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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 March 2006, 13:39 GMT 14:39 UK
Pair deny meeting murdered couple
Jorge Real Sierra and Juan Antonio Velazquez Gonzalez
The two defendants posed as villa owners, the court heard
Two men accused of murdering a couple who were house-hunting in Spain have told a court they never met them.

Linda and Anthony O'Malley, from Llangollen, disappeared in summer 2002. Their bodies were found in a cellar near Benidorm in March 2003.

Venezuelans Jorge Real Sierra and his brother-in-law Juan Antonio Velazquez Gonzalez deny raiding the couple's bank account before murdering them.

The trial in Alicante opened on Tuesday and is scheduled to last for five days.

Prosecutors have alleged the couple, who were originally from Liverpool, were kidnapped and held hostage.

Mrs O'Malley, 55, is said to have died of shock and her husband, 42, was asphyxiated with a plastic bag.

They travelled to Spain in August 2002 to look for a retirement home on the Costa Blanca. They disappeared a month later and were the subject of a missing persons' inquiry for six months before Spanish police found the couple's bodies.

The court heard that Sierra was caught after he tried to obtain thousands of pounds from the couple's family.

Anthony and Linda O'Malley
Anthony and Linda O'Malley were found dead in March 2003

He allegedly asked for 8,000 (11,600 euros) to act as a hostage negotiator, saying he would want more if the pair were freed.

But in fact he and his brother-in-law had already killed and buried them five months before, it was alleged.

They are accused of stealing 28,000 euros (19,400) from them before murdering them.

The O'Malleys' family sat, with an interpreter, at the front of a packed wood-panelled courtroom just a few feet away from Real, 56, and Velazquez, 40, who deny murder.

They were said to have been posing as vendors of the villa where they died, even though in fact they were only renting it.

Credit cards

The court heard that a murder inquiry was launched after the National Missing Persons Helpline received an e-mail from a man describing himself as "Felix", about the missing couple.

A Spanish detective, who could not be named for legal reasons, told the court: "He had sent an e-mail to the British agency that indicated that he knew where the couple who had disappeared were. He offered himself as a negotiator."

The O'Malleys' relatives: (l-r)Christine Spruce, Bernard O'Malley, Nicola Welsh and Jenny Stewart, Barbara Murphy
The couple's family are following the trial through an interpreter

The correspondent sent scanned-in photocopies of their passports and credit cards.

Police in Spain were immediately alerted and there was an exchange of e-mails and telephone calls, during which the man's telephone number was obtained.

Detectives tracked down the source of the e-mail as a cybercafe in Valencia, and obtained a description of a South American man.

It matched another description of a man who had fraudulently used Mr O'Malley's credit card, the court heard.

Meanwhile the telephone number was traced to Real, who was arrested and allegedly led police to the bodies.

Missing car

Police said that in interview he pinned the blame on Velazquez, but in court he denied knowing anything about the murders. He also denied sending the e-mails offering to help find the O'Malleys.

Meanwhile a search for the O'Malleys' missing hire car was being conducted. The Fiat Stylo was discovered being driven by Velazquez, who denied killing the couple.

Gonzalez told the court that he was involved in a property fraud with a man he named as Mat Bradley.

Sierra said he knew of the plot to sell the house but he was not involved and he had not met Mr and Mrs O'Malley.

He denied signing Mr O'Malley's name to obtain goods on the couple's credit card.

The prosecution has asked for Gonzalez to be jailed for 54 years and six months and Sierra for 62 years and six months and for both to pay fines to the relatives of the couple.

The men's defence team has said the pair are innocent.

The five-day trial is expected to run from Tuesday until Thursday, then break for four days before resuming on 4 April and concluding a day later.

A panel of three judges, sitting without a jury, are hearing from the defendants, police officers, and other witnesses.

Judgment will be reserved to a later date, expected to be about two weeks after the end of the trial.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Anthony O'Malley's brother on a "long, hard, difficult road"



SEE ALSO:
Spanish murder trial begins
11 Apr 04 |  North East Wales
Murdered couple's trial delay
01 Jan 04 |  North East Wales
Final farewell for O'Malleys
22 Sep 03 |  Wales
Murdered couple asphyxiated
28 Mar 03 |  Wales



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