News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Lianne Smith to appeal guilty verdict
British mum was found guilty of killing her two children in Spanish hotel
By Dave Jamieson
A BRITISH woman found guilty last week of smothering her two children to death in a hotel on the Costa Brava two years ago is planning to appeal the verdict. Last Thursday, the jury in an Girona court took eight hours the reach the unanimous decision that 45-year-old Lianne Smith was "fully conscious" when she took the lives of five-year-old Rebecca and baby Daniel who was 11 months old.
During the four-day trial, the court was told how Lianne Smith and her partner Martin Smith, to whom she was not related, fled from the UK to Spain in December 2007 after he was accused of child sex offences. They were later tracked down to Barcelona where Martin Smith was arrested in May 2010, extradited to the UK and jailed for 16 years for repeatedly raping Lianne Smith's elder daughter. He hanged himself in prison last January.
The jury of seven men and two women heard how Lianne Smith had become obsessed with the thought that her children would be taken into care and "institutionalised". A prison psychiatrist said she had been "obsessed" with Martin Smith and said she regarded the deaths of the children as an "unavoidable catastrophe".
In a shock development during the trial, it was announced that DNA tests showed that Martin Smith was not the father of either of Lianne Smith's young children, a result which she said was "mistaken". Rebecca was born in the UK while the couple were living together and Daniel was born in Spain in June 2009.
PP takes reins at BenalmÁdena town hall
PSOE's Javier Carnero ousted as mayor for second time in three years
By Oliver McIntyre
AS expected, the Partido Popular led a successful ouster vote at Benalmádena town hall on Saturday, taking over power from the coalition government led by socialist Javier Carnero as mayor.
In a tense council meeting with severe recriminations and finger pointing from both sides, the no confidence vote passed with 11 votes from the PP plus those of the three Unión Centro Benalmádena councillors, who had previously been part of Sr Carnero's PSOE-led tripartite coalition along with Izquierda Unida.
The Partido Popular's Paloma García Gálvez, who was number two on the PP's candidate list behind mayoral candidate Enrique Moya at the municipal election, was named mayor. She will step down from her seat in Congress, where she has served for the last six months as a deputy for Málaga.
Nerja cave paintings - how old are they really?
New round of age tests could resolve debate on whether they were created by man or Neanderthal
By Dave Jamieson
A NEW study into the age of the paintings in the Nerja caves is to be made in August. For the first time, they will be examined using uranium-thorium dating which allows the analysis of inorganic sediments.
Radio-carbon techniques used previously can only be used on organic material and become less reliable on specimens more than 40,000 years old. The new test involves taking samples of the calcite film which lies on the surface of the paintings, so avoiding damaging them, and will provide an accurate dating as far back as 80,000 years.
The Caves Foundation said last week that the study was the culmination of two major projects: the multidisciplinary research project by the Junta de Andalucía which began in 2008, and the work of the French Culture Ministry, which is undertaking such research in a number of different cave sites. French and Spanish researchers, led by project director José Luis Sanchidrián from the University of Córdoba, will take 20 samples from Nerja's 596 cave paintings.
A team of British researchers recently used this method for dating paintings in caves in northern Spain, including Altamira, which revealed them to be more than 35,600 years old.
Police create detours for A7 accidents
Signposted routes to prevent traffic chaos after crashes at dangerous La Cala curves
By Oliver McIntyre
THE MIJAS local police have created sign-posted detour routes to be used during the frequent accidents in the area of the La Cala curves on the westbound side of the A7 motorway.
"This is a high-incident stretch of road that has historically been the site of accidents provoking long traffic tailbacks," said the town hall.
To prevent major traffic jams in such incidents, the local police have designed a series of detour routes through nearby urbanisations.
If an accident happens at or near the Playa Marina urbanisation, traffic will be detoured to the El Faro exit at kilometre 205, through the El Faro urbanisation and along Calle Andalucía, the main road through Playa Marina, the Las Farolas urbanisation, Calle Geranio, Avenida Buganvilla and Calle Lirios, re-entering the A7 via the service road.
If an accident occurs between the Alcántara urbanisation and La Cala, the detour route will be either the same as the above, or via the service road at Las Farolas, continuing on to Arco del Chaparral, Carmen Werner, Camino del Zorro, Camino de Vistamar, Camino de las Fincas del Chaparral, Camino de La Cala, Camino del Chaparral and the Avenida del Limonar roundabout in La Cala, which gives access back onto the A7.
Andalucía OAPs won't have to overpay for medicines and await reimbursement
By Oliver McIntyre
UNLIKE in the rest of the country, pensioners in Andalucía will not have to pay up front and then get reimbursed for prescription medicine costs above their maximum co-payment under the new system coming into effect on July 1 as part of the government's healthcare reforms.
Junta health chief María Jesús Montoro said last week that, thanks to the electronic prescription system used by the Andalucía health service (SAS), pharmacies will be able to see in real time when a pensioner has reached his or her co-pay limit for the month, and not charge any more.
Pensioners - including many foreign residents - used to get their medication for free but under the new system they must pay 10 per cent of the cost, up to a maximum of eight euros for those with incomes under 18,000 euros, 18 euros for incomes between 18,000 and 100,000 euros, and 60 euros a month for incomes over 100,000 euros.
In other areas of the country they will have to foot the bill for the entire 10 per cent regardless of the total for the month, and then get reimbursed for the overpayment within a maximum of six months.
Pharmacy and healthcare groups have complained that the system could force some low-income retirees to stop taking medications if they can't afford to bridge the payment for expensive treatments. This will now not be a concern in Andalucía, said Sra Montero.
Suspect arrested in Puerto BanÚs shooting
Alleged shooter and victim were riding in a car together when they got into an argument
By David Eade
A MAN was arrested on Friday in Torremolinos for his alleged involvement in a shooting in Puerto Banús in the early hours of that morning.
The incident occurred when two men, both Moroccan, were travelling in a car at the roundabout in Puerto Banús where La Victoria statue stands. According to the National Police, a violent argument broke out between the pair.
At the roundabout the car stopped and the passenger got out, then aimed his gun at the car and fired off two shots. The first hit the car and the second injured his companion.
The injured man got out of the car and sought help from people in cars passing by. A taxi driver and the driver of another car heading toward the Puerto Banús prom alerted the 112 emergency service and police.
Dangerous moves as miners step up protests
Man injured as train crashes into barrier set up by protesters; miners say actions will continueBy Dave Jamieson
PROTESTS by striking miners in northern Spain grew more violent last week as the workers continued to demonstrate against cuts in government subsidies to the sector this year.
In the most serious incident, a 43-year-old passenger on a train received head injuries when the locomotive ploughed into a barrier which had been erected across the tracks.
One group of strikers has remained underground for almost a month after the subsidy was reduced from 300 million euros last year, to 110 million this year. Without the subsidy, Spanish coal would be too expensive to compete with imported fuels.
Many roads have been blocked in Asturias and León with piles of tyres set alight in several places.
The General Workers Union said the strikers were using stronger tactics in response the police use of tear gas and rubber bullets in earlier clashes.
Ten days ago, a chain hanging from the overhead power gantries on a regional railway line smashed windows of some carriages of a train which was carrying about 100 passengers. The driver is reported to have received some injuries. However, last Thursday's incident was more serious.
A commuter train ran into a barrier allegedly left across the track by the miners at Serín, 20 kilometres south-west of the city of Gijón. A tree which formed part of the blockade smashed through the window of the first carriage and struck a 43-year-old man on the head.
He was taken to hospital where he was described as being in a serious condition after suffering a concussion. The driver and the only four other passengers on the early-morning service were unhurt.
Chief justice to resign over expenses scandalCarlos Dívar expected to make the announcement today
By Dave Jamieson
THE CHIEF justice of the Supreme Court has admitted his position is "unsustainable" and is expected formally to resign today. At a meeting of the General Council of the Judiciary on Saturday morning, Carlos Dívar said he recognised the damage which has been caused to the institution and said he would step down as its president.
Sr Dívar has been under increasing pressure to explain why he claimed thousands of euros in expenses following long weekends spent at luxury hotels. An allegation that he claimed more than 13,000 euros during 20 four- and five-day visits to Puerto Bánus was expanded last week to encompass 32 trips and total expenses of around 28,000 euros.
The whistleblower was a member of the General Council who last month drew the matter to the attention of the public prosecutor, asking him to investigate a possible misuse of public funds. The prosecutor dismissed the claim without a full investigation, while Sr Dívar told journalists that all the visits to Marbella and elsewhere in Andalucía coincided with official business, stressing that he kept separate records of his professional and personal expenses. However, both Málaga and Marbella town halls have been vague when asked to corroborate Sr Dívar's version of events and dates of meetings.
At a press conference on June 1, Sr Dívar refused to identify his dinner guests on these trips and stated that the meals for which he claimed expenses were "official". However, El País has alleged that some of these suppers were taken with the chief justice's personal assistant and bodyguard, Jerónimo Escorial, with whom he has worked for 15 years.
Taxpayers to pay €190,000 for painting of ex-minister
Francisco Álvarez-Cascos chooses top artist to paint his official portrait
By Oliver McIntyre
THE Public Works Ministry is set to fork out 190,000 euros of state money for a portrait of Francisco Álvarez-Cascos, who was public works minister from 2000 to 2004 under the Partido Popular government of José María Aznar.
It is understood the commission of the painting was approved by then-minister José Blanco (PSOE) in April 2010, under the tradition of creating portraits of each successive minister to hang on the walls of the ministry headquarters.
The ex-ministers select the painter of their choice to do their portrait, and Sr Álvarez-Cascos chose Antonio López, one of Spain's most famous - and expensive - living artists.
Full house for Isabel Pantoja trial
Huge public interest in the case against Marbella's former mayor, his lover and his ex-wife makes lawyers fear media circus
By David Eade
THE TRIAL of famous Spanish singer Isabel Pantoja, on money laundering charges, will be held in the largest court room at Málaga's Palacio de Justicia.
The case will have its first hearing on June 28 before adjourning for the summer. It will then continue from October 1 to April 16 of next year.
Over 120 journalists have already applied for permission to cover the trial and groups of the popular singer's fans are also expected to be there to support her. A special security operation is to be put into place to ensure legal proceedings can be carried out in an orderly manner.
Although Isabel Pantoja's case is separate from the Malaya town planning corruption trial they are linked. In the dock with Pantoja will be her ex-lover, the former mayor of Marbella, Julian Muñoz.
They will be joined by Muñoz's former wife, Mayte Zaldívar and seven other co-accused. Some of the legal profession would prefer their case was tried in a smaller court as they fear it will turn in to a media circus.
The case revolves around Julian Muñoz who already has numerous town planning convictions against him. It is alleged the former mayor lifted 3.5 million euros from Marbella town hall which he passed first to his wife then to his lover to launder on his behalf.