British man is held in hunt for killer of two young women on Costa del Sol

One of Spain's biggest manhunts resulted in the arrest of a British man on the Costa del Sol yesterday in connection with the murder of two teenage girls.

Tony Alexander King, 38, a barman who moved to Spain six years ago, was arrested at his Spanish home after DNA tests allegedly linked him to the two deaths. He is also expected to be questioned in connection with the murders of two further young women in the area.

Sonia Carabantes, 17, was found naked and partly hidden beneath rocks near her home in the town of Coin, a few miles from Malaga, last month, after a five-day search.

Detectives have reportedly linked her death with the murder of Rocio Wanninkhof, 19, an au pair who was found dead a month after she vanished in September 1999. Both women had been strangled after disappearing while returning from a local festival. They were found 20 miles apart.

Earlier this week, DNA found on a cigarette near the body of Miss Wanninkhof was said to have matched that found in samples of skin taken from under Miss Carabantes' fingernails.

Police revealed yesterday that there was a genetic match between human traces found on pieces of a car-lamp cover found at Mr King's home and the scene where Miss Carabantes was found dead.

Last night, Spanish detectives were questioning Mr King in connection with the deaths of Miss Carabantes and Miss Wanninkhof as they conducted a fingertip search of his Mazda and the home in Alhaurin el Grande, a village 19 miles from Malaga.

He was also expected to be questioned about the deaths of two other women, whose cases are to be reopened in the light of Mr King's arrest: Maria Fernandez, 18, who was killed in Motril, Granada, in October 2000, and Anna Lorente, who died in September 2000 in Alora, near Malaga.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "A British national has been arrested by national police in connection with murder.

"Consular staff are in contact with Spanish authorities and we are actively seeking access to the suspect."

A massive regional manhunt followed the disappearance of Miss Carabantes last month, with tourists and householders searching areas in an attempt to find the missing teenager. Her murder sent shockwaves through the country.

Thousands turned out at the memorial for Miss Carabantes on Wednesday, during which Antonio Dorado Soto, the Archbishop of Malaga, condemned her death as "barbaric".

Last night, there were reports that Mr King had a record for violence and robbery in Britain and that it was his Spanish wife who had reported him to police after detectives issued nationwide appeals for information into the deaths.

It is believed that Mr King helped out at the Bowers Arms, a bar popular with British and German expatriates.

His arrest was made only days after Miss Wanninkhof's former boss Cliff Stanford, founder of the technology company Redbus Interhouse, who employed her as an au pair, put up a £100,000 reward to help to find her killer.

Two years ago, Dolores Vazquez, a close friend of Miss Wanninkhof's family, was found guilty of her murder but was released last year after a retrial was ordered. The hearing, which was due to start next month, has been postponed in the light of the discovery of the DNA links.

There were reports of further links between the two murders when it was claimed that Mr King formerly worked at a Marbella hotel managed by Ms Vasquez, who was involved in a lesbian relationship with the murdered teenager's mother.

Last night, Spain's Interior Minister, Angel Acebes, said that the suspect had not commented when he was arrested and urged residents to be patient while detectives questioned him.