.
Work to restart on sunken treasure ship
'Odyssey Explorer' resumes operations on shipwreck
BY DAVID EADE
THE US-BASED COMPANY, ODYSSEY MARINE EXPLORATION IS ABOUT TO RESTART ITS OPERATIONS TO RECOVER TREASURE FROM THE SUNKEN ENGLISH WARSHIP HMS SUSSEX.
It has identified a wreck in the Straits of Gibraltar, which its researchers believe is the sunken vessel although that theory has been contested by other experts.
Nonetheless the "Odyssey Explorer", the company's 251-foot deep ocean archaeological platform is currently being mobilized to resume operations on the shipwreck which it claims is HMS Sussex. Whilst en route to the Straits the "Odyssey Explorer" may spend several additional days inspecting targets discovered during the "Atlas" search project if weather conditions permit.
Odyssey Marine Exploration has signed a deal with the British government to recover artefacts from the sunken wreck. The project was put on hold for several months while Odyssey and the British government, which owns the wreck and its cargo, held talks with Spanish authorities as Spain wanted control over the exploration project.
In 1694 the English warship HMS Sussex, laden with treasure, sank in stormy seas off the coast of Gibraltar. The ship was carrying a massive bribe in gold coins to the Duke of Savoy in Italy and if that cargo is successfully retrieved it is expected to be worth millions of pounds to both Odyssey and the British Government.
Banderas' Málaga movie gets a million euro boost
Antonio Banderas to start filming at city's landmarks
BY DAVE JAMIESON
WORK ON A PRESTIGIOUS MÁLAGA PROJECT BEGINS ON MONDAY, BACKED BY A MILLION EUROS OF ANDALUCÍAN MONEY. FULL PRODUCTION ON ANTONIO BANDERAS' NEW FEATURE FILM, "EL CAMINO DE LOS INGLESES", WILL FINALLY GET UNDER WAY WHEN SHOOTING STARTS IN THE CITY NEXT WEEK.
The Málaga-born actor is behind the camera as producer and director for the adaptation of the novel by Antonio Soler which won the Nadal literature prize in 2004 and takes its name from a Málaga street.
And as final rehearsals ahead of filming were underway, it was announced that Tourism Department at the Junta de Andalucía was to be a patron of the movie, to the tune of one million euros. The deal, which represents about a fifth of the total production costs, was signed in Málaga last week by Banderas and regional tourism councillor Paulino Plata. It will ensure that the image of Andalucía is included in all publicity material for "El camino de los ingleses", from street posters to the Internet. The Junta is also to make a documentary about the film which will be shown ahead of the cinema release date.
At a press conference to announce the funding, Banderas said that 21 actors would appear in the film, many of them newcomers, including ten from Málaga. Also in the cast are three faces which will be familiar to Spanish cinema goers – Victoria Abril, Fran Perea and Juan Diego Botto. Rehearsals have been underway for some days in preparation for location filming at a number of sites in the city, including Plaza de la Merced and around the Picasso Museum.
'IT'S PRETTY MUCH MY STORY'
The film is about a group of young people growing up in 1977, just after Franco's death, and moving from adolescence to adulthood. Banderas himself was in his teens at that time, "when Spain was changing politically and the country was moving towards democracy," he said, adding, "It's pretty much my story." The author, Antonio Soler, described his novel as the story of a group of young people that want to flee from their grey life to make their dreams come true. He said the story becomes, "a kind of self-portrait of everyone of us, of all the readers … All of us have had absurd dreams any time in our lives."
'MÁLAGA BURNING', ANOTHER PET PROJECT
Antonio Banderas is also involved an another project to bring his home city to the big screen. He hopes to adapt "Málaga en llamas" ("Málaga burning"), a memoir by Gerald Brennan's wife, the poet Gamel Woolsey, of life in Churriana when the Civil War broke out in 1936.
Motorway tragedy sparks demos and debates
BY DAVE JAMIESON
WORK AT CONSTRUCTION SITES ACROSS ANDALUCÍA CAME TO A HALT FOR AN HOUR LAST WEDNESDAY AS A MARK OF RESPECT TO THOSE WHO DIED AND WERE INJURED IN A TRAGIC ACCIDENT TWO DAYS EARLIER.
Six men lost their lives when tons of concrete and metal fell 80 metres to the ground as work was in progress to build a viaduct for the coastal motorway between La Herradura and Almuñécar. An estimated 90 per cent of sites across the region downed tools for an hour at midday, while in the province of Granada the stoppage was total. Thousands of other workers paused for ten minutes, congregating at the entrances to offices and shops.
The action was also taken to draw attention to the high level of workplace accidents in the country, and was followed by a demonstration last Thursday in Granada when hundreds of workers took to the city's streets to demand better regulation of the responsibility for sub-contracting work.
'MATERIAL FATIGUE' THEORY ANGERS CONTRACTORS
Meanwhile, the technical investigation commission set up by the Ministry of Development has been running in parallel with a judicial enquiry by the Inspector of Works, while work remains halted on nine kilometres of construction until the cause the incident is known and inspectors are certain there is no risk of further danger to workers. Suggestions that "material fatigue" was the culprit have angered the contractors involved who have claimed never to use materials of poor quality.
It became clear that the accident could have been even more serious, when, as the wreckage was cleared, it was seen that the impact of the falling structure created a hole two metres deep when it hit the ground. Five of the dead were part of a team of eleven Portuguese workers, some of whom had lucky escapes. As the roadway section fell, three colleagues working close by became stranded at the top of one of the viaduct towers. They remained high above the disaster scene for three hours until rescued by a crane. On the ground, another group of men working on a concrete treatment plant sited below the motorway ran for their lives to escape the falling debris.
The Guardia Civil and Ministry of Development have also been investigating the bizarre discovery of documents found in a rubbish container in Pulianas, Granada, on the day after the accident. The papers were reported to relate to the licensing of the motorway construction but a government subdelegate in the city, Antonio Cruz, said that most were due to be destroyed or recycled and their discovery should not cause anxiety.
ALMUÑECAR'S EXPENSIVE ROAD
The nine kilometre section of the autovía under construction between La Herradura and Taramay, near Almuñécar, will become one of the most expensive roads in Spain because of the terrain it covers. Work began in September 2002 and is scheduled to be complete by 2007, and it has already claimed the life of one worker. Last week's accident brought the total of deaths in Granada's construction sector this year to 31, the highest of any province in the country.
Major protest over education reform
By Oliver McIntyre
Hundreds of thousands of people – or millions, depending on who did the counting – protested in Madrid at the weekend over the government's proposed education reform law, or 'Ley Orgánica de Educación' (LOE).
The organisers of the protest – 10 groups including Catholic organisations, student associations, parents associations and the conservative Forum for the Family – said two million people participated. The regional government of Madrid put the figure at 1.5 million, while the central government estimated it at 407,000. In any case, it was widely considered the largest education-related protest in the country in the last 20 years.
The protesters, with many officials of the opposition conservative Partido Popular among their ranks, called for Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's government to withdraw the LOE, which is set to enter the Senate for debate. The detractors of the LOE say that it threatens the teaching of Catholic religion in state and state-sponsored schools, as well as the freedom of parents to choose what school their children attend. They say that it denies the right of private, state-approved schools to receive public funding.
Sr Zapatero's government denied that the LOE threatens the teaching of Catholic religion, stating that it respects the rights of all parents, both those who want their children to be taught religion in school and those who do not. It also denied that the LOE will prevent parents from electing what schools their children attend.
By Spanish law and in accordance with an agreement with the Catholic Church, all state schools must offer Catholic religion classes of voluntary attendance by students. The LOE does not explicitly include this statement, a fact that has raised concern among Spain's bishops. The LOE calls for special commissions to decide the number of immigrant students to be enrolled at each state-sponsored private school. It prohibits private schools that receive state funding from charging parents foundation- or association-membership fees as a way to raise additional revenues.
Some of the groups that were represented the Madrid protest, including the Catholic Church and conservative political and activist groups, were also involved in major protests earlier this year over the government's decision to legalise same-sex marriages.
Following the weekend's LOE protest, Sr Zapatero's government made statements suggesting there may be a need to reduce the state funding provided to the Catholic Church. The Church has not been meeting its obligation of self-financing, said government representatives. The Spanish government has long contributed to the Church to compensate for the diminishing number of taxpayers who select the box on their tax form that diverts 0.52 per cent of their tax payment to the Church. Some estimates put the government's compensation payments to the Church over the last decade at as much as 240 million euros.
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