Two men kidnapped and murdered British househunters, court is told

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The Independent Online

Two men accused of kidnapping and murdering a British couple searching for a retirement home were caught only after they offered their hostage negotiation services, a court heard yesterday.

Jorge Real Sierra, 56, and his brother-in-law Juan Antonio Velazquez Gonzalez, 40, are said to have posed as property vendors when they met Anthony and Linda O'Malley, who were from Llangollen, north Wales. It is claimed that the men sought to sell the couple, a property in the seaside town of Alcoy, near Benidorm. But instead, they allegedly kidnapped the couple, kept them bound and gagged for several days, before forcing Mr O'Malley, 42, to withdraw €25,000 (£17,000) from his bank account. Mr O'Malley was then strangled to death, while his 55 year old wife died from shock, the court, in Alicante, eastern Spain, heard yesterday.

The couple disappeared in September 2002 after travelling to Alcoy in pursuit of their dream to move to Spain. Police initially treated the disappearance of the couple as a missing persons inquiry. But five months later, Mr Real approached the British National Missing Persons Helpline offering to negotiate their release for an £8000 fee, Spanish prosecutors claim. A murder enquiry was launched and one month later, the couple were found buried under the cellar floor of the villa they had tried to buy.

Mr Real, who described himself in court as a marketing consultant, is said to have fraudulently used the couple's credit cards to buy shoes, books, clothes and computer equipment.

After being arrested in March he led police to the bodies and pinned the blame for the murders on Mr Velazquez, according to police. But in court yesterday he denied ever doing so, claiming he had no knowledge of the killings and had never met the O'Malleys.

The trial continues.