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Lost scorpions weave their deadly magic on the beach

SPAIN'S Guardia Civil, responsible for the nation's coastline, thought they had seen it all - drugs, illegal immigrants, lager louts, couples making love in the cool night sand. This, however, was the first time they had found themselves sweatily searching the shore for two deadly African scorpions belonging to a robbed Scottish magician.

To make matters worse, one scorpion was said by Cal Calini, 60, to be ready to lay up to 100 eggs. The thought of that many scorpions swarming over the popular Puig beach north of Valencia understandably had local authorities in a bit of a spin. Firemen, police, Mr Calini and his wife Jane, 45, joined the search.

Areas behind the beach were burned, chemicals were sprayed and 300 yards of sand were cordoned off. Torches and floodlights were brought in.

Mr and Mrs Calini usually ensure one of them stays in their van, guarding the scorpions, tarantulas and pythons that share their mobile home. In the heat of last Saturday night, though, the Calinis cracked, slipping out for what Mr Calini called 'a quick bite'.

In fact, it was the burglar who broke into the yellow camper a few minutes later who almost got a quick and possibly deadly bite. He had snatched the magician's savings before the strongbox-like trunk housing the 'props' probably caught his eye. According to Mr Calini, he would have come across the scorpions first. A man was seen running from the area as if he had seen a ghost.

Three scorpions, described by Mr Calini as of the Pandinus Imperator type, apparently followed at a more leisurely pace. One Mr Calini retrieved near by.

Valencia police were last night checking Mr Calini's documentation to see whether he had broken any import laws.

He was not very popular either with ice-cream vendors, waiting patiently for holiday swimmers.