Friday, 29 August 2008

Roquetas de Mar shoplifters caught

Guardia Civil stopped a Volkswagen Golf at 10pm in Roquetas de Mar, at a checkpoint making random inspections of passing cars, they came across more than they expected.
After identifying the five occupants, officers searched the vehicle and found several articles of clothing which appeared to be brand new and with the price-tags still attached. They also found a suitcase and a bag, both of which were lined with aluminium foil – a method frequently used by thieves to fool shops’ security systems, containing more new items of clothing. On searching the five occupants of the car, one of them was found to have yet more similar items hidden in the clothes he was wearing. A total of 12 articles of clothing were found with a value of 740 euros.Those arrested were identified as Gheorghe C., aged 23, Gheorghe S. R., aged 23, Buta L., aged 37, Cristian F. M., aged 27 and Lidia C., aged 29. All were said by the Guardia Civil to have previous criminal records.

Mother and son robbers

Police in Ronda have arrested a mother and son for having performed around twenty opportunistic robberies in the town. According to police, the criminals always committed their crimes in shops, taking advantage of shop owners and customers being distracted in order to steal wallets and items off the shelves. Thanks to CCTV cameras, the woman (aged 44) was caught red handed by police in a jewellery shop and her son was arrested shortly afterwards. The pair are also believed to have committed similar offences in Malaga, Seville and Cadiz.

A total of 25 marijuana plants were seized by local police from a house in Callosa de Segura.

A total of 25 marijuana plants were seized by local police from a house in Callosa de Segura.They also arrested two people in the raid identified.
The plants were being cultivated in plastic bags on a terrace.

no company based in Spain has a licence to show BBC public service channels.

no company based in Spain has a licence to show BBC public service channels.
They stated that it is illegal to rebroadcast these channels in Spain without a licence from them.The BBC and Sky have both said that companies that do this are breaking copyright laws.A spokesman for the BBC explained this week that the BBC’s public service channels –BBC1, BBC2 and the digital channels – are produced for broadcast in the UK only.He added that although European law allows channels that are broadcast in an EEA (European Economic Area) country to be licensed for cable redistribution in another EEA country, the BBC only currently licenses cable redistribution in the Republic of Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands.
“The BBC’s public service channels are not licensed for broadcast in any other countries,” the spokesman added.“Our international news channel, BBC World News is distributed in Spain.“BBC Worldwide’s international general entertainment channel, BBC Prime, is licensed directly to individual subscribers in Spain but is not currently licensed to a cable, satellite or other platform.”
But he added that cable operators in Spain could come to an agreement with the BBC, as they have done in the Benelux countries.
He continued: “If a cable operator wishes to redistribute the BBC’s channels it must enter into a licence with the BBC and other underlying rights holders.
“The BBC can choose whether or not to license the BBC’s public service channels for redistribution in this way.” BskyB has already stated that it is illegal to receive its programmes in Spain.
A spokesman said: “We authorise the reception of Sky TV in the UK and Ireland only.
“Our terms and conditions expressly prohibit reception elsewhere in Europe.”
BBC Prime clients can use their own equipment to view English programmes with more information available at www.bbcprime.com
It is an encrypted channel and customers need to buy a subscription to receive a smart card which enables them to receive up to 50 channels with BBC Prime being just one of them.A BBC Prime spokesman added: “Live coverage or highlights of sporting events is not something that BBC Prime includes in its schedules.
“We do not have international transmission rights to the action.
“International rights to the pictures have to be bought on the open market and payment made for European or global transmission.
“Often the international rights are held by a number of different channels with exclusivity clauses for their territory, and so are unavailable to us.”
Also this week the Guardia Civil revealed that the investigation into Costa Blanca rebroadcasting company Telmicro Levante SL remains ongoing.
A Guardia Civil spokesman in Alicante said: “We cannot give any information about the investigation.“The judge must establish when the investigation is finished and when we are allowed to give information.“Clients interested in getting information must go to Torrevieja’s court.
“They can present a formal complaint if they have a contract signed with Telmicro and they feel the contract has been broken.“The judge would then decide whether the complaint is accepted or not and which crime if any the company might have committed.”

Thursday, 28 August 2008

'FAT' Freddie Thompson is is now “a dead man walking”, he is in hiding in Dublin after he was forced to flee Spain by a Russian drugs gang.


Thompson is now “a dead man walking”, according to senior gardai.
'FAT' Freddie Thompson is this evening in hiding in Dublin after he was forced to flee Spain by a Russian drugs gang.The thug had originally fled Dublin and was in hiding on the Costa Blanca after the INLA ordered him dead. Now garda sources have revealed that a Russian gang have been upset by the inner city thug, and want him dead. Caught in no man’s land, Thompson is now moving between addresses in Clondalkin and Rathcoole as various criminal and republican elements try to track him down.
A senior garda monitoring the situation “He doesn’t know what he’s doing from one hour to the next. He is constantly on the move. "He has at least three locations in Dublin alone which he uses to put his head down at night."
Thompson has been subjected to at least two attempts on his life since he returned to the capital earlier this month. On Monday, a bomb threat was made to Lowe's pub in Dolphin's Barn where Thompson was expected to be following the removal mass of an associate. Despite the threats, Thompson appeared in the open for the funeral of his girlfriend's brother this week. Leslie Dempsey, who was just 26-years-old when he died last week, was a sister of Vicky, Thompson's girlfriend. At his funeral on Tuesday, Thompson made a rare public appearance causing a stir among mourners and undercover gardai. He arrived at the funeral in Crumlin just as proceedings were about to get underway and quickly mingled with a group of men at the back of the church. His sudden appearance caused a bustle among his gang, who appeared to gather around him eagerly. Two of the men immediately caught each other's attention and nodded towards the door of the church before leaving swiftly as if to scan the perimeter of the building. They arrived back a short time later when it appeared the coast was clear. Freddie Thompson appeared relaxed, wearing a striped shirt out over his denim jeans. He was clean-shaven, with his head also freshly shaved. The only occasional hint of stress from Thompson was a few times when he rubbed his face while glancing around at the crowd in the church. But it was those around him that appeared most nervous. About 15 minutes into the funeral mass Thompson was approached by a man who appeared to give him a tap on the arm as he passed towards the door, leading Thompson and his group to follow. And then in the warm summer haze, Thompson, incredibly, stayed in open territory, chatting with his group and having the odd laugh with them. The fact that he was in wide open view to everybody did not seem to faze him, and there he stayed until the funeral mass was over and the body of his girlfriend's brother was carried from the church.
Freddie Thompson appears fitter and healthier than his cohorts in most of the photographs that people are used to seeing in the media. Usually guarded about appearing anywhere an enemy could be lying in wait, he used the presence of the gardai as protection, as well as the presence of a large number of friends.
It is rare that Thompson stands still long enough to be pictured in public without something like a baseball cap to help shield his image from prying eyes, but old-fashioned funeral etiquette meant that this appearance was always going to be different. And despite initial attempts to keep his return to the city under wraps, Thompson has been repeatedly spotted and targeted. Two social occasions attended by the 27-year-old in the past two weeks have both been targeted by hoax bomb threats -- leaving Freddie in no doubt that he is still a marked man.
Gardai too intend to keep a close an eye on the hood.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

family say that an alleged sighting of Amy Fitzpatrick, in Portugal was never followed up, even though Amy's aunt reported it


family say that an alleged sighting of Amy Fitzpatrick, in Portugal was never followed up, even though Amy's aunt reported it to both the Spanish and Irish police. Amy's father, Christopher Fitzpatrick, is now attempting to raise funds in order to employ the private detective. "To be honest, not for one second did he ever think he would need to trouble anybody for help with funds but Spain is so far from Ireland and the costs to get anything done is crazy," said Amy's aunt Christine Kenny. "This is the first time Christopher has asked for help with funds and it will only be used to hire a private detective and any funds left over will go to the missing organisation in Ireland www.miss.ie to help other families in this situation." Amy disappeared on the evening of New Year's Day, 2008, at approximately 10pm. After she left her friend's house in the tourist resort of Riviera Del Sol, on the Costa Del Sol in Spain, to take the 10-minute walk to her own house, Amy was never seen again. Adding to the family's trauma were hoax texts which had been sent to Amy's mother's phone claiming to be Amy.
One message read: "(Hi) mum n dad i am fine so stop worrying."
However, Amy's mother, Audrey Fitzpatrick, knew that it wasn't her daughter who sent the text in question. "She wouldn't call me mum, she calls me something else," said Audrey. "If I get a message with that name then I'll know. "There's been a few (hoax messages) like that. I've had texts on my phone saying, 'It's me, I've no money, could you put free credit on my phone'. Plenty of them got free credit with that one," Audrey said.
"There have been some on the Bebo site as well. But the first thing I notice is the wording, it's not her," added the mother-of-two. Burglars broke into Audrey's home this month and stole a laptop the family were using in the search for her.
The stolen computer contained designs of search posters as well as hundreds of vital contact numbers Audrey and Amy's stepdad Dave Mahon had gathered during their eight-month search for the 16-year-old.
"There are numbers on there we'll never be able to recover," Audrey said.

Banana Beach

Spanish Corruption

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Afghanistan’s opium harvest has dropped from last year’s record high

Afghanistan’s opium harvest has dropped from last year’s record high, the United Nations announced Tuesday, contending that the tide of opium that engulfed Afghanistan in ever rising harvests since 2001 was finally showing signs of ebbing.

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Afghans Want a Deal on Foreign Troops (August 26, 2008) “The opium floodwaters in Afghanistan have started to recede,” Antonio Maria Costa, the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, wrote in the foreword of the 2008 annual opium poppy survey, published Tuesday. “Afghan society has started to make progress in its fight against opium.”

Poppy cultivation has dropped by 19 percent since 2007, and had fallen beneath 2006 levels as well, the report said. The harvest was also down, although by a lesser margin because of greater yields, dropping by 6 percent to 7,700 tons.

More than half of Afghanistan’s provinces have now been declared poppy free — that is, 18 of 34 provinces grow no, or very little, poppy, up from 13 poppy-free provinces last year.

The results, gathered by the United Nations through satellite imagery and checks on the ground, are a success for the Afghan government’s strategy of weaning farmers off the illicit crop through persuasion, incentives and local leadership. A drought in northern Afghanistan also helped bring numbers down, although that has also increased the hardship farmers are suffering.

The report underscores a trend, first seen last year, that the more stable, better-administered provinces are succeeding in curbing illicit drug production, according to diplomats and government officials. A swathe of blue on a United Nations map of Afghanistan, stretching across from the north-east to the north-west of the country, now denotes decreasing or no poppy cultivation.

Two provinces that have been large-scale poppy producing regions in the past, Badakhshan in the north-east and Nangarhar in the east, have been declared poppy free this year, a consequence of effective local leadership and the support of religious leaders, elders and local council members, Mr. Costa said at a news briefing in Kabul Tuesday evening.

Nevertheless, Afghanistan’s poppy crop still remains the world’s largest, and now 98 percent of the crop is grown in the lawless southern and south-western regions that are in the grip of a virulent insurgency. Two-thirds of all opium in Afghanistan in 2008 was grown in the province of Helmand, where the Taliban control whole districts. Eight thousand British troops working with government soldiers have failed to make much headway, either in curbing Taliban activities or the drug industry.

“If Helmand were a country, it would once again be the world’s biggest producer of illicit drugs,” Mr. Costa wrote.

The fact that poppy and opium production is thriving in areas where the insurgency is strongest shows the link between drugs and conflict, he says, arguing that both need to be dealt with at the same time. The Taliban were making up to $70 million a year taxing poppy farmers, and were collecting their share of the estimated $3 billion made yearly by the drug traffickers in Afghanistan, he said.

He called on NATO, the United States and the Afghan military to destroy drug laboratories, opium markets and traffickers’ convoys, without harming the livelihoods of struggling farmers. The poor risk severe hunger this year after bad harvests and price increases, Mr. Costa said, and should be assisted before they are tempted to return to the high rewards of poppy cultivation

Prince Kardam of Bulgaria is in a critical condition after a traffic accident yesterday afternoon in El Molar (Madrid).


Prince Kardam of Bulgaria is in a critical condition after a traffic accident yesterday afternoon in El Molar (Madrid). His wife, Doña Miriam Ungria y López, was also injured. The accident occurred at around 2.50pm yesterday afternoon on the Madrid-bound carriageway of the N-1 (km 42) when the couple's Jaguar veered off the road, then collided with a tree before flipping over onto its roof. The prince, who has lived his whole life in exile in Madrid, sustained severe head injuries as well as "catastrophic" damage to both hands, which doctors will probably have to amputate. Princess Miriam is believed to be much less seriously injured, but suffered a broken elbow as well as extensive bruising. Prince Kardam is the eldest child of former prime minister of the Bulgarian Republic, Tsar Simeon II, and Doña Margarita Gómez Acebo y Cejuela. After achieving a degree in economics from an American university, Kardam married in 1996 and has since fathered two sons. Bulgaria abolished its monarchy in 1946.

John Michael Daykil, died on Barayo beach (Valdés) yesterday afternoon

John Michael Daykil, died on Barayo beach (Valdés) yesterday afternoon shortly after being pulled unconscious from the sea by some of his fellow bathers as his wife looked on. Mr Daykil was pronounced dead at the scene at around 2.45pm after a member of the public tried for around twenty minutes to resuscitate him.
According to local officials, Barayo beach, which is not patrolled by lifeguards, was quite busy yesterday despite the choppy sea conditions.

Monday, 25 August 2008

non-performing loans held by Spanish banks almost tripled in the 12 months to June

The value of non-performing loans held by Spanish banks almost tripled in the 12 months to June as a combination of higher interest rates, rising unemployment and a collapsing property market drove many consumers to default.As a proportion of bank's total loan portfolios, money in the hands of delinquent borrowers stood at 1.61 percent of the total, a level that government officials say remains relatively small and does not put the health of the Spanish financial sector at risk.However, with non-performing loans already amounting to EUR 28.4 billion, there are fears that banks will start to suffer if the slowdown continues and an increasing number of clients finds it hard to make ends meet.The government expects interest rates to fall later in 2008 and early in 2009, offering consumers some relief.

Amy Fitzpatrick disappeared camera could have recorded Amy on the track she is thought to have taken on New Year's Day




It has been revealed that a camera could have recorded Amy on the track she is thought to have taken on New Year's Day, the day she disappeared.
Amy Fitzpatrick disappeared on the evening of New Year's Day 1st January 2008 at approximately 10pm when she left her friends house in the tourist resort of Riviera Del Sol on the Costa Del Sol, Spain to take the 10 minute walk to her house.Amy was 15 at the time of her disappearance; on 7th February Amy turned 16, Amy has black/Brown hair, blue eyes and has a pale complexion. She is 1.65m tall and was wearing brown crushed velvet tracksuit bottoms and a black T-shirt with the word "DIESEL" in various different colours when she was last seen. She had no money, phone or passport. Amy is originally from Clarehall Dublin but was living in Spain the last few years. Tuesday 26th August 2008 Amy will be 34 weeks missing. We have discovered a sighting that was reported to Christine Kenny Amy's Aunt of Amy in Portugal was never followed up that Christine reported to both the Spanish and Irish police. Christopher Fitzpatrick Amy's father needs to raise funds to hire a private detective to help with the search for Amy. To be honest not for one second did he ever think he would need to trouble anybody for help with funds but Spain is so far from Ireland and the costs to get anything done is crazy. Please note this is the first time Christopher has asked for help with funds and it will only be used to hire a private detective and any funds left over will go to the missing organisation in Ireland Miss.ie to help other families going through this situation.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

overnight shooting in Marbella is linked to a gun attack on 39-year-old Peter Mitchell on the Costa del Sol this week.

Police in Spain are investigating if an overnight shooting in Marbella is linked to a gun attack on an Irishman in the Costa del Sol this week.
A 42-year-old man and one other person were shot in the early hours of this morning, outside a disco bar.On Thursday night 39-year-old Peter Mitchell, a former associate of convicted drugs dealer John Gilligan, was shot in a bar in Puerto Banus by a masked gunman.He remains under guard in hospital in Spain after narrowly surviving the assassination attempt, while two other men caught up in the shooting received minor injuries.

Peter Mitchell was sat outside the El Jardin bar in Puerto Banus, when the hitman opened fire


Peter Mitchell was sat outside the El Jardin bar in Puerto Banus, when the hitman opened fire at 11.40pm on Thursday.The gunman tripped as he fired off four shots, and injured two innocent bystanders as he chased after his target. Mitchell, 39, escaped with two bullet wounds to the shoulder. An eyewitness, who asked not to be named, said: "The gunman tripped as he chased after Mitchell and that saved his life. His weapon went off as he was falling to the ground and the bullets went off in different directions. Mitchell was running towards the back of the bar to try and find some cover and got hit in the shoulder. The other two victims just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It all happened so quickly, the gunman was up and out of the bar before anyone could react properly."

One man was gunned down at the Trendy beach nightclub Nikki Beach, near Marbella, Hollyoaks actress Jennifer Metcalfe was dancing with friends.

Nikki Beach is a favourite of the celebs who flock to the up-market resort of Marbella in the summer. Trendy beach nightclub Nikki Beach, near Marbella, Hollyoaks actress Jennifer Metcalfe was dancing with friends. One man was gunned down and another injured after a fight broke out after 2am.Jennifer -- who plays Mercedes McQueen in the soap -- left in tears as the two male victims were rushed to hospital. The 25-year-old actress was thought to have been with former Big Brother contestants Brian Belo and Ziggy Lichman. Onlookers described how a fight broke out in the club and shots were fired.One witness, who asked not to be named, said: "It was like the Wild West. The people fighting were throwing anything they could get their hands on at each other. Chairs and bottles were flying."It was absolute pandemonium. Some people ran for cover as it all kicked off and others just dropped to the ground and covered their heads."The minute they realised someone had been shot there was a mass surge for the door as people tried to get out of the club as quickly as they could."A Malaga police spokesman confirmed that three people were injured, two with gunshot wounds. Several premiership footballers, and David Beckham's sister, Joanne, are regular visitors. Calum Best was pictured sunbathing at the beach club this year.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Irish holidaymakers sparked a massive air and land rescue -- after getting lost as they tried to climb a Spanish mountain in 90 degree heat.

Irish holidaymakers sparked a massive air and land rescue -- after getting lost as they tried to climb a Spanish mountain in 90 degree heat.The Dublin trio phoned friends after running out of water and succumbing to dehydration as they attempted to reach the summit of La Concha overlooking the Costa del Sol resort of Marbella.
And their pals made matters worse after alerting emergency services -- by trying to reach the stricken men in their beachwear and forcing a second separate rescue after losing their way too. Last night the cost of the rescue was being put at more than €25,000. A source on the rescue team said: "The rescue involved more than more than 40 people on foot, in cars and a helicopter including civil protection officers and police. "The cost is going to run into several thousand pounds. "Trying to climb a mountain in southern Spain at midday on one of the hottest days of the year without enough water or proper clothes and equipment is a pretty stupid thing to do," the source said. "They'd run out of water by the time we found them and were pretty exhausted. "They could quite easily have died if we hadn't got to them in time."
The three men, all in their 20s, set off just after midday on Tuesday to try to reach the top of La Concha, a striking mountain 1215 metres high sitting at the end of the Sierra Blanca mountain range. The three-hour-trek is popular with locals and expats in spring, autumn and winter. Rescue workers were alerted just after 3pm by friends of the men who were thought to have been sunbathing when they received a call on their mobile phones from their distressed pals. They were taken to hospital suffering from dehydration

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

100 people have been killed after a passenger plane swerved off the runway at Madrid's Barajas airport, Spanish officials say.

100 people have been killed after a passenger plane swerved off the runway at Madrid's Barajas airport, Spanish officials say. Many others were hurt when the Spanair plane bound for the Canary Islands left the runway with 172 people on board.
There were reports of a fire in the left engine during take-off. TV footage showed smoke billowing from the craft. Helicopters were called in to dump water on to the plane, and dozens of ambulances went to the scene. TV footage later showed several people being carried away on stretchers.The exact number of casualties is still unknown, with several reports suggesting just 26 people survived the crash, which happened at about 1430 local time (1230 GMT).
Officials confirmed to the BBC and Spanish news agency Efe that the death toll had passed 100. Spanish journalist Manuel Moleno, who was near the area when the accident happened, said the plane appeared to have "crashed into pieces".
"We heard a big crash. So we stopped and we saw a lot of smoke," he said.
Mr Moleno said he had seen as many as 20 people walking away from the wreckage.
The plane, which was destined for Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, came down during or shortly after take-off from Terminal Four at Barajas. TV footage showed that the plane had come to rest in fields near the airport. Spanair issued a statement saying that flight number JK 5022 had been involved in an accident at 1445 local time. The airline's parent company, Scandinavian firm SAS, later said the accident happened at 1423. According to Spain's airport authority, Aena, the plane had been due to take off at 1300 local time.
No details of the nationalities of the passengers on board have yet been released.
But the plane was a codeshare flight with German airline Lufthansa, which said it was investigating whether German passengers were on the flight.
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero was on his way to the scene after cutting short his holiday, his office said. The aircraft was a MD82, a plane commonly used on short trips around Europe, Spanair, a subsidiary of Scandinavian carrier SAS, had a very good safety record. Reports say it was the first crash at Barajas airport, some 13km (8 miles) from central Madrid, since 1983

foreign property owners in the Marina Baixa region of Valencia’s Alicante province have formed a group called Veins de L’Alfàs (Residents of L’Alfàs).

Following the plight faced by many local residents; foreign property owners in the Marina Baixa region of Valencia’s Alicante province have formed a group called Veins de L’Alfàs (Residents of L’Alfàs). It’s designed to defend their rights as homeowners against the town council and local property developers. The homeowners are threatened with the prospect of having some or all of their land taken away from them, under the controversial ‘land grab’ law. The local mayor intends to build around 2,000 new homes on the collective private holdings. The 100-member group plan to take legal action against the mayor in both Spain and EU courts. Some would argue that this is long overdue, as many homeowners in the Valencia region have been the victims of local corruption.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Thousands of holidaymakers were evacuated shortly before the first bomb went off around 1pm local time by the Tryp Hotel in Guadalmar Beach

Thousands of holidaymakers trying to reach Malaga Airport were caught in six-mile-long traffic jams as police closed the access road to the airport to search for an ETA bomb thought to have been planted along a nearby motorway. Tourists landing this afternoon were also prevented from leaving the airport as security services tried to locate the device. A spokesman for EasyJet said: "No-one can reach or leave the airport at the moment. "We haven't been asked to evacuate the airport at the moment but there's not many people to evacuate. "Everyone's pretty calm at the moment but there's no doubt this is going to cause travel chaos around Europe.
"We have a flight which is supposed to be leaving Malaga Airport for Gatwick at 4.50pm local time but it will have to be delayed. "Even if the passengers were here on time, which they're not going to be, there wouldn't be a flight crew. "The air crew and pilot are currently stuck in a hotel near to where the first bomb went off and they can't leave the building to get to the airport. Authorities received warnings of three devices planted across the southern coast, forming part of the Basque's separatist group's summer bombing campaign.Thousands of holidaymakers were evacuated shortly before the first bomb went off around 1pm local time by the Tryp Hotel in Guadalmar Beach near the popular tourist resort of Torremolinos.
An hour later police were forced to evacuate shops and a beach at Benalmadena Port - along with thousands more bathers at the nearby beaches of Malapesquera and Fuente de la Salud - after being alerted to a second bomb. Police said that more than 10,000 people had been evacuated from the yacht marina and three nearby beaches before the second bomb exploded. The bomb had been left near the harbour's underground car park.
Police are on alert for attacks in the Andalusia area of southern Spain after they arrested members of an Eta unit last month and found evidence that the group were planning attacks in the region. The group often set off mainly small bombs in Spanish resorts during the busy summer holiday season to target the tourist industry as part of its four-decade fight for an independent Basque homeland. Last month they detonated a small bomb in the sand near a bustling promenade in Torremolinos, also on the south coast. It followed four small explosions at holiday resorts on Spain's

Amy Fitzpatrick went missing on New Year's Day. She had left her best friend's house on the Riviera del Sol, Costa del Sol at around 10pm



Amy Fitzpatrick went missing on New Year's Day. She had left her best friend's house on the Riviera del Sol, Costa del Sol at around 10pm after spending the day with her visiting amusement arcades. Amy had almost decided to spend the night with her best friend Ashley Rose and had been getting ready for bed, but her friend's mum Debbie had been concerned that she hadn't touched base with her family. It was for this reason that 15-year-old Amy went home.She had brought no clothing with her, no telephone and most important of all, she had no money or passport. And she was never seen again.It makes her disappearance all the more sinister. From being out there, speaking to her best friend Ashley and her mum Audrey Fitzpatrick, Amy had no plans of running away, and my own experience of investigating missing person cases backs this up.She left that night around 10pm, the investigators should discount any idea that this girl ran away. We all must give up the myth that this child ran away. Amy Fitzpatrick, in my opinion, has been abducted.
Here we are more than 220 days later and the family have searched extensively for Amy. They have delivered missing person posters around Europe and attended the EU parliament. There have been sightings as far away as Algeria, but still Amy remains missing.I imagine that Amy's last-minute decision to go home is vital in the investigation -- there could be no premeditated plan.My own belief is that this is an opportunistic crime. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The road she travelled home is a lonely place. I believe Amy was walking that perilous lane on her own when an opportunistic predator saw her.
Spanish officers searched for Amy, but could more have been done? I saw the ravine they searched. It was half a mile long and 200ft to 300ft deep, a canyon, the search, from my experience as a garda, couldn't be said to be conclusive.
Amy's parents remain inconsolable. Their biggest hope may soon become to recover her body for a Christian burial, to have closure.You can never think of Amy's disappearance without thinking of that of Maddie McCann, who went missing in the neighbouring country of Portugal.I was out in Spain during the initial search for Amy. It never got the publicity of Maddie McCann's disappearance.
I understand not as a former garda but as a parent of a child that they still have hope and I don't want the Fitzpatrick family to lose hope.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

ruse to sell non-performing mortgage loans as ‘distressed homes’. Investors looking for distress sales on the Costa del Sol should beware.

A source tells me that some lawyers on the Costa del Sol are up to no good again. Now that their astronomical fees from conveyancing have dwindled to a trickle in the market freeze, they are having to come up with new ways to part clients from their money. This time they have come up with a ruse to sell non-performing mortgage loans as ‘distressed homes’. Investors looking for distress sales on the Costa del Sol should beware.I’m not sure exactly how it works, as it wasn’t explained to me in much detail, but it goes something like this:Banks have clients who aren’t paying their mortgages, and the banks would very much like to off-load those mortgages onto someone else. Lawyers are helping the banks out, for a fee, by finding buyers for those debts. But, so I am told, some lawyers are misleading potential investors by presenting the deal as a distressed home purchase, or bank repossession, rather than an investment in bad debt. So investors think they are buying properties at distressed prices, but in reality they are just non-performing mortgage loans.
There is nothing wrong with investing in distressed debt. Some people have made massive fortunes in financial markets out of doing so. The problem here is that small investors on the Costa del Sol are being mislead into buying bad debts when they think they are buying property on the cheap. I’m told there are various lists of ‘deals’ in circulation from banks which lawyers are using to try and snare investors.
“They are sharks these lawyers, now there’s less work about they are all trying to screw money out of people in other ways,” one estate agent told me.
So if you are an investor looking to take advantage of this market, just make sure you know what you are buying.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Property prices have fallen by a crushing 35% over the past 12 months, four times faster than in the UK, and haven't stopped plunging yet.

Who is going to shell out for all this whitewashed concrete, even at today's knock-down prices? Spanish property developers are frantically asking the same question, with buyers for unfinished projects down up to 60%. With their credit lines garrotted by the credit crunch, the developers are expiring in droves.Property prices have fallen by a crushing 35% over the past 12 months, four times faster than in the UK, and haven't stopped plunging yet. This spells disaster for an economy where investment in housing is worth 10% of GDP and employs 13% of people in the private sector.I had a small insight into the shambles while holidaying in the Atlantic coast town of Rota, near Cadiz, a couple of weeks ago.I briefly hovered outside an estate agency window when a wild-eyed woman charged out and tried to manhandle me inside. I explained, with the help of my girlfriend's Spanish, that I was merely browsing and had no desire to buy a two-bedroom villa overlooking a building site, even if it was €40,000 cheaper than yesterday, and made good my escape. The crestfallen agent trudged back to her empty office.I knew the Spanish property market was going through a tricky time, but until I saw the fire sale prices and the desperation in her eyes, I hadn't realised things were so bad.
And it's going to get worse. Next day, we drove along the Costa del Sol to Malaga and were awestruck by the pace and scale of construction along the coast, massed ranks of half-built villas and apartments squeezed into every dusty hollow and ditch alongside the motorway.The Spanish property market bubble has been well and truly pricked, but sadly too late to save the beauty of the country's coastline.
I've followed the coastal Spanish property market with interest ever since an editor dispatched me to report on a get-rich-quick property seminar around six or seven years ago.On a rainy February night in Croydon, a pint-sized Irishman with a ponytail warmed the assembly of small-time investors with visions of great profits as retired people poured in from northern Europe seeking golf, cheap booze and sunshine. And to be fair, he was right for a time.Another 2 million built properties have been built since then, with 3 million more in the pipeline (although many may never be completed).Up to three-quarter of a million Britons have been seduced by the Spanish dream, but many have now come unstuck. Some are spending their final years stranded in a half-built golf resort while others have watched their home demolished before their eyes because their builder hadn't got the right planning permission. The local planning process is notoriously corrupt and thousands of trusting Britons have paid the price.Everybody wants their little plot in paradise, and my heart goes out to them. Flying out from drizzly Britain, it is easy to be blinded by the Iberian sun. Too many Britons have left their brains at Gatwick, but unfortunately, taken their bank details with them.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Ranks of exquisitely tasteless, often empty, villas advancing in close order up isolated, parched hillsides.

Drive along the coast south of Alicante and the results of the Spanish property bubble are there to see: serried ranks of exquisitely tasteless, often empty, villas advancing in close order up isolated, parched hillsides. Many have been built in locations totally unsuitable for housing: by the sides of dual carriageways, away from shops and amenities – anywhere that developers could find a landowner willing to sell. Property has driven the Spanish economy like no other in the European Union. Last year, housing investment accounted for a tenth of GDP and 13 per cent of private sector jobs. More than four million dwellings have been built in the last decade, a boom fuelled partly by an influx of British retirees (some three-quarters of a million Britons now reside in Spain). Britain's Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors says the number of homes built last year would be excessive even given steady market conditions, never mind a downturn.
But it's on the Costas where the developers are really hurting. La Axarquia is part of Malaga province, a constellation of 29 coastal and inland councils. Ask about the number of illegally built properties in La Axarquia and the official figure will be about 10,000. Local environmentalists put that at more than 20,000.
"In Marbella, the local council is calling on the regional authorities to retrospectively authorise illegally built properties because otherwise mortgages cannot be raised on them," says Mr Rhys-Jones. "In other words, they want to draw a line under the old era." However, he does not believe the property industry will be cleaned up any time soon. "In my town of Estepona, the mayor was elected in May on an anti-corruption ticket. He is now awaiting trial, charged with money laundering, and influence-peddling relating to planning permission." Housebuilding was popular with ordinary Spaniards, struggling to match the living standards of their more developed partners in the EU. Unfettered building was a vote-winner with local electorates because of the money it injected. Smallholdings, worth next to nothing as agricultural land, suddenly took on great value. Helping it all in recent years was the pound's strength against the euro, making Spain an attractive destination for elderly British couples wanting to maximise their pensions. Now, the pound has dropped and the developers are finding fewer takers from the UK. The result is an enormous glut. Prices are falling relentlessly on the Costas, destroying the hopes of Britons who bought properties as investments. Tina Reeves, who has worked as an estate agent in Spain for the last 18 years, says tortuous planning laws are part of the problem. "Licences granted by local councils to developers are being rescinded by the regional authorities," she explains. "It's not the fault of the developers, it's the fault of local councils granting licences and not passing it by the region. Also, not many Spanish banks are lending at the moment. They are getting uptight because even they don't know whether anything is legal any more."

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Spanish authorities are secretly preparing to deal with a significant terrorist attack in one of the country’s popular tourist resorts

Spanish authorities are secretly preparing to deal with a significant terrorist attack in one of the country’s popular tourist resorts, and have ordered police to step up security measures, according to an internal memorandum distributed to regional forces last week.The warning comes after a spate of minor bombings by the Basque separatist group ETA, timed to disrupt Spain’s tourist industry at its busiest period.The latest attack, a blast outside the Sol Aloha Puerto hotel, in the Costa del Sol resort of Torremolinos, was the fifth in 10 days and, although nobody was hurt in the explosion, local police say the device was “perfectly capable of killing”.The Spanish interior minister, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, said that he had no doubt the bombing was the work of ETA, adding that the discovery of a rucksack containing bomb-making equipment in a quarry on the outskirts of the town showed further attacks were planned.

it’s now thought that at least twelve international schools are operating in the province of Málaga without permission.

The case of the dangerous conditions at the St Javier’s International Nursery in Marbella, has led the authorities to take a closer look at other international schools in the area, and it’s now thought that at least twelve international schools are operating in the province of Málaga without permission.
The owner of St Javier’s has been arrested and she has been working there for 12 years without the regional Educational authorities knowing about it.The Málaga Hoy newspaper says that there are at least a dozen international educational centres on the Costa del Sol which are not authorised. It says most of these are international establishments, in Mijas, Marbella and Estepona, and are operating without the approval of the regional authorities. They are generally nurseries but some teach up to the Bachillerato level.Those that are correctly authorised are listed on the Regional Education Authority website - www.juntadeandalucia.es/educacion/

Officers from Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency and Spanish police are now increasingly focusing on criminal elements among UK residents

Officers from Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency and Spanish police are now increasingly focusing on potentially criminal elements among UK residents abroad. Their efforts are running in tandem with attempts by Greater Manchester Police to round up some of its most wanted individuals. Recently, the Mancunian suspected of funding one of Britain's largest gun smuggling operations was caught after 11 years on the run, most of them believed to have been in Spain. Michael Sammon, 47, was allegedly involved in a plot in which 274 weapons were imported into Britain from Europe. Two weeks ago Irishman Timothy O'Toole was jailed in Spain for trying to smuggle cocaine worth £100m into Europe on board a yacht from South America. He had extensive links with the Manchester underworld with police monitoring his dealings in Marbella.However, others are still to be caught. In particular, detectives are still hunting Raymond Nevitt from Manchester, who funded his playboy lifestyle and obsession with fast cars following a £3.25m fraud scam. The 43-year-old is believed to be in Puerto Banus or Marbella and has been found guilty in his absence of fraudulent trading.One of Britain's most wanted men will be extradited to the UK this week after being arrested in Benidorm, southern Spain. Bobby Spiers will be interviewed by Manchester police in connection with a bungled underworld hit in a Salford pub that left two men dead.The seizure of Spiers is a notable triumph for British police, ending a two-year manhunt for the Mancunian boss of a Salford private security firm who allegedly had links to some of the city's most notorious armed gangs. In recent weeks, officers had received intelligence concerning Spiers's new life on the Costa del Sol. Greater Manchester Police believe the 42-year-old from Prestwich was involved in orchestrating an assassination attempt on Salford criminal David Totton in 2006. After a row over nightclub entry between the two, its is alleged that Spiers contacted Ian McLeod - the chief of Moss Side's Doddington gang - and ordered a £10,000 hit on Totton while he was drinking in the Brass Handles pub in Salford. McLeod, in turn, hired two young Doddington hitmen to carry out the attack while drinkers watched a televised Manchester United match. Spiers was at Old Trafford watching the game, the perfect alibi. His company secretary, convicted gun-runner Constance Howarth, known locally as the Black Widow, had agreed to sit in the pub and guide the gunmen to their target by sending text messages to the pair. One shot Totton, 29, six times in the face and chest but he miraculously survived. However, the weapon belonging to his accomplice jammed and amid the ensuing commotion, drinkers overpowered the two would-be assassins and shot them with their own weapons. Both managed to escape but were caught by the pub's clientele and attacked as they lay dying from their gunshot wounds on a nearby grass banking.Meanwhile, Howarth applied fresh lipstick in the toilets and left. No one came forward to identify those who shot the two young gang members and by the time police arrived CCTV footage from inside the pub had been wiped clean.
Both Howarth and McLeod were later jailed for life for their part in the conspiracy, with the prosecution case alleging that Spiers 'was instrumental in the planned execution'. By that time, however, he was enjoying anonymity among the 375,000-strong British expat community around Malaga.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Hotel Byblos Andaluz in Mijas auctioned off

Nobody turned up at the auction to sell off the Hotel Byblos Andaluz in Mijas , and that despite that the reserve price was set at 15.1 million €, estimated to be less than half the hotel’s real value. The luxury hotel is owned by the troubled Aifos real estate developer and Mijas Ayuntamiento had organised the auction to collect a debt owed to it by the company. Aifos owes 1.2 million to Mijas in IBI and IAE taxes, and also find themselves implicated in the Malaya corruption case in Marbella.
The lack of a buyer now gives the Town Hall the option to sell the hotel to whom they deem fit, and those who are interested in the sale now have six months in which to present their offers.

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