Tuesday, 23 August 2016
Hardback: "They'd been talking about and planning a move for ages. They had their hearts set on a nice villa, away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist resorts." - Bernard O'Malley on his brother's dream.
"Two bedroom house in 4000 metre square plot. Pine trees, water, electricity. No agencies. 30 000 euros." - The advert in the Costa Blanca News which ensnared the O'Malleys.
"The rumours were awful and very hurtful to the family. We knew something dreadful must have happened." - Jenny, daughter of the O'Malleys, on early speculation that her parents had faked their disappearance.
"If we hadn't been led to the spot, we would never have found them." - Police Chief Jose Abellan on the confession by one of the suspects that led to the discovery of the bodies.
"There is no blueprint for what you do and how you do it. You have your own life to lead, but you live with it constantly - every hour of the day it's there." - Bernard O'Malley.
In September 2002, house hunters Anthony and Linda O'Malley from Llangollen, North Wales, arrived in Benidorm on Spain's Costa Blanca to bid for a house at auction that they had earmarked for their retirement. Within a week of their arrival, the couple vanished.
Welsh detectives, alerted by large sums of cash withdrawn from the couple's UK bank accounts, launched their own missing persons inquiry. Daughter Nicola Welch, frantic with worry but with no idea of what really happened, made an appeal on Crimewatch for her parents to get in touch.
Six months after the disappearance, following emailed ransom demands from a mysterious figure codenamed Phoenix, Spanish police recovered the bodies of the couple from under the cellar floor of a villa in Alcoy, 40 kilometres inland. The full horrifying story was pieced together in a painstaking investigation.
The O'Malleys had been tricked into viewing the property, held captive for five days and forced to hand over the money they had saved for their deposit. When they were no longer of use, they were callously disposed of in the cellar of the very house they had hoped would be their dream home.
In April 2006, two men from Venezuela were found guilty by a Spanish court of kidnap, robbery, torture and murder. Jorge Real Sierra was jailed for 62 years and Jose Antonio Velazquez Gonzales for 54 years.
Investigative journalist Danny Collins helped North Wales officers track down the killers in a tense search that saw his life threatened and took him into the rough and tumble of a Benidorm underworld never seen by tourists. His story, Nightmare in the Sun (2007), is a cautionary tale for all who seen an escape to the Mediterranean sun.
About the author: Danny Collins is a freelance investigative journalist working crime-ridden southern and eastern Spain from Gibraltar to Valencia. The disappearance of the O'Malleys was one of the last cases he covered before taking semi-retirement in 2004 as news editor of the CBN News Group to become its senior correspondent. He is a regular broadcaster and accomplished cartoonist and writes a regular weekly column on British affairs that is syndicated along the Spanish Costas.
He was born in Fulham, London, in 1939 and had a varied career from 16-year-old deck boy in the Mercantile Marine to working for the Ministry of Defence. He became a London nightclub proprietor before taking up crime reporting. In 1990 he and his wife Nikki moved to Spain to share a house with a delinquent Persian cat in a mountain village in Sierra Aitana.