30-year feud led to village massacre

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The Independent Online
IT WAS a family feud, initially over land, that began with a fatal stabbing in 1961 and ended with bodies strewn along the main street of the western Spanish village of Puerto Hurraco nearly 30 years later. Two brothers, Emilio and Antonio Izquierdo, await sentencing for walking through the village on 26 August, 1990, shooting everyone in sight. Nine people died and six were wounded.

With no death penalty in Spain, the prosecution asked for 360 years each for the brothers, aged 62 and 59, In reality, no one can serve more than 30 years in a Spanish jail, and the brothers could eventually walk free if they live long enough.

Judging by the noisy and angry reaction of their victims' relatives, in a court in the town of Badajoz, close to the Portuguese border this week, the two men may feel safer seeing out their days behind bars. 'Bastards, sons of bitches, hang them,' the relatives shouted. 'Put them in the cemetery.'

The defence did not dispute the charges, but said the men were mentally unstable through extreme paranoia, driven by a single thought - revenge - since their mother had died in a fire in 1983. They should be placed in a mental institution, the defence argued.

It all began in 1961 when a local peasant, Jeronimo Izquierdo, stabbed to death a neighbour, Amadeo Cabanillas, blaming him for attempting to take over some Izquierdo family land. Jeronimo Izquierdo was jailed, freed in 1984, but immediately stabbed and seriously wounded his first victim's brother, Antonio Cabanillas. Jeronimo Izquierdo has since died.

The spark that ignited Emilio and Antonio Izquierdo's vendetta, however, came in 1983. That was when their mother died in a fire that was officially declared an accident but which the brothers believed had been started by the Cabanillas family. The brothers moved to another village and plotted their revenge.

On 26 August, 1990, they took their quick-action hunting rifles and lay in wait in an alley until darkness fell on Puerto Hurraco, a village of 200 people. The first they saw were sisters Antonia and Encarna Cabanillas, aged 13 and 15, whom they killed at point-blank range, according to the prosecution. Then they shot dead the girls' father, Manuel Cabanillas, and wounded one of his sons, Antonio, now crippled.

An elderly woman who went to the girls' aid was shot dead, before the brothers strolled down the main street, shooting indiscriminately at people drinking outside the village bar. Two villagers who tried to flee in a car were next to die, then a man who had taken some wounded victims to safety and returned. Finally, two local Guardia Civil policemen were badly wounded as they drove into the village to investigate.

In court, the older brother, grey- haired Emilio, said: 'We'd gone out to shoot pigeons. I don't remember the rest, just what people have told me.' His brother insisted: 'I shot only in the air, to warn people off. If I'd known I was going to a massacre, I'd have stayed home.' Many witnesses, however, said both men fired at their victims.

The prosecution said the killings were premeditated, planned by the brothers since their mother's death, and that they had been driven to the village by a sister before lurking behind an archway off the main street.

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