June 3, 2005 at 8:25 pm #51125
Having read the article in the Mail yesterday, I am extremely nervous just to be going on holiday there in a few weeks, let alone live there !! Does anyone else have a view on the worrying rise in crime on the Costas?
June 4, 2005 at 12:14 pm #58349
Stories like that are becoming more commonplace along the Costas I think mainly due to the unrestricted access of lots of illegal immigrants. It’s an added worry along with all the ‘dodgy’ agents, lawyers and developers, and not forgetting there are severe water shortages there this year due to less rainfall and extra demand. We felt a bit threatened on our last trip to Marbella in the street by a group of men in broad daylight so I think you have to keep your eyes peeled now. There are countries with less crime at present. The Press obviously pick up many horror stories.
Quite a lot needs sorting out in Spain to clean it’s image up.
June 4, 2005 at 1:14 pm #58350
I think if you are aquainted with big city survival in the UK, you’ll be alright down here.
I still remember 2 years back when I took my wife to see London, and spent an embarrassing amount of time explaining that she should secure her handbag to the table in the pub with the clips provided and translating big signs reading “Warning – street robbers are active in this area”.
Okay, perhaps I might have found a nicer place for us to stay. But the Elephant and Castle is very handy for all the sights and museums, alright?
Claire: What was the article about?
June 4, 2005 at 8:40 pm #58351
The article highlighted the huge surge in crime in Spain. Basically, Rape and Pillage !! People are being robbed whilst in their homes. Some women had been abducted and raped, not young women either. Also robbery on the highway, as there was/is in France a few years ago. One of the worrying aspects is that a gas is being used to “comatose” the victims. One chap from the UK, had bought an appartment to retire in. If I remember correctly, he had been there one day, and everything he had was stolen. The thieves had obviously watched the delivery van pitch up with all his new furniture an belongings. Spain needs to get it’s act together.
June 4, 2005 at 9:52 pm #58352
There is crime here on the CDS thanks in no small part to a large contribution from foreigners. The British crime element dates back to the days when there was no extradition treaty between Spain and UK and all the bank robbers headed here
However, the one thing I’ve noticed here more than anything else is the high level visibiity of both local Police and the Guardia Civil. Even in small towns you will rarely be able to travel from one end to the other without seeing a Police officer
The arrest of Tony King for mudering a girl here still features in the news when in the UK similar crimes would have been forgotten and this is partly due to the fact that this type of crime is so rare. Domestic voilence on the other hand is quite a problem here which condradicts the family unity perception
June 5, 2005 at 7:55 pm #58353
I was worried sick when I read the two page spread written from Alicante. Our local paper had warned us about the hire car robberies as it had happened to some holiday makers who were stopped by a family and under cover of the map over the passenger the bag with money and passports was stolen. However as we all know about that it said they are now shooting at the tyres then four men pounce.
The gas attacks were scary but one joker on another forum say’s he alway’s sleeps in a gas mask!!!
I got in touch with someome from the firm we are buying through and they said it is done through the air conditioning but they are targeting the millionaires. But the article said the New Brits are targeted and robbed as soon as a delivery is made to the property. We were told by several people to change the locks as soon as we move as so many on the building site have keys. They do here but we would not expect to change the locks.
It has ruined what should have been the dream move to the sun for us
but the article also said it is nearly impossible to sell as so many are going back to UK that there is a glut of resales. The only thing I think is that they must keep on top of it or the tourist trade will vanish and I just hope that the police go all out to stop them.
June 6, 2005 at 10:41 am #58354
Personal security is going to rise to the top of the agenda in all countries, not just Spain. However I imagine it will take a little time for the Spanish authorities to react to the new situation of criminals targeting holiday homes and foreign residents who, for one reason or another, make easier (and wealthier) targets. In the meantime you should bear in mind that news papers tend to exaggerate everything for the sake of a good story so don’t panic. But on the other hand there is a growing problem and people need to be aware of this and take sensible precautions.
I won’t go into the details of what needs to be done to minimise risks here because it will form the basis of a full report at the main website in the next couple of months. If you are on the mailing list for the news bulletin you will be informed when it is finished and up at the website. However one thing is for sure. Crime and security are never going to go away as issues, in Spain or elsewhere, and in the long-run it’s going to benefit the gated-community, 24hr-security, golf resort business.
In the meantime I missed the article in the Mail. I’ve been trying to find it online but with no luck. Does anyone have a link to the article?
June 6, 2005 at 5:41 pm #58356
DEATH OF A DREAM
Raped … kidnapped … gassed in their beds and burgled … how horrifying violence is driving thousands of expats to think again about new lives in the sun
from Lucie Morris IN ALICANTE
THEY are there waiting for you, even before you reach the baggage carousel. Like strange, sinister passport controllers they block your path, before thrusting property brochures, disguised as local travel guides, into your hands.
For these are desperate times for estate agents in southern Spain. And they know they don’t have long to close a deal. Once the British tourists leave in taxis for resorts along the Costa Blanca, they might soon be learning the truth about what you could expect from expatriate life in Spain today.
And it is a life which can be rather different from the airport posters of beautiful white villas nestling on the edge of a sumptuous golf course and a glittering ocean. The slogans may well be enticing — ‘Make your dream your future’ and ‘Live in a dream world’ — but, for many who already live here, the paradise dream has been shattered by a vicious crime wave.
It is one which has dramatically worsened in recent months and many Britons here simply no longer feel safe. So bad has it become that some long to return home and are now putting their homes on the unpopular re-sale market. (Most new buyers prefer newly-built homes with ten-year guarantees.)
And it is not just muggings and car theft, though they are bad enough. Criminal gangs on the Costa Blanca are now specifically targeting British homeowners and, in a recent spate of shockingly violent robberies, many victims have been knocked out with sleeping gas, beaten and even kidnapped.
Two weeks ago, Briton Wilson Mills, 67, was shot dead by a group of drug-fuelled teenagers while he was sunbathing by his swimming pool with his wife, Cherry. The gang had apparently decided to rob the couple for cash after they spotted the expensive gold bracelet on his wrist at his villa in a quiet village, near La Manga, popular among expats.
Yesterday, Mrs Mills said she was still too upset to talk about her ordeal, but friends told the Mail she too now plans to place their ‘dream’ retirement home on the market and return to Britain to live with family members. The gang has been arrested but, naturally, Mrs Mills does not want to take any chances.
AND SHE is not alone. There are 750,000 apartments and villas for sale on the Costa Brava alone and the market is saturated, with prices slashed to attract buyers.
In the sunny (yet crime-ridden) town of Torrevieja, you can buy a luxury two-bedroom apartment for just £70,000, at least ten per cent cheaper than a year ago.
Yet new residents are advised by local groups to install window bars, alarms and security gates.
One crime victim who is desperately trying to sell her threebedroom villa is Angela McHugh, a 38-year-old fitness instructor who moved from Northumberland three years ago for a life in the sun.
Not only has she been a victim of a motorbike mugging near her home in Javea, north of Benidorm, where her handbag was wrenched from her arm, she has also spotted intruders in her back garden.
‘I just feel it is a matter of time before they break in,’ she said. ‘Neighbours all around us have been burgled, usually in broad daylight. We lock our doors, put the alarm on and shutter all the windows, even when we are sitting by the pool.
‘But still they come. They are opportunists who don’t seem to be bothered about being seen or disturbed while they are robbing. I dare not walk alone now.’
With her partner Mark, 40, a businessman, daughter Leanne, 18, and son Jack, two, she is now hoping to sell their £300,000 property in the next few months. ‘With a young family we’ve decided we’ve had enough,’ she says. ‘We’ll miss the sun and the house, but I can’t have the worry of thinking that my little son might be playing in the garden when criminals come in.’ So far, though, they have had few viewings.
Surprisingly, given people’s complaints about British police, one of the expats’ main concerns is their lack of confidence in their Spanish counterparts.
‘Here you call 112, the local police take the details and you are handed over to the Guardia Civil,’ said Angela. ‘Then, it can be as long as two hours before anyone turns up. A lot can happen in that time.’
A key problem is that there are three different police forces; local, national and semi-military. Their duties supposedly overlap, but cooperation between them is often non-existent. They have also been accused of being remarkably slow to respond to incidents.
Such is the lack of faith in the emergency services that some British communities have taken to setting up their own night-time patrols. Neighbourhood watch schemes are commonplace in the ‘urbanisations’ — the name given to the endless purpose-built villa estates which cover the Costas.
In Orihuela and Torrevieja, 30 miles south of Alicante, hundreds of villas have been robbed in the past few months. Britons there have found themselves caught up in the side-effects of Spain’s immigration legislation.
In the past two years, 700,000 illegal immigrants, largely from Romania, Morocco and Spain’s former colonies in South America, have been given legal status. The Spanish government hoped that the amnesty would end the exploitation of those working in the black economy.
Yet the fall-off in the housing boom and a decline in construction and agriculture has meant there is little unskilled employment available. It is these nationalities who are thought by the Spanish media to be largely responsible for the explosion in crime.
Gangs of them can be found roaming the Autopista del Mediterraneo, the so-called Costa Highway which stretches from France to Gibraltar, shooting out car tyres and then robbing passengers. Holidaymakers and new residents taking hire cars are followed from Alicante airport in particular.
Spanish police are not especially forthcoming with official statistics on rising crime against the 14 million Britons who visit the country every year — or the 750,000 Britons who own homes there.
It is not surprising. Such figures would not make great PR for a country which gains so much revenue from expats and tourists. Yet even they cannot deny a disturbing increase. Perhaps even more worrying is the number of rapes against British tourists over the past 18 months.
Just this week it was reported that police on the Costa del Sol are investigating the alleged rape of a British holidaymaker.
The 41-year-old woman told police she was attacked by two men in a hotel in Benalmadena in the early hours of Sunday and two men in their early 20s have been arrested.
Last May, a 19-year-old girl from the Midlands was attacked as she returned to her apartment early on Saturday morning in the normally peaceful resort of Estepona on the Costa del Sol.
A month before, a British housewife was kidnapped and raped as she went for an evening stroll with her husband near the resort of Cabo Roig, just south of Alicante.
The 41-year-old woman from Somerset was bundled into a car and taken to a derelict house where she was repeatedly raped by four men, believed to be Algerians.
BUT IT is not only women who now have to be on their guard. Expensive cars and removal vans are particular targets, and the drivers are invariably followed home, and later attacked — as one new resident to Torrevieja, George Gleeson, 65, a retired publican from Cheam, in Surrey, found to his cost.
He was gassed in his sleep by a gang last week, just ten days after moving in to his new apartment near the marina.
‘I was devastated. They took all my retirement presents and lots of electrical goods,’ he told the Mail. ‘I knew something was wrong as soon as I woke up as I felt terribly groggy and had slept hours longer than usual.
‘The burglars had ransacked my bedroom, yet I had not heard a thing. The police told me it was likely they had used gas over my face to make sure I would not wake up. They told me they probably spotted me having all my furniture delivered.’
Investigators believe the gangs spray a chloroform-type gas, as yet unidentified, on their victims while they are sleeping to give them plenty of time to search the property for goods and cash.
‘The thought they had been in my bedroom and ransacked the apartment was terrifying. I am trying to decide what to do. I love Spain, and have only just moved here permanently.
‘It has been my lifelong ambition to retire to Spain and I was so excited about making a new start, but now I feel very differently. I would hate anything like that to happen again, so I am thinking very carefully about what to do next.’
Yet, living in fear of such cruel attacks has become a way of life to some of the expats who have made Spain their home for a number of years. The small town of Hondon De Los Frailes, situated in the hills 30 miles west of Alicante, has been particularly badly hit by the ‘Costa bandits’.
Its British population of 400 has been targeted by gangs said to be from Romania, forcing many to put their properties up for sale. Naturally, most refused to be pictured, such is their fear of attack and never being able to sell their homes to potential buyers.
Retired ship’s captain Ken Keighley, 76, and his wife Eleanor, from Sunderland, moved into their villa only 18 months ago, but a recent robbery, and what they regard as indifference by the local police, has left them feeling so insecure that they have put their £300,000 villa up for sale.
‘Our daughter lives nearby and we went to spend a night with her, but when we got back we found our
home had been burgled and cash and cameras stolen,’ said Mr Keighley, ‘but when we reported it to the police they just weren’t interested. They didn’t even bother to come out and look for fingerprints.
‘It seems the police are overwhelmed. We are both now feeling very nervous and insecure, and we want to move. We shall stay in Spain, but move to a safer area near our daughter.’
Their neighbours share similar stories. Within one month of moving into their home, retired Devon restaurateur David May, 62, and his wife Sandra were burgled despite having highsecurity devices protecting their home. ‘The thieves wrecked the place and stole a television, hi-fi and a watch. They even went through our rubbish bin.
‘They smashed the bars on a bedroom window to get in, and we found that one of them had cut himself. There was blood on the bed. We showed this to the police, but they weren’t interested. It left my wife feeling very nervous and insecure.’ Mr May who is president of the town’s neighbourhood association, said the residents feel the area is becoming so lawless they have taken to having to protect themselves.
‘The problem is that the police seem to be trying to downplay the extent of crime here. It is left to our association to try to help people by providing them with information to protect themselves.’
OF COURSE, that part of the ‘dream’ isn’t mentioned by the estate agents. After all, that sort of information isn’t exactly good for business. As property developers and estate agents are terrified that new British buyers, who usually snap up at least 30,000 homes in Spain every year, will turn to new alternatives — such as Italy and Bulgaria — in greater numbers.
‘There is such great fear over crime now,’ says Mariano Perez, the manager of GHS Villas in Moraira. ‘Even people who have not been burgled are selling up because they are paranoid about it.
‘In some areas it is not too bad at all, but residents are frightened anyway, especially as many of them are in their 60s and 70s and feel very vulnerable. The trouble is there are so many houses on the market, yet sales are decreasing all the time. Figures are very depressing.’
A few miles from Moraira, Denise Powell, from Stockport, is another Briton carefully considering her future in Spain. She has a rather more horrific story to tell than most.
Shaking and tearful, she is still recovering from a violent, savage beating from a masked man four weeks ago. He had forced his way into her home and then abducted her. Denise, 58, has lived at the villa she shares with her husband Malcolm, 67, at Benichembla, near Benidorm, for only a year. She was alone at home when she looked outside to see the man, wearing a balaclava, approaching.
Denise tried to close the patio doors, but the man forced his way in and immediately began beating her with a club. ‘I thought at first that he was going to rape me, and I fought back as best I could,’ she said.
The man beat her until she was still, then bound her with tape and put a pillow over her head. He took her wedding ring, other jewels and credit cards, then carried her to her car, put her on the back seat and drove off.
SHORTLY afterwards, he transferred her to the boot of another vehicle, drove her to a remote spot and demanded the pin numbers to her credit and cash cards, threatening to kill her if she refused. Not surprisingly, Denise told him.
After he finally drove off, she managed to free herself, then, bleeding and barefoot, she staggered to a road where a Spanish woman driver came to her rescue. By the time she could tell the bank, more than £1,000 had been taken from her accounts. Eight days later, a man was arrested, and police say he may be charged with attempted murder.
Denise, however, cannot sleep, and has lost weight. ‘I can’t describe the terror,’ she says. ‘I was absolutely convinced that I was going to die. I cannot stop thinking about it and I am so sad that this has spoilt our life here. It was the last thing we ever expected to happen.’
It is all a far cry from the sort of carefree image depicted on those airport property advertisements. And as I go to leave from Alicante airport, I see those pale, exhausted parents struggling with overladen cases and weary, crying children being given the hard sell for a villa ‘inspection tour’.
They may well be convinced enough to move to Spain for a supposedly wonderful life of sunshine and tapas. They will certainly find that. But, sadly, they should be braced for a whole lot more.
Additional reporting by
Tom Worden in La Manga.
Expats under siege: Angie McHugh and her daughter Leanne, 18, no longer feel safe in Spain
June 6, 2005 at 8:46 pm #58357
Tom Worden in La Manga.
Now would that be anywhere near Bulgaria? Scaremongering for the next big thing springs to mind 😉
June 7, 2005 at 7:39 am #58358
It is not scaremongering! In the Mail yesterday, it says Spanish Police arrested14 men suspected of violent armed robberies on British expatriates. They were mostly Kosovans and Albanians. Many victims werewoken at gunpoint and tortured into revealing where they kept their money. A police spokesman said “We believe the suspects we have under arrest to be very violent people”
June 7, 2005 at 7:40 am #58359
I have rented on the Costa del Sol while I look for somewhere to retire to, and prices are becoming more attractive for ‘resales’ 🙂 .
All the expat Websites are full of horror stories of crimes against the person and house robbery, and these are now being reported in the UK press. All my friends report this as scaremongering, and no one I talk to living here has any experience of this new wave of crime. It smacks of life in Glasgow (or Liverpool) in the 60s, although this problem came from the Far East, not Eastern Europe then.
I must admit there are two ladies in the Costa Blanca who ‘spam’ the sites with horror stories. One is now in America where, of course, there is no crime!
Is this just my perception of the press filling space, or is there really a widespread outbreak of lawlessness in the Andalucian Costas.
I look forward to Mark’s article here in due course.
June 7, 2005 at 8:12 am #58360
No, these are REAL people with REAL stories. If everyone is going to treat these reports with sceptisism, then what is the point of, for example, people like Alex Finn and his channel 4 program, reporting on the problems encountered by British property buyers, if they are going to be thought of as scaremongering? Not every single person in Spain is going to encounter problems such as crime, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It is the very violent crime that is a worrying factor.
June 7, 2005 at 9:57 am #58361
Claire, I live very near to Santa Maria golf, have done for 10 years and I rarely even lock my car. I don’t even know anyone who has been a crime victim. I’m not saying there aren’t any crime victims but its mainly purse stealing in the market etc just general tourist area problems that you get anywhere in the world.
The police are very visible in this area I often see them driving around when I walk the dogs, something which I often do late at night without problems. The gas stories are mostly a myth, of course they do sell papers.
June 7, 2005 at 10:27 am #58362
“Gangs of them can be found roaming the Autopista del Mediterraneo, the so-called Costa Highway which stretches from France to Gibraltar, shooting out car tyres and then robbing passengers.”
The whole article smacks of sweeping sensationalism to me. I particularly love the bit where it suggests British buyers will head to Italy and Bulgaria instead where presumably thieves do not exist.
June 7, 2005 at 10:57 am #58363
Thanks to both the above for your insight. It eases my mind a little !! One of the reported cases was of a women being attacked in/near her hotel in Benalmadena. Bert, without being too cynical myself, you have a vested interest in these reports being played down, as I think you are in property sales. Or am I wrong in that statement?
The “guest” who lives near Santa Maria… we will now not be living there due to the revoking of the building license of the apartments we were supposed to be buying this October. A great shame for us 🙁
June 7, 2005 at 11:27 am #58365
Claire: I am in property sales, yes. But that’s not what I’m doing here – which is why I won’t tell anyone who I work for.
The woman attacked in Benalmadena was attacked in her hotel room, by 2 strange men she was out drinking with until the early hours and then invited back to her room.
The young lady in the Canaries was attacked by 6 strange men she had spent the night drinking with, then invited back to her room.
While I in no way condone the actions of the attackers, neither can I condone the actions of the victims. If a woman is sensible, she is in my honest opinion no more likely to be a victim of a sex attack here than in almost any place you care to mention in the UK.
I have lived here 12 years, almost all of them in the highest crime areas. Two lads tried to mug me once at 3 in the morning in Malaga city centre, and that’s been it. No break ins, no stolen cars (if I discount the time the police stole it) and no credti card fraud. I feel a lot more secure here than back home, and I don’t live on any gated community or anything of the sort.
June 7, 2005 at 11:32 am #58366
I agree with you .everyone needs to be sensible about their personal safety. I am aware as I can be here in the UK!
June 7, 2005 at 2:07 pm #58367
I don´t want to get involved in a debate about what constitutes good journalism, but this article smacks of the sensationalist pap which abounds in the tabloids in the UK. I have lived in the USA, Mexico and the UK, and I certainly feel a whole lot safer in Spain than I ever did in those places. The only violence I have witnessed while here is my drunken countrymen on holiday having a “good time”.
June 7, 2005 at 2:26 pm #58368
I’m not in property sales so an unbiased opinion
I think a trend is starting to form here. We’ve had years of articles and programmes about people flocking abroad to live the dream to the point where it has become boring. Now the property market is dying, it is much more exciting to write about, and for readers to hear about how disastrous things are and how everyone will return to the UK with their tails between their legs. If you’re a journalist it’s also a great opportunity for an expenses paid trip abroad to report on such events.
People prefer to read about those desperate to sell up because they’ve lost all their money or how their dreams have been shattered than to read about people who’ve made a load of money and are having a fab time!
A happy holiday for millions of families is not a story, but a woman being raped by two men in her hotel is
Whilst there is crime here, I don’t think it is any worse than many other places. I’ve never met anyone who has been a victim of burglary but you do here stories of tourists on the coast having bags snatched (same as Italy)
June 7, 2005 at 3:19 pm #58369
By ‘eck, I know I’m pond slime but not every opinion I offer on this site is biased! 😆
June 7, 2005 at 6:46 pm #58371
😀 Okidoki !!! Lets start again…….We’re REALLY looking forward to our holiday in Spain…..But I’m still gutted that we have been let down by the developers on the Santa Maria Golf development, who will not give us our (huge amount) of money back until October 2006.( deposit) !!!!!!
June 7, 2005 at 6:49 pm #58372
You are not “pond slime” 😀 Everyones opinion counts!!
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