Costa del Sol News - 14th December 2006

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Week 14th December - 20th December 2006



Jury finds Tony King guilty of murdering Rocío Wanninkhof

By Oliver McIntyre

The nine-member jury announced its decision to the judge following a day and a half of deliberations. The jury members found King guilty of the murder but indicated that there may have been other people involved. They found King not guilty of the other charge brought by the prosecutor, attempted sexual assault. They ruled that there was no mitigating circumstance for insanity or mental disorder.
At the time of going to press, the sentence had not been announced. The prosecutor had asked for 20 years for murder and six years and nine months for attempted sexual assault.
King is currently serving a 36-year sentence for the 2003 murder of Coín teenager Sonia Carabantes, plus a seven-year sentence for an attempted rape in Benalmádena.

Rocío Wanninkhof disappeared on October 9, 1999, while walking along the road that runs from La Cala de Mijas to the Los Claveles and La Cortijera urbanisations. Her body was found several weeks later in the Altos del Rodeo area of Marbella.
In September 2000 police arrested Dolores Vázquez, an ex-girlfriend of the victim’s mother.
She was convicted in a jury trial in September 2001 and sentenced to 15 years in prison, but in February 2002 the Andalucía Supreme Court overturned the trial on technical grounds and called for a retrial. Sra Vázquez was released from prison and it was while she awaited the retrial that Tony Alexander King was arrested for the murder of Sonia Carabantes in Coín and his DNA was connected to both the Coín and Mijas murder scenes. All charges against Sra Vázquez were subsequently dropped. Shortly after King was arrested the Guardia Civil picked up his friend Robert Graham as a possible accomplice in the Wanninkhof crime. But because the statute of limitations had run out for an accomplice charge, he was released without charge. Since that time Guardia Civil investigators and the prosecutor have maintained that King acted alone.

Family finds decapitated roosters and lamb at home

By Oliver McIntyre

A Churriana family had a fright recently when they came out the front door of their house to find five dead animals - four roosters and a lamb - all decapitated.
The family immediately contacted the police, though they say they do not believe the grisly find was meant as a personal threat. They think it may have been some sort of African healing ritual involving animal sacrifice. The heads of the roosters were alongside the dead animals, but the lamb’s head was missing and the body had a bead necklace around its neck.
The family’s detached house is located at the end of a cul-de-sac in Calle Aceituno in the exclusive El Olivar neighbourhood of Churriana. The 19-year-old son, Fernando, told Costa del Sol News that they believe the house’s location at end of a dead-end street and the fact that it has a small Sacred Heart of Jesus figure on its front wall may be why it was chosen by whoever left the mutilated animals.
Police officers who inspected the scene said the animals were probably killed elsewhere and then left outside the house. The son said they were not there when he came home at around 06.00 from a late night out. The father spotted the animals when he left the house at around 10.00. “We don’t have any enemies,” said the son. “My mother is about to become a judge and my father works for the tax office – and not as an inspector but as an internal supervisor.” Fernando said the sight of the dead animals didn’t really bother him personally, but his mother was “shocked” at the gruesome find.

A not so bright Christmas for Marbella

By David Eade

Every town and village on the Costa del Sol is aglow with municipal Christmas lights, but in Marbella the season will not be so bright this year, as the embattled municipality has had to reduce its budget for the celebrations by more than half.
Last year the town hall spent 450,000 euros on Christmas lights, a budget that this year has been slashed to 212,000 euros by the Marbella management commission. The news was broken by the member responsible for fiestas, the Partido Popular’s Baldomero León. The lack of cash in the town hall’s coffers has meant that all departments have had to reduce their budgets.
Lights have been erected in Marbella as well as San Pedro, Las Chapas, Nueva Andalucía, Puerto Banús and El Ángel. However, Sr León explained that the number of locations receiving lights has been reduced. One example is central Marbella, where the lights in the central Avenida Ricardo Soriano run from the Siebla petrol station to the Marbella Centre building; in the past years the road was illuminated from El Pirulí to the famous Marbella arch.The company Iluminaciones Rivas is supplying the lights this year as it did last year, though this time, despite the reduced display, it hopes for a brighter payday. The company says it has yet to receive payment for the Christmas lights it provided for the town hall in 2005, and Sr León has promised to examine ways of paying the debt.

Vélez Málaga tram derailed in accident with lorry

No one injured in incident but service shut down for rest of day

By Dave Jamieson

Neither the lorry driver nor any of the 25 passengers on board the ‘tranvía’ at the time of the accident were injured, although the conductor received a minor wrist injury and one elderly traveller suffered a panic attack.
Witnesses said that a car jumped a red light on the roundabout at the entrance to Vélez-Málaga, by the Peugeot garage, and was followed by the Mercedes lorry travelling at speed. The tranvía had entered the intersection travelling at between five and 10 kilometres per hour and the truck driver was unable to avoid hitting it. The tram, which was en route to Vélez at the time, was hit near the conductor’s cabin and pushed eight metres off the tracks.
Technicians worked for five hours, using hydraulic jacks and wooden supports, to get the unit back on the rails, after which it was towed to the workshop for repairs. Tranvía services were suspended for the rest of the day, before resuming as normal on the following morning.

Two weeks before, a 25-year-old motorcyclist was left with a broken ankle after a collision with the same tranvía unit. He was reported to have strayed into a prohibited zone and crossed the tram’s path.

Foreign-language library volunteers get medals

Launched in 1987, the section now has 21,000 books

By Oliver McIntyre

The dozen or so volunteers, headed by the programme’s long time coordinator, Betty Watt, include residents from Britain, France, Canada, Argentina, Poland, Germany, Finland, Holland and the United States.
Launched in 1987 and built up over the years through book donations and the work of volunteers, the collection now includes 21,000 titles in a variety of languages. Most of the books – 16,500 – are in English, but there are also many in Finnish, German, French and other languages.
For Betty Watt, now in her nineties, last week’s award was not the first for her involvement with the foreign-language section. In 1998 she was awarded a town hall Medal of Merit and in 2000 she was named Librarian of the Year.

The recognition of the volunteers at last week’s ceremony was unfortunately overshadowed by controversy surrounding some of the other people being distinguished with medals. Opposition political parties at the town hall publicly denounced the fact that medals were awarded to two property developers who have been implicated in the ‘Operation Malaya’ corruption case in Marbella. The two men, Rafael Gómez and Cristóbal Peñarroya, were both arrested as part of the investigation and are currently out on bail of 300,000 euros and 30,000 euros, respectively. Benalmádena’s mayor, Enrique Bolín, defended the honouring of the two men, saying, “they have invested and created wealth and employment [in this town].” He also noted that they have not been tried or convicted of any crime and must be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Traffic and safety problem beset new Málaga centre

By Dave Jamieson

The opening of a new commercial centre at Málaga’s railway station has caused severe traffic problems in the city, while a security officer in the car park has been treated for carbon monoxide inhalation. In addition, trade unions have complained to the Junta de Andalucía that shops in the Vialia centre are to be permitted to open 365 days a year.
The traffic chaos which followed the opening of the new shopping precinct, part of the development project for the new railway station in Málaga, gradually abated during last week as police took swift action against illegally parked vehicles. However, the CGT trade union has asked the Department of Employment to make an urgent inspection of the centre’s underground car park after an employee required hospital treatment for the inhalation of carbon monoxide. The CGT claims that staff had not been adequately trained in the use of extractors and that the levels of carbon monoxide had been high. The union also criticised the design of the parking facility, saying that the exits were too narrow, badly sited and without adequate capacity to handle the volume of traffic.Another trade union, the CCOO, has protested to the regional government after it became known that shops in the Vialia centre were to be allowed to open every day of the year. The CCOO has urged the Junta to clarify the position, saying that the centre should adhere to the region’s laws governing commercial premises which would permit the shops to open on only eight Sundays or public holidays in a year.

Concern over planned mega-mall in Torremolinos

The project could wipe out small local businesses and local fauna

By Oliver McIntyre

This summer the town’s mayor, Pedro Fernández Montes, announced that the town hall had signed an agreement with the company Peel España SL for the creation of what he described as “the greatest mall in the country” on a 150,000-square-metre property behind the Magic Palace theatre. He said the shopping centre, along with a five-star hotel that is to accompany it, would create 3,000 new jobs.
The town’s business association (ACET) says its more than 700 members have expressed “great worry” over the project and its potential effects on small local businesses. ACET officials say they are still collecting information for analysis before pronouncing the association’s official position and proposed course of action. A work group has been created and the issue will be studied in detail beginning in January, after which “our legal department will take a decision on the matter,” they say.

The environmental group Ecologistas en Acción is also concerned about the project and says it will actively oppose it. The group says the site is a habitat for chameleons, a protected species, and a variety of amphibians.

Deadly palm infection is under control

By David Eade

According to the sub-director general of plant health at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in Madrid, Guillermo Artolachipi, the deadly plague that is killing palm trees on the Costa del Sol and in other regions of Spain is now under control. He stated that public bodies had spent a total of 16 million euros since 2002, of which 10 million euros was allocated this year.
The palm infection is spread by ‘Rhynchophorus ferrungineus’, a red coloured beetle that originated in South East Asia and is between 19 and 42 millimetres in length and eight to 16 millimetres wide. It also has black marks on its body. The beetle excavates galleries in the trunk of the palm and these in turn spread a deadly fungicidal infection that rots the trunk internally causing severe damage before it can be visibly detected.
In Spain the infection first appeared in Almuñécar in Granada province in 1995 and whilst it has cut a swathe through the Costa del Sol and the Costa de la Luz it has also made its presence felt in Valencia, Murcia, the Canary and Balearic islands.The agriculture authorities in all the regions affected by the plague report that it is under control including the most recent outbreaks. In Andalucía 495 palms have had to be felled during 2006 with others being treated and the majority of them are on the Costa del Sol. Since its presence was first detected in 1995 over 2,000 palms have been infected, with 791 in Almuñécar, 257 in Nerja, 245 in Salobreña and 165 in Marbella with other cases being detected in Fuengirola, Estepona, Algeciras and the Costa de la Luz.

Gibraltar becomes a provisional member of UEFA

By David Eade

However this is only half time in the row as the decision has to be rubber stamped by the UEFA conference, which could yet deny Gibraltar membership.
Following a recent committee meeting UEFA confirmed it had “no choice” but to admit Gibraltar as a provisional member of the association. In an official statement, UEFA stated that it had “duly taken note of the Court of Arbitration for Sport award of 6 July 2006, and had no choice but to admit the Gibraltar Football Association as provisional member of UEFA.”
On the down side the statement also makes reference to football’s world body, FIFA’s negative pronouncement on the GFA application. It continued: “Furthermore, the UEFA Executive Committee has also taken note of the decision of the FIFA Executive Committee, according to which the GFA ‘does not meet the statutory requirements to become a FIFA member.’”

The final whistle could be blown at UEFA’s XXXI Ordinary Congress in Düsseldorf, Germany on January 25. Here the issue will be discussed with a vote taken by member state federations to decide the outcome. It has been widely reported in the Spanish media that the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has vigorously opposed Gibraltar’s application and the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also made its views against the Rock’s membership application known.The news to date has been warmly welcomed by the GFA President Joey Nuñez. He said it had been a long struggle to achieve recognition and Gibraltar’s inclusion in UEFA will mean a great deal to future generations of local footballers. Nuñez added that FIFA was incorrect in its views, as the Court for Arbitration in Sport has already agreed that the GFA does, at the required time of their application, meet the criteria for membership.

Maro park coastline protected by artificial reef

By Dave Jamieson

The coast of the Maro – Cerro Gordo natural park is now protected from illegal fishing close to the shore. Three-hundred and one concrete blocks have been placed on the sea bed to create an artificial reef which prevents boats getting into the shallowest water and also encourages fish stocks to thrive.The area is now the only stretch of Málaga province’s coastline to enjoy such environmental protection which includes 223 blocks designed simply to dissuade illegal fishing, six which will help species to regenerate, and 72 which combine the two functions. They have been located 15 to 40 metres below the surface between Maro beach and Molino beach, the Río de la Miel and Cañuelo beaches, and between Peñon del Fraile and the Torre de Cerro Gordo. The cost of over half a million euros has been 80 per cent met from European funds. The Junta de Andalucía will monitor the coastline over the next five years to assess the success of the project which aims to counter the destruction of the underwater flora and fauna by illegal fishing. Ecologists, however, fear that such recuperation will prove to be very difficult.

La Línea plans for "illegal" growth of 700 per cent

NEWS Staff Reporter

La Línea town hall has, with the votes of the governing Partido Popular group, approved a new local development plan (PGOU) for the municipality. The document allows for the growth of the population to 350,000 people, which is 700 per cent over the current official level.
The opposition PSOE group says that the regional government’s strategic plan for development in Andalucía (POTA) would deem this growth to be illegal. The socialist spokesperson and candidate for mayor, Miguel Tornay, says the POTA restricts growth in population to just 30 per cent and the increase in urban development to 40 per cent.
The party has also stated that the only areas of La Línea that will not be urbanised are the coastal strip and the peak of the Sierra Carbonera. It added that the PGOU will not be approved by the regional government and warned that it was irresponsible for the town hall to put forward a plan that plainly was not legal.
The views of the socialist politicians have now been backed by members of the environmental group Ecologistas en Acción. They say the proposals are in clear violation of the POTA and cite the planned development land, the golf courses as well as the excess of second homes as aspects of the plan that they oppose and criticise.Now the manager of town planning in La Línea, Carlos Ruiz Calama, has conceded that the draft PGOU passed by the council does in fact conflict with the regional government’s POTA plan. However, he says the Andalucía document is very severe and will affect many municipalities other than La Línea and he is confident that in due course it will be revised.

Online parental control for children at school

By David Eade

Mums and dads will be able to access data that will show if their child is in class, how they behave and how they perform academically. The education department will shortly connect parents wishing to participate and can also use the programme to send messages to their mobile phones.
The educational centres involved are linked to the TIC technology system that will also allow parents to monitor the development of the courses being followed by their children. The aim of this initiative is to involve families fully in the education of their children as well as speed up communication via mobile phones if kids fail to attend a class or get into trouble. Parents will be able to access the information through a special website set up by the regional government that will cover over 600 schools in Andalucía. Up until now all communication between the school and parents has been through the traditional method of letters or telephone calls but this new system will totally revolutionise this two way exchange of information.
The computer system, however, is not yet fool proof and some schools have reported that wayward pupils are still deceiving their parents. Another problem found at this stage is that some parents either don’t know how the internet works or simply prefer face-to-face contact with the teacher. Nonetheless the system is seen as a great step forward and many of these initial shortcomings will be eradicated as the system improves and parents’ ability to involve themselves with the internet develops.

Schools in Cádiz have recorded a major drop in absenteeism since the start of the new school year, with a 40 per cent reduction. Since September, 23 pupils have been missing from classes whereas in the previous first term 36 truants were detected. Studies show that those most likely to play truant are those children aged between 13 and 17 years.

Think before you move

By David Eade

A study by the Institute for Public Policy Research has shown that one in 10 Britons is now living abroad with Australia and Spain the two most popular destinations. In 2005 nearly 200,000 people moved overseas to start a new life that is the equivalent of one person every three minutes.
It is now estimated that 5.5 million Britons live outside of the country with another million set to join them over the next five years. There are another 500,000 people living overseas for part of the year either due to work commitments or in second homes.
As the news broke the Foreign Office made a strong appeal to Britons who were intending to retire abroad to think seriously about what such action meant. The Foreign Office’s has launched a “Know Before You Go” campaign with the aim of warn departing Britons to put the right steps in place to ensure a happy life abroad.
Bruce McIntyre, British Consul in Málaga, is quoted by the BBC as saying that his staff was often dealing with the cases of people who had started their retirements 15 years previously but found themselves in desperate situations as they got older.Indeed it is not only the Foreign Office that is voicing its concerns but Spanish officials have been increasingly worried in recent years at the failure of many Britons to properly register on with the Spanish health service and other authorities when arriving in the country.

Costa Crimestoppers catches cocaine criminal

Ten new names added to the website’s most wanted in Spain list

By Dave Jamieson

Crimestoppers, which launched its “most-wanted in Spain” list two months ago, said last weekend that police in Spain had detained Anthony Simmons, wanted in connection with 568 kilograms of cannabis which was smuggled into the UK in November, 2004. Simmons who is originally from Birmingham was sentenced in his absence to three years jail in February this year after being convicted of a tobacco-smuggling operation which defrauded the British exchequer of £4 million (5.99 million euros) in VAT payments. He is now understood to be in Madrid awaiting extradition to the UK.
The three month pilot project, Operation Captura, was mounted by Crimestoppers in conjunction with the Foreign Office in London, British police and the British Embassy in Madrid. Ten suspects, including Simmons, initially appeared on the organisation’s website and have been joined by a further ten in the last few days. British residents in Spain are encouraged to use a free telephone number if they can supply information on the whereabouts of any of them.

The Chief Executive of Crimestoppers, Mick Laurie, said that anyone could call, “safely and anonymously with any information relating to crime or criminal activity,” adding, “No one will know you called, except you.” Crimestoppers website is at and information on any of the suspects pictured can be given in confidence on the Spanish free phone number 900 555 111. The organisation says it has received 125 useful pieces of intelligence since Operation Captura launched.