EXCLUSIVE: By Tom Powell and Rob Horgan in Casares and Joe Chivers in the Axarquia
TERMINALLY ill Ashya King was diagnosed with a brain tumour in Spain before being rushed back to England for emergency treatment, friends in the area have revealed.
The seriously-ill British child – whose parents Brett and Naghmeh fled England last week sparking a ‘barbaric’ international manhunt – had been taken to a local clinic after suffering a series of headaches during the first week of his holiday.
“He had been having headaches back in the UK as well so they took him to a doctor who referred him to hospital for a scan, which was when they found out he had eight months to live,” said family friend Joseph Lathey, 20, who knew the Kings from Jehovah’s Witness meetings.
The family-of-nine had just returned to the home they have owned in Casares for the last decade, looking forward to a long summer holiday.
The Olive Press can reveal that they have been living on/off in Spain since buying the beachside apartment 10 years ago and were officially registered in Casares from 2008 to 2011.
The family had lived in a one-bedroom home in the Casares del Mar urbanisation for a couple of years before moving into the larger two-bedroom home of Naghmeh’s parents next door.
While the children attended local schools in Manilva and Sabinillas, the father was said to have a steady job in real estate.
While the family had part returned to live in the UK in Portsmouth, after a spell in Haiti, they regularly returned for holidays on the Costa del Sol.
Only last Christmas, friend Lathey recalled how he had spent time with the family walking in the nearby hills and having a barbecue, where Ashya ‘didn’t stop running around’ and was clearly ‘incredibly happy’.
“He was playing with all the other kids and hardly stood still all day, just long enough to get one photo! (see right/left),” said Lathey, a videographer, based in nearby Manilva.
The fellow Jehovah said that the King family were the ‘kindest, most generous people imaginable’.
They attended meetings three times a week at the Sabinillas centre, which has now moved to La Linea.
“They travelled a lot so they were away for long periods, but they were always great fun when they were around. I met the whole family many times and really liked them all,” he continued.
This week the small seafront apartment on the idyllic Casares del Mar urbanisation has become the centre of a global news story, with the siblings having returned to their long-term holiday home, albeit for a few days.
Their family car, a Hyundai, was yesterday parked outside with the boot visibly full of bags.
The two oldest brothers, Danny and Naveed, were seen with their younger siblings by neighbours playing by the pool and unpacking the car.
Last night they were said to have been visiting their sick brother at Malaga’s Materno Infantil Hospital, after hearing the good news that their parents were set to be released early, with the UK rescinding the arrest warrant.
A local estate agent confirmed they were selling the one bedroom apartment that overlooks the straits of Gibraltar towards Africa, estimated to be worth around 150,000 euros.
The apartment has been on the market on and off for a couple of years, revealed neighbours Penny and Nigel, who have had a home on the urbanisation for over a decade.
“They have been trying to sell it for years,” said Penny.
“I don’t think it helped when they put religious banners up which said things like ‘God is great’, it didn’t please the local residents and they were told to take them down.
“However they believed passionately in their religion and they were clearly a nice family.”
Backing the Kings
WHEN news first broke of the parents’ taking their extremely ill son and running off with him, the public reception was far from positive.
But as the facts came to light, Ashya King and his family have been flooded with support and help.
The petition demanding his parents are freed from their Madrid prison cell to see him reached more than 186,000 signatures before the arrest warrant was dropped.
It was presented to 10 Downing Street by family friend Ethan Dallas, gaining the support of British Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Nick Clegg.
Meanwhile more than £24,000 has been donated in total, via a Paypal account which was temporarily suspended due to the sudden rush, and an indiegogo.com account.
Last night Naveed wrote on Facebook: “Without you all and all the petitions signed, this wouldn’t have been possible! We can still finish this and also create an opportunity for all future parents to choose freely what treatment they want for their children, lets keep going!”
A tale of sorrow and support
ASHYA started suffering from sudden headaches just as the school year was ending in England in July.
The headaches continued when they arrived for their annual holidays in Spain and they decided to take him to a doctor.
The doctor then referred him to hospital for a scan, and out of nowhere Ashya was given just months to live.
So the Kings immediately decided to return to Southampton with the view (perhaps wrongly going on the opinions of many expats here) that British healthcare would be the best for their son.
But what happened next grabbed the world’s attention.
In a bid to save their son’s life, Brett and Naghmeh King took Ashya out of hospital with a plan to get him proton beam therapy, an expensive cancer treatment not available in the UK.
Father Brett had contacted a medical centre in Prague, where it is available, on August 20.
And the family then came to Spain allegedly to sell their one bedroom apartment, valued at approximately 150,000 euros, in order to fund the 80,000 euro treatment.
But while they made their way to Spain, Southampton General Hospital persuaded Hampshire Police to issue an arrest warrant, out of fear for Ashya’s life.
The media joined in and it soon became a manhunt.
A day later the parents were arrested at the Axarquia hostel they were staying in, and Ashya was rushed to Mercano Infantil hospital and placed in intensive care.
Older brother Naveed, 20, posted a YouTube video defending his parents’ actions and explaining how they kept Ashya safe on the journey with medical equipment.
Support for Ashya and his parents grew massively, through social media, an online petition and Paypal donations.
And yesterday, with the parents still in a Madrid prison, the Crown Prosecution Service asked for their arrest warrant to be withdraw.
The Spanish judge acted quickly to authorise their release which occurred last night, with the pair heading straight for Malaga.
Escape to the Axarquia
THEY had a European arrest warrant in their name, and the world’s media on their tail, as parents Brett and Naghmeh King fled England with their dying son Ashya.
Enroute to their holiday apartment in Casares, they had temporarily sought refuge in the the picturesque Axarquia village of Benajarafe.
Hoping not to be recognised they had rented just two rooms in Hostal Esperanza for the whole family of nine, paying 180 euros in cash for one night’s stay upon arrival.
But after a member of staff read about the family online and raised the alarm, the escape ended with the police arriving at 2pm on Saturday afternoon, arresting the parents and separating them from their five-year-old son who they have not seen since.
“I saw the appeal and recognised the family, I feared for the children’s safety so I told my boss,” Ilia Pardo told the Olive Press.
Hostal boss Efren Martin told the Olive Press: “There were four officers, three men and one woman…there was one ambulance, with one doctor, one nurse, and one driver.”
Ashya was taken to Materno Infantil Hospital in Malaga where he was kept under police guard, after being made a temporary ward of the court.
A waitress at the hostal, Elena Dragulin, told the Olive Press that the family stayed in their rooms for the entire stay, not coming to the bar or communal area once or buying food.
“I think they expected the police to come, because it was all over the papers,” she told the Olive Press.
“The police were very understanding with the family, and the family with the police. There wasn’t any resistance but they were extremely upset.”