Two men jailed for murder of couple

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The Independent Online

Two Venezuelan men were jailed for more than 50 years each for the kidnap, torture and murder of a British couple who were searching for a home in Spain.

Anthony, 42, and Linda O'Malley, 55, from Llangollen, north Wales, went missing in September 2002 after travelling to Benidorm to try to find a property. They were abducted by Jorge Real Sierra and his brother-in-law, Juan Antonio Velazquez Gonzalez ,who bound and gagged them and chained them in a cellar.

A panel of three judges in Alicante yesterday found them guilty of kidnap and murder, as well as a string of fraud offences. Real, 56, was jailed for 62 years and Velazquez, 40, was sentenced to 54 years and six months in prison. But under Spanish law they will serve a maximum 25-year term.

After the sentencing it emerged that British police believe the crime would never have come to light if the case had been left to their Spanish counterparts.

Alarmed by the disappearance of the couple and a trail of unusual transactions on their credit cards, British police launched their own inquiry after the authorities in Benidorm proved "less than interested".

Mr O'Malley and his wife, a quiet and devoted couple, answered an advert for a villa in Alcoy, near Benidorm, in an English-language newspaper in September 2002. But they did not know that Real and Velazquez, who had placed the advert, were only renting the property.

When they came to view the house they were kidnapped and held in the cellar, monitored by their captors via a webcam. The Venezuelans forced Mr O'Malley to take out €25,000 (£17,000) from his bank account and then went on a spending spree with the couple's credit cards.

Mr and Mrs O'Malley were apparently killed simply because it became too troublesome to keep holding them. Mr O'Malley was strangled and his wife appeared to have died from shock. Their bodies were buried together beneath the floor of the basement where they had been held.

But their killers were caught when Real tried to extract thousands more pounds from their relatives by claiming he was a private detective, that they were still alive, and that he could help secure their release.

His e-mail to the National Missing Persons Helpline in Britain helped police track him down.

Mr O'Malley's brother, Bernard, said yesterday: "I think the world is a safer place with them locked up."