Costa del Sol News - 31th January 2008

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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The Costa del Sol weekly newspaper, on sale at newsagents.

Week 31st January - 6th Feburary 2008


Crimestoppers and SOCA hunt more UK criminals in Spain
UK charity, Crimestoppers and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) have announced ten new appeals for information concerning British criminals believed to be on the run in the Costa del Sol region of Spain.

Operation Captura is a joint project by Crimestoppers, SOCA and the Spanish authorities launched in October 2006. Eight fugitives have been brought to justice from a total of twenty such appeals appearing on Crimestoppers’ ‘Most Wanted’ website since the launch. SOCA coordinates the appeals on behalf of British law enforcement and then processes the European Arrest Warrants to bring the fugitives back to the UK.
The ten new appeals for information include offences ranging from murder to major drug trafficking operations.

Five arrests have been made from the first batch of ten appeals issued in October 2006.

Dave Cording, Director of Operations, Crimestoppers, said: “The success of Operation Captura speaks for itself. Once the photograph of the criminal is posted on our website they have nowhere to hide. We are delighted to be working with SOCA on this campaign which is halting some very serious criminal activity.

“You can help expose the perpetrators behind this activity, in Spain and the UK, by calling us anonymously from Spain on 900 555 111. If you are calling from within the UK telephone 0800 555 111. Your call will not be traced or recorded so tell us what you know, not who you are. Our service has been helping to find criminals and solve crime for twenty years. It’s a system that works for everyone except criminals.”

Bill Hughes, Director General of SOCA, added: “British crooks who thought they could enjoy a ‘yachts and villas’ lifestyle in Spain have received a nasty shock. Many of them are now experiencing a rather different lifestyle at Her Majesty’s pleasure.

“SOCA has worked with Crimestoppers and the Spanish to bring these criminals to justice but we couldn’t have done it without the help of the public. I’d like to thank all of the brave individuals who have provided vital information. Now we need your help again. Please study the ten new appeals closely and if you have any information at all please call Crimestoppers anonymously straight away. They are waiting for your call.”

Calls to the Spanish 900 555 111 telephone number will be answered in the UK by

Crimestoppers call handlers and a translation service will be available on request.

James Walter TOMKINS
– aged 58. Offences: Alleged to have murdered Rocky DAWSON in Hornchurch, Essex on 2 May 2006. Also wanted for the possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life. There is a £20,000 reward for information leading to Tomkins’ arrest. Description: 1.73m tall, medium to stocky build, scar close to left eye, scar on brow, scar on right side of neck, sometimes wears a close cut beard. Has links to Marbella, Fuengirola, Puerto Banus and Benidorm. Aliases and nicknames: Raymond John Farmer, O’Flynn, “Jimbles”.

David Alfred ANDREWS – aged 66. Offences: Accused of being the principal figure of a drug-trafficking organisation. Description: 5’11” tall, grey collar length hair, large build, clean shaven.

Jason Richard GULLIFORD - aged 36. Offences: Alleged to have stabbed Neil James Dodd with a screwdriver over a suspected drugs debt. Aliases and nicknames: John Andrews; Jason Culver Price. Description: 6’ 3” tall (191m), heavy build, dark brown hair, tattoo on right arm of a black panther, tattoo on left shoulder of a black panther.

Noel Francis CUNNINGHAM – aged 46. Offences: Conspiracy to rob, conspiracy to steal, having an offensive weapon, handling stolen goods, escape, wounding/inflicting grievous bodily harm, possessing firearm with intent.

Description: 1.78m tall, white European appearance, blue eyes.

Daniel Paul JOHNSTON - aged 27. Offences: Wanted for carrying out two robberies, one attempted robbery and one theft. Description: White male, 175m tall, medium build, blue eyes, short mousey hair, tattoo on left arm of a Celtic band, tattoo on left arm of a tribal band, tattoo of letters ‘KAINE’ in Celtic writing on abdomen. Johnston is believed to have links in the Malaga region.

Allan James FOSTER – aged 31. Offences: Alleged to have murdered David “Noddy” Rice. Also wanted for two offences of conspiring to supply controlled drugs. Description: White European male of mixed race, 5’ 8” tall, slim build, brown eyes, short black hair, no distinctive marks known. Has links to Canary Islands and Mallorca.

Scott COLEMAN – aged 33. In 2003 in Aberdeen, Coleman was arrested and charged with possession with intent to supply 2.87 kg of heroin. Description: 6’ 2” tall, medium build, short brown hair, blue eyes, tattoo of bulldog tattooed on centre of back, Liverpool FC crest tattooed on right leg, lips tattooed on buttocks. Has links to Benidorm.

Keith Brian BURKE – aged 47. Burke was involved in a violent assault in Doncaster on 8 July 2001. He was convicted and sentenced to three years imprisonment for affray. Description: 173m tall, blue eyes, bald head, dark brown goatee beard, tattoo on right neck of a devil, tattoo on left side of neck of a swallow.
Nicknames: Tattooed Keith.

John BARTON – aged 52. Barton was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in 2003 after being convicted, in his absence, in relation to an offence of conspiring to import a commercial amount of heroin into the UK. Description: White male, 5’8” tall, medium build, receding dyed brown hair, natural grey colour, Midlands accent.

John Cearney BARKER – aged 50. Offences: Wanted under two European Arrest Warrants for trafficking in cocaine and amphetamine. Description: 5’11” tall, stocky build, fair hair, blue eyes with a squint to the right eye. Has links with Tenerife. Aliases and nicknames: John Cairney Barker; John Clearney Barker, “Jock”.
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British couple injured in violent home robbery

Victims were hit with the hilt of a knife

By Oliver McIntyre

British couple has been brutally attacked during a robbery at their rural Alhaurín de la Torre home. The thief made off with just a small amount of cash – around 100 euros – but beat the victims with the hilt of a knife, causing head injuries that left the husband in hospital for days.

The late-night robbery took place two Sundays ago in the Cortijo de Mestanza zone of Alhaurín, a small, usually quiet district on the outskirts of town along the Cártama road. It is understood that the masked intruder, armed with an air gun as well as the knife, may have entered the home through a door left partially open.

A visibly shaken neighbour, also British, told Costa del Sol News that she preferred not to comment on her friends’ ordeal, but confirmed that the man was in hospital and the wife, who suffered less severe injuries, was spending most of her time there with him.

Spate of recent robberies
The break-in was one of a spate of recent robberies in the Guadalhorce Valley region. Just a couple of weeks ago officials at Alhaurín el Grande town hall stated that more than 100 robberies had been reported in the region in the last three months.

Police investigate attempted kidnap of 12-year-old

Benalmádena town hall steps up patrolling around local schools

By Oliver McIntyre

Police are investigating the attempted kidnap of a 12-year-old girl in Benalmádena last Friday. The incident occurred at 2.10pm, when the girl had just left the Arroyo de la Miel secondary school and was walking alone up Avenida Inmaculada Conception.

At an intersection between the secondary school and the Miguel Hernández primary school, she passed a small grey car that had its door open. As she walked by it, a young man, described as having a goatee-style beard, got out and grabbed her. He pressed his hand over her mouth and attempted to force her into the vehicle, but she struggled and was finally able to kick him in the groin and escape.
A woman who was nearby is understood to have helped the girl in her struggle to get away from the assailant.

The girl ran the rest of the way to the Miguel Hernández school, where she was assisted by some mothers who were outside the school waiting for their children to come out.

Authorities react
Benalmádena town hall issued a press release calling on the public to remain calm. “The town hall has mustered all of its resources and efforts to prevent this type of incident occurring again,” said the mayor, Javier Carnero. While there was already a police presence at local schools during times when students are arriving and leaving, “orders have been given for the local police to reinforce their patrolling” at and around the schools. Local officials are working with the National Police to “expedite the investigation and find the suspect,” said the mayor.

Banderas teardown delay causes uproar

Court-ordered demolition has not been carried out

By David Eade

Among those caught up in the aftermath of the town planning fiasco in Marbella is the international film actor and director Antonio Banderas. Málaga-born Banderas has a home on the beach at Los Monteros, and residents of the luxury urbanisation are furious that the town hall has not enforced a 2003 Regional Supreme Court (TSJA) order for part of the house to be demolished.
Marbella’s mayor, Ángeles Muñoz, stated last week that the town hall was asking the TSJA to hold off on the demolition order until the new local development plan (PGOU) has been approved. She stated that this was the same condition being sought for all illegal properties in the municipalities. But this argument has been angrily rejected by the residents of Los Monteros, who have pointed out that even when the new PGOU becomes law, the affected building on the Banderas property will still be illegal. The residents say that if the town hall will not enforce the teardown order, they will take the matter up directly with the court.

Appeal rejected
It is understood that an appeal by Banderas to have the demolition order overturned by the court has been rejected. The part of the house that has been condemned sits on land classified in the 1986 PGOU as public property for sanitation use. The licence for the illegal works was issued in 1995 by the Marbella administration headed by the late Jesús Gil.

Justice Ministry recognises error in Dolores Vázqu

By Oliver McIntyre

first time, Dolores Vázquez has received official recognition that an error was made in her conviction for the 1999 murder of Mijas teenager Rocío Wanninkhof, for which she was later absolved and Briton Tony King was convicted.

In its still ongoing review of Sra Vázquez’s miscarriage of justice claim, the Justice Ministry has acknowledged that an error was made and has suggested a restitution payment of 120,000 euros, far below the four million euros sought by Sra Vázquez. Before Justice makes a final ruling, the case must still be reviewed by the state’s High Council, which will issue a non-binding recommendation.

The Justice Ministry’s recognition of an error in Sra Vázquez’s conviction comes despite the findings of the High Justice Commission (CGPJ), which in December stated that the justice system was not responsible for the wrongful conviction. The CGPJ based its findings on the argument that the authorities’ failure to identify King as a suspect earlier in the investigation was due to the lack of a common database between the Guardia Civil and the National Police, and that this situation was the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior, not Justice.

Sra Vázquez was convicted in September 2001 and sentenced to 15 years in prison. In February 2002, the trial was overturned on technical grounds and a retrial was ordered. Sra Vázquez was released after spending 17 months in prison, and as she awaited her retrial Tony Alexander King was arrested for the murder of Coín teenager Sonia Carabantes and his DNA was connected to both the Coín and Mijas murder scenes. The charges against Sra Vázquez were subsequently dropped, and King was convicted for both murders.

Anger over 'huge ugly grey' warehouse

Residents say land was for residential use

By David Eade

del Sol News has been contacted by angry residents living in Costalita in Estepona. The zone of pleasant residential homes has been blighted by the rapid construction of a giant eye-sore.
Les, one of the affected home owners explained: “Recently Urbis sold out to Reyal, two plots of land left for development near the main road and Saladillo petrol station. They had planning for residential use with shops below.
“Reyal sold the plots and all of a sudden a huge ugly grey block has grown in two weeks. They are working day and night and they are creating what we think will be a d-i-y retail outlet. It has blighted the whole area and worse a super new development of townhouses next door.”
When the CDSN visited the construction site work was still going on apace. Sure enough the building is sandwiched between the residential zones and it is not surprising that the residents are asking: “How did they get permission for something like that.”

More traffic problems
Apart from the ugliness of the building local residents say the worst problem is that the road infrastructure simply cannot handle such a development. Les pointed out that if it is to be a retail unit: “It will bring in hundreds of cars, builders’ vans, delivery trucks and there is only one road in and one out. In the summer months it takes about 30 minutes to negotiate this at peak times already.”
It is understood that the local community has appointed a lawyer to look in to the development. Initial enquiries with photographs sent by the Costa del Sol News to Estepona’s town planning department has, as of yet, been met with stony silence.

Good news for opponents of Alhaurín's northern byp

Regional officials withdraw support for the road

By Oliver McIntyre

of residents battling against a plan for a northern bypass road in Alhaurín el Grande got good news last week, with promises by some regional government officials to withdraw their support for the project.

The town’s mayor, Juan Martín, who is also opposed to the bypass road, met last week in Sevilla with the regional director general of highways, Jesús Merino, and the secretary of the regional development plan (POT) for the zone, Vicente Granados.

Following the meeting, the mayor said that, in response to the slew of complaints filed in opposition to the project, the officials had promised to issue reports “advising against and not supporting” the plan for the bypass road. In addition, they promised the proposed road would “disappear from the POT.”

Public meeting scheduled for tomorrow
A group of residents, including a number of foreigners, have been actively opposing the planned bypass road, citing environmental concerns and outrage over the required land expropriations, including compulsory purchase orders on “more than 200 homes.”

The mayor and the councillor for town planning, Gregorio Guerra, have scheduled a meeting for tomorrow at 8pm at the Casa de Cultura to further explain to residents the outcome of the Sevilla meeting.

Restoration of Brenan house finally moving forward

Town hall approves 1.2 million-euro project

By Oliver McIntyre

The long-planned project to restore the Churriana home of famed British Hispanist Gerald Brenan has taken a step forward with Málaga town hall’s approval last week of the 1.2 million-euro restoration plan. Once the construction contract is awarded, the project will have a completion timeline of 18 months.

The historic 19th-century mansion, believed to have been built on the site of an old convent, will retain its original outer walls, have its decorative iron window bars replaced and get a new roof. “The house will remain essentially the same, with only some structural elements modified,” said the town hall.

The restored house is to contain a Gerald Brenan museum, as well as a section dedicated to other “romantic travellers” who visited and wrote about Andalucía, according to the town hall. There will also be an area featuring agricultural artefacts from the Churriana zone.
The 612-square-metre, two-storey house, along with its gardens, was expropriated by Málaga town hall in December 2003 with the intention of converting it into a cultural site, but the project is just now moving forward. There were several set-backs, including a renegotiation of the expropriation deal, with the old owners being allowed to keep part of the site, and some damage to the house caused by construction work the owners carried out on the portion of the site they retained.

1,200 pounds sterling
Gerald Brenan (1894 – 1987) 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. He bought the Churriana house in 1934 for 1,200 pounds sterling, and lived or stayed there for varying periods of time up till 1969, when he moved to Alhaurín el Grande. He and his wife, the American poet Gamel Woolsey, lived in the Churriana house during the early days of the Spanish Civil War, an experience that shaped later works of both writers.

Forum outlines Nerja development targets

By Dave Jamieson

Hundreds of additional hotel beds, more car parking and new access roads were some of the needs identified by a one-day business forum in Nerja last week. The conference, arranged by the local business association, AEN, aimed to define areas which should be addressed in the town’s local development plan (PGOU).
The meeting attendees suggested that the largely undeveloped zone behind the town’s El Playazo beach should be home to 550 new hotel places as a catalyst to tourism. Delegates said that front-line development along the beach should be dedicated to this sector, similar to what has been done along Burriana beach at the other end of the town. Architect Bernardo Pozuelo presented a document suggesting how Playazo could be developed in relation to the future Nerja-Torrox marina, which will be built very nearby. The zone, he said, should include green areas on both sides of the main N-340 road, which runs parallel to the beach.
The other main concern of the forum was Nerja’s chronic lack of parking.

Suggestions included a 550-space car park in Huertos de Carabeo and a 600-space lot in the area behind the old market in Plaza Ermita next to the site of the future bus station, both of which are already used informally by hundreds of vehicles daily. In addition, an 800-space underground garage is required in the Burriana beach area, and a 400-space car park at the future fairground, according to the forum.

To relieve traffic congestion, two new roads were recommended. One would be a new northern access as far as the new fairground, which is to be sited on the right bank of the Chillar river, while the other would link El Playazo beach with El Chaparil and the Paseo Marítimo at La Torrecilla.

The latest version of Nerja’s PGOU, outlining the town’s plans for the next decade, is likely to be finalised in the first half of this year. At present, it indicates that more than 6,700 new homes will be built with seven new zones being classified as residential.

Illegal-construction inspector charged with briber

A foreign-resident who acted as interpreter also faces charges

By Oliver McIntyre

who was responsible for rooting out illegal construction and land-use offences in Cártama was instead allegedly soliciting bribes in exchange for ‘fixing’ or burying infractions and sanctions. The public prosecutor’s office has announced it will seek a nine-year prison sentence for the accused, who was an independent contractor working as the town hall’s ‘green patrol’ inspector when the alleged incidents occurred, in late 2004 and early 2005.

The man is alleged to have solicited at least 11 bribes totalling more than 111,000 euros.

According to the public prosecutor, the inspector asked for quantities ranging from 6,000 euros to 21,000 euros to help the owners of illegal properties avoid halt-work orders, home demolitions or other sanctions. In one case, he had a foreign resident serve as an interpreter while he sought an 18,000-euro bribe from a foreign property owner facing a halt-work order. The alleged interpreter faces charges as an accomplice, for which the prosecutor is seeking a one-year prison sentence.

Unsatisfied homeowner turned him in
The accused received the solicited payment in only a couple of cases, according to the prosecutor. In one case he took 9,000 euros to quash a sanction proceeding, and when the owner subsequently received a halt-work order from the town hall, the inspector demanded a further 6,000-euro payment to resolve the problem. Similarly, he failed to make good on a promise to another property owner who had paid him 7,000 euros, but in this case the owner went to the town hall and reported what had happened.

When the man was confronted by municipal officials, he quit his job as inspector, thus cancelling his contract with the town hall. Three days later he was arrested on coercion and bribery charges.

Bradley's agony

NEWS Staff Reporter

Animal rescue society PAD homed 1063 dogs and cats last year, many of whom had suffered from cruelty or neglect but none to the extent that Bradley, a large affectionate ginger cat, has. The society’s president, Barbara Griffiths told the Costa del Sol News, “With all our experience we have never seen such cruelty and suffering as that which he has endured.”

Bradley was discovered by Dave and Rosie who heard his cries of distress while out taking a leisurely walk on Three Kings’ Day near where they live in Alhaurin el Grande. Looking more closely, they discovered a ginger cat at the side of the river bank. He had been held down and tied round and round with fencing wire, so tightly that the wire had sheared off all the flesh from his two back legs. Tools must have been used to secure the roots and branches which were also attached to him. To complete the horror he was then pushed into a sack, secured with more wire, roots and stones and thrown into the river. Mercifully, his executioner’s aim fell short but from the infection that had set in, PAD’s vets reckon he must have been there for four to five days. There is no way of knowing how he escaped from the sack but two of his teeth are missing or broken.
Barbara explained, “It being a holiday, help was hard to come by so David and Rosie, knowing that we were open rushed him down to us. We were quickly able to free his front end but we soon realised that for the rear legs this was a job for the experts. We have to thank Jorge at Urvet for his speedy response in cutting the wire and keeping Bradley alive. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mercedes Evans from Clinica Veterinaria Torreblanca for her subsequent loving care. We thought at one time that Bradley would have to be euthanised. Not so. Our fears now are that he will lose one leg to gangrene but we’re hoping that through more nursing at the clinic we can prevent this.”

P.A.D. would like to hear from anyone in the Alhaurin el Grande area who has heard anything about this crime. Barbara said, “Maybe other animals have suffered in the same way. We need to find the perpetrators and find justice for Bradley. This kind of suffering should not go unnoticed.” If you have any information please call PAD on 95 248 6084.

Tráfico hunts down uninsured drivers

New system automatically reads licence plate and checks against database

By Oliver McIntyre

Uninsured drivers had best steer clear of Spanish roads following the Traffic Department’s launch last week of a new high-tech system to hunt them down.

The new system allows Tráfico officers to check if a vehicle is insured simply by aiming a camera at its licence plate. The device automatically reads the plate number and checks it against an onboard computer containing a database supplied by the Spanish Union of Insurance and Reinsurance Companies (Unespa).
If no match is made, a computerised voice tells the officer that the vehicle lacks the mandatory third-party insurance coverage, and the officer will pull the driver over.

If the driver cannot produce proof of insurance, the vehicle may be impounded. In addition, failure to have insurance carries a fine of 1,000 euros for scooters, 1,500 euros for passenger cars and 2,600 euros for heavy vehicles.

Coming to Málaga
The new system to root out uninsured drivers was launched last week in Madrid, Toledo, Sevilla, Granada, Valencia, Badajoz, Zaragoza, León, Burgos, La Coruña, Navarra and Asturias. Throughout this year it is expected to be expanded across Spain, including in Málaga province, where an estimated 10 per cent of all cars on the road lack insurance.

The chief of Tráfico, Pere Navarro, said that in the future the system could also be employed to track down vehicles that have not passed the ITV test (the MOT equivalent), or to identify stolen vehicles.

Legal age for scooter riders to rise in September

NEWS Staff Reporter

The government has approved changes to the law affecting motorcycles and scooters. From September 1, the minimum age for riding a scooter will be 15.

The cabinet met last Friday to give final approval to various initiatives regarded as urgent in improving road safety. The rise in the minimum age for scooter drivers is accompanied by an increase in the minimum age at which a driver may carry a passenger, which jumps from 16 to 18 years.

Licences already obtained by 14-year-olds before September 1 will continue to be valid after this date, but such drivers will have to observe the new age limit for carrying a passenger. New applicants will also have to pass a practical examination. Drivers whose licence has expired will not need to take the exam to obtain a new licence, provided that no more than four years has elapsed since their old licence ran out, although they will have to produce the required medical certificate. Applicants for licences to ride higher powered motor cycles will have to take separate examinations.

Mayor of Bornos blocks Juárez's bid for Senate sea

La Linea’s mayor had hoped to lead the Cádiz PP candidates in the Senate race

By David Eade

Popular in Cádiz has moved to block the mayor of La Línea, Juan Carlos Juárez, from being a candidate for province at the forthcoming March 9 general election. This is not the first such snub that Sr Juarez has suffered at the hands of his party, as he had been previously removed from a general election candidate's list.
The controversial Sr Juárez was expected to lead the PP in Cádiz for the Senate race but the position has now been given to the mayor of Bornos, Fernando García Navarro. Not only that but Sr Juárez does not figure among the other two Senate candidatures, which go to Ignacio Romani Cantera of Cádiz and Laura Seco Moreno from Sanlúcar. The three reserve places have also been awarded to other politicians.

Cadiz is one of the PP's 'safe' seats with the top candidate expected to be elected to the Senate. This snub is a major blow for Juarez's long held aspirations of breaking into the national political scene in Madrid.

Court cases cast shadow
It is perhaps no surprise that the PP's leadership should have moved to block the mayor's ambitions. He is involved in three legal proceedings related to alleged financial irregularities surrounding the Roseworld property case. In addition he is the only mayor in Spain to have his passport held by the court to stop his flight until the case is settled. It is understood that had he been elected he would have then enjoyed some level of parliamentary immunity to prosecution.