Costa del Sol News - 3rd July 2009

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Caminito del Rey restoration moves forward

The dangerously dilapidated walkway has been the site of several deaths

By Oliver McIntyre

Officials last week unveiled the broad-stroke design plan for the long-awaited restoration of Caminito del Rey, the dangerously dilapidated cliff-hugging walkway pinned to the walls of the Gaitanes gorge at the El Chorro reservoir.

The conceptual design plan for the restoration project was presented at the Diputación de Málaga offices by Ingeniería 75, the firm that has been awarded the contract to draw up the detailed project plan and carry out the environmental impact study.

Engineering project

The plan is to restore the historic, early 20th-century cantilevered walkway largely in its original form, reinforcing the existing supports and relaying the surface of the footpath. The project will also include the recuperation of the Puentcillo del Rey bridge, structural repairs to the aqueduct and the creation of a new suspension bridge. At least a section of the vertigo-producing walkway will be equipped for disabled access.

Plans also include the creation of an interpretive centre to explain the history of the Caminito, which was built between 1901 and 1905 to move workers and materials back and forth between the El Chorro Falls and the Gaitanejo Falls on either side of the gorge. It was christened the Caminito del Rey, or King's Pathway, after King Alfonso XIII walked along it in 1921 when he came to inaugurate the Conde del Guadalhorce dam.

Snitches sought

Police create confidential email for expats to report fellow citizens

By Dave Jamieson

Foreign residents are being urged to cooperate with the National Police in a new initiative to combat crime in the province of Málaga.

Anyone providing information via a special email address is guaranteed confidentiality.

Under the slogan, "For a safe Costa del Sol," the campaign which launched last Friday aims to involve foreigners living in the province to help in improving their safety and reducing the incidence of serious crime. The source of any information supplied is guaranteed to be completely confidential and a team of specialist officers will make inquiries into every case reported.

To make it easier for non-Spanish residents and to ensure the success of this pioneering scheme, emails can be sent in any language as a team of translators is available to the police. Publicity about the service has been issued in six different languages, as well as in Spanish and English.

To report a crime or information which may be of use to the police, send an email to [email protected] This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it in total confidentiality. The National Police say they hope that foreigners who have settled in Málaga province can participate in public security through this way of cooperation and integration in the area where they live.

The British government recently launched a initiative to catch UK benefit fraudsters in Spain. It invited free, confidential calls from informers on 900 554 440 to help investigators working with the Spanish authorities to identify those illegally claiming benefits from Britain.

Fifteen arrested and two jailed over Brit death

Investigation continues into Cómpeta brawl that left 49-year-old David Mallon dead

By Dave Jamieson

Fifteen people have been arrested and two imprisoned in connection with the death of a British man in Cómpeta in the early hours of June 6.  Stephen Mallon, aged 49, never recovered consciousness after tumbling five metres over a wall during a fight outside a disco in the town, remaining in a coma until he died 12 days later.

A long investigation by Guardia Civil investigators led to eight detentions during early-morning visits to homes in Canillas de Albaida and Árchez, as well as Cómpeta, on Wednesday of last week, with a further five people detained the following day.  A further two people were detained on Monday.  All those taken for questioning were reported to be Spanish, between 20 and 25 years of age, and at least one is believed to be a woman.  Police sources said that their enquiries were related to "injuries suffered" by the victim which led to his death. 

On Thursday, eight of those detained were released but may have to give testimony at a later date, while another five appeared in court in Torrox on Friday.  Three were released on bail, but two men, from Cómpeta and Árchez, were jailed without bail on suspicion of negligent homicide after evidence was presented which alleged that they were next to Mr Mallon when he fell.  The case remains open and police have not ruled out further arrests. 

Gálvez birthplace celebrates US Independence Day

The centrepiece will be the recreation of an 18th century military battle

By Dave Jamieson

The people of Macharaviaya will join US citizens worldwide to celebrate American Independence Day this weekend in remembrance of a local family who played a big part in the country's birth. The centrepiece will be the recreation of an 18th century military battle.

By the 1740s, Macharaviaya had been nicknamed Little Madrid thanks to the activity of the prosperous Gálvez family which owned extensive vineyards, as well as a playing card factory which held a monopoly for supplying the Americas. It produced up to 30,000 packs annually using a special paper made in Benalmádena.

Bernardo de Gálvez was born in Macharaviaya during July 1746 and, following family tradition, chose a military career, serving aged 16 as a lieutenant in a war with Portugal, as a captain in the Regiment of La Coruña, and sailing to New Spain with his uncle, José de Gálvez Gallardo. In 1769, Gálvez was sent to the northern frontier of Nueva España, where he soon became commandant of military forces in Nueva Vizcaya and Sonora, and led several major expeditions against the Apaches.

By 1776, he was colonel of the Louisiana Regiment and next year was appointed Governor of Louisiana. Gálvez did much to help the American patriots, securing the port of New Orleans so that only American, Spanish, and French ships could move up and down the Mississippi River delivering arms, ammunition, military supplies, and money to the embattled American forces under George Washington.

Royal Navy practice submarine rescue in the Med

Gibraltar is ‘excellent' for training exercises, says lieutenant commander

By David Eade

Last week the Royal Navy carried out exercises to rescue the crew from a simulated submarine disaster off Gibraltar. They created a ‘floating village' using 25 life rafts as the platform for the action.

On hand were rescue specialists, including medical staff and the Submarine Escape Training Tank. They were joined by the Royal Navy's Submarine Parachute Assistance Group. This crack unit deployed a team with escape and rescue expertise to the scene of the supposed submarine in distress. The goal was to effectively carry out the tasks in as short a time as possible.

The group is based at RAF Lyneham where it is assigned a Hercules transport aircraft and is on six hours notice to take-off on a 24-hours-a-day, year-round basis. Even while involved in the exercise in Gibraltar the team was on constant alert in case a real emergency should arise.

Saving submariners

Lieutenant Commander Peter Morris, the Officer in Charge of the Submarine Escape Training Tank, stated: "As long as we are sending people to sea in submarines and fitting submarines with escape hatches then we need a system to retrieve people from the water and take them back to a safe environment.

"Gibraltar is excellent for this kind of training. The turn-around time from the sea to the airfield is incredibly quick, the weather is generally good and the water temperature is ideal."

Two-fold increase in criminal traffic offences

In many cases youngsters without licences were using vehicles lent to them by parents

By Oliver McIntyre

The number of criminal traffic offences committed in Málaga province nearly doubled between 2007 and 2008, according to figures released last week by the traffic prosecutor.

In 2008 the prosecutor's office handled 4,058 criminal traffic offences in the province, compared to 2,112 in 2007. The sharp increase came largely due to the criminalisation of driving without a licence, which was added to the list of criminal traffic violations in May 2008 and made up 1,769 of the cases that year.

There were also significant increases in the number of criminal drink or drug driving and excessive speeding cases, up from 1,551 in 2007 to 2,090 in 2008.

Other criminal traffic offences include reckless driving, negligently causing injury, and refusing to submit to an alcohol test.

Anti-terrorist officer killed by car bomb

First ETA attack in Basque region since Socialists won election

By Dave Jamieson

The National Police officer who died in a car bomb attack last Friday was an anti-terrorism investigator.  Eduardo Antonio Puelles García was 49, married with two children and had a brother serving in the Basque regional police force.

A limpet bomb containing almost two kilos of explosives was attached to the underside of Sr Puelles' car in an outdoor vehicle park close to his home in Arrigorriaga on the outskirts of Bilbao.  It exploded at 9.05am as he turned the ignition key and pulled out, igniting the fuel tank and burning him to death.  The attack was the first in the Basque region since a new socialist administration took over its government and terrorism experts believe it was the work of former members of ETA's Vizcaya cell, which was broken up in a police operation last summer.

Sr Puelles had spent the last 16 years working against terrorism and had contributed to the arrests of around 70 ETA members.  He was described by colleagues as "a good police officer and a good Basque," and was about to be promoted to chief inspector.

Anger over backfiring interest-rate ‘insurance'

Consumer groups say drop in interest rates is costing customers money

By Oliver McIntyre

Irate customers and banking consumer groups have raised protests over products offered by some banks as a supposed interest-rate insurance on mortgages but which, now that interest rates have fallen, are actually costing customers money. 

Consumer groups Ausbanc and Adicae say that the products, known under names such as ‘clip', ‘swap' or ‘permuta financiera', are in fact not interest-rate insurance at all but complex financial investment products.  They say banks billed them as protection against rising interest rates for mortgage holders and sold them to unwitting clients who did not fully understand them. 

The groups say that while the schemes protected mortgage holders by putting a maximum limit on the interest rate they would pay - with the bank picking up the difference if rates went higher - the converse was true when rates came back down, with the customers having to pay the bank based on the difference between the minimum rate set in the contract and the actual rate. 

For customers, it has meant that despite interest rates dropping to historic lows, their monthly mortgage payment continues to be as high, or even higher, than it was when rates were at their peak.  Further, many cannot afford to pull out of the scheme because cancellation fees can be 15,000 euros or more.