AFTER the shocking San Pedro slaying of a suspected drug lord earlier this month, it seems Marbella could be heading back to the dark and dodgy days of what the British tabloids loved to call the ‘Costa del Crime’.
I moved to Marbella in the 80s, in the days before Britain and Spain had an extradition treaty.
Old style London gangsters such as Kray Twins associate Freddie Foreman, Great Train Robber Charlie Wilson and Brinks Matt Job suspect and ex husband of Barbara Windsor Ronnie Knight were all living on the coast, although the papers were perhaps playing fast and loose with the truth when they described Ronnie as having a villa ‘in the hills overlooking Marbella’.
He lived in Benalmadena. You would have to build a pretty impressive roof terrace to see Puerto Banus from there…
Some of them had legitimate businesses, so you would bump into them from time to time – my mother famously met Foreman who commented “Sally Brown? I’ve heard so much about you…” – and I unwittingly once attended a restaurant opening owned by one of Glasgow’s biggest drug barons.
My best mate Brenty and I had been doing our Marbella teenage beach bum thing and got chatting to a pretty young Scottish girl, who we’ll call Heather.
She invited us to her Dad’s new business opening that night, so all suited and booted, shoulder pads and hairsprayed up – it was the mid 80s – Brenty and I rocked up to the restaurant.
It was a lavish affair, and we both got stuck into the champagne and canapés with gusto.
About an hour into the proceedings, I looked over from my nibbles, spotted a large figure in the middle of the room, and froze.
This was none other than the man who the previous week had been splashed across the ‘Daily Record’ as a major drug importer who was currently on Glasgow’s ‘Most Wanted’ list.
“Brent!” I hissed, “Do you know who that guy is?”
“Him?” said my mate, nonchalantly downing yet another glass of cava. “Oh, that’s Heather’s Dad”.
Brenty was most upset with me as I hustled him out of the door seconds later.
The ‘Costa del Crime’ days came to an end soon afterwards, with Foreman arrested and deported one morning from his Banus apartment and Wilson slain in the garden of his Marbella villa.
And after our experience, Brenty and I decided not to go to any restaurant openings for a long time…