In Search of the Truth
The kidnap and murders of Llangollen couple Linda and Anthony OMalley were crimes that shocked Spain. Investigative journalist Danny Collins helped North Wales police 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 of that experience has been made into a book called Nightmare in the Sun. In these exclusive extracts, he traces the mysterious third man whose name was raised by the defence, follows up on vital clues and talks to witnesses who were never questioned by the police. The reluctant witness: Despite records of earlier mobile telephone contacts undisclosed at the trial, the advertisement on page 79 of Costa Blanca News' small ad property section dated 6 September 2002 has been accepted as the bait that lured Anthony and Linda O'Malley to their appointment with death.
Through that advertisement another witness was to appear who would directly implicate both suspects and place them at the villa in Alcoy on the morning of 7 September, the Saturday of the weekend of the victims' disappearance.
That witness and his wife would later reflect with horror on how close they had come to a similar fate as the O'Malleys.
Retired businessman Douglas Eames had spotted the advertisement while browsing through the CBN ad pages at breakfast. Fifty-five-year-old Eames lived with his wife in the Sierra Bernia mountains on the outskirts of Jalon, the town that gives its name to a fertile valley famous for its wine co-operatives.
Wondering, as most readers would, whether the quoted price of 30,000 euros was a clumsy misprint, Eames telephoned the mobile number accompanying the advertisement and was assured it wasn't. A man giving his name as David Velazquez arranged a meeting for 11am that morning outside a newspaper shop in the town of Alcoy. Bocairent, explained 'David', was the only genuine misprint in the advertisement.
Doug Eames drove his 4x4 to the rendezvous and met up with the smartly-dressed, portly individual called David, who led the way to Baradello Gelat in a late series BMW saloon.
Eames would later relate to me his misgivings. "I found the man too unctuous... there was something repellent about all the dry hand-washing. I just felt uncomfortable in his presence. And when we got to the house, I didn't like the setting. The building was boxy and there were too many trees. I saw another man working in the garden in a cleared area at the back of the house but decided it wasn't for me.
"I just thanked the man called David and drove away."
It was the luckiest break of Doug Eames' life, for he would surely have been invited back with his wife should he have shown any interest.
Real Sierra and Velazquez had lost their first intended victims but, by nightfall, there would be two more in their grasp. Eames and his wife Susan would not realise just how near they had been to robbery, death and an unmarked grave until the arrests were made six months later.
I had been given a list of mobile telephone numbers by the now alerted national police in Benidorm and asked to check if any had been used in property advertisements. I handed what could have been an onerous job over to the ultra-efficient Kay Jones, the CBN staff member who managed the small ads sections.
Using a database search programme, within minutes she identified a mobile number, 667319463, as that carried in the Bocairent advertisement and handed me the original classified form.
The advertisers were named as Matthew Don and David Velazquez, the latter the alias used by Real Sierra and found on identification documents, including a Venezuelan passport and driving licence, in the search of the apartment in Valencia. I ran the story on the following Friday, feeling a little self-conscious that the tragic story we had run for six months had originated in our own office. …