A BRITISH couple were thrown into a Spanish jail over a mix-up involving a €15 paella they never ordered.

Geoff Cox and his partner Bridget Keyes, from Surrey, had been enjoying a relaxing cycling holiday from Cordoba to Granada when they stopped off at the restaurant for a meal.

When the bill arrived, the couple noticed they had been charged for an extra paella and complained to the waiter.
But he insisted they were wrong and the argument quickly escalated into pushing and shoving.

“We pointed out the extra paella and the waiter went off like a firecracker,” said retired hosiery salesman Mr Cox, who is in his 50s.

“We put down €105 and said we would pay that, but he wanted €120.

“It got a bit ugly and when he said he would call the police we said, ‘Right, fine’, because we were certain they would side with us.”

But when officers arrived, the pair found themselves in the middle of a scuffle which saw Mr Cox’s glasses broken and both Brits arrested.

To make matters worse, the police later claimed that the couple had assaulted them and demanded compensation.

The pair were fingerprinted, had their shoelaces confiscated and were even left in separate cells for the night without anything to eat or drink.

Mr Cox said: “Two lawyers and a translator turned up 12 hours later – we had had no information, no food and no water.

“I was told I was charged with assault on the police, resisting arrest and defrauding a restaurant, that these were criminal charges and I could get a year in jail.”

After another agonising seven hours the couple were told the criminal charges were dropped but the damages claim remained, so they should return to court two days later.

“That messed up our holiday plans as we were off to Sevilla,” Mr Cox continued. “We came back to Granada at a cost of €200 to have our day in court.

“We still didn’t know what was happening. The prosecution demanded fines of €360 each, plus €260 damages to the police.

“In the end we were fined €78 and €250 damages for me throwing my face against his fist.

With the cost of legal fees added on, the pair has been left severely out of pocket and seriously shaken from the whole experience.

“I’m an ordinary, middle class, respectable citizen who has never had any trouble with the police,” Mr Cox added.

“It’s a bloody outrage and we must still make sure our fine gets paid to the right place.

“If it gets lost in the system we could find ourselves facing a European extradition warrant, so I’m still worried about it.”


  1. Perhaps the Paella was 15 euros per head – so the bill stated 2 portions. That’s not unusual. However Paella stinks and is the worst national dish of any country.
    As for the punch up – who threw the first punch?

  2. Were they part of a group ? € 120 for lunch seems a lot for a couple who are cycling. If so, then there must be witnesses . . . And the reference to the “extra” paella leads one to think there may have been more than one already. I am not sure we have enough facts.

  3. My wife, son, daughter and I had a very similar episode back in 2007, we ended up with the same jumped up charges for no offence committed, told to plead guilty or we’d be in jail for months. Result was a €2,000 fine for absolutely nothing. We then left court and the same day closed my business (loss of 10 jobs) and sold the house and left. I’ll never set foot on Spain again!

  4. As one of the principal character in this, I thought I’d correct the story a bit. Firstly, there were 4 of us on holiday which is why the bill was high. Secondly, there was no pushing or shoving from us or the waiter – only from the 2 policemen. The argument was over a vegetable paella which the waiter recommended and I ordered without reference to the menu. The others had a fish dinner for 3. When the bill came, there was a charge for 2 paellas. This is because (as I now know) paella is generally served as two portions minimum (though I ordered a paella in Cordoba which was for one). If the waiter had explained that politely, we would no doubt have been a bit disappointed and paid. But he didn’t – instead he got very angry very quickly. An argument ensued, and when we put 105 euros on the table, the waiter refused them and didn’t hesitate to bring out the rest of the staff who hung about looking menacing to stop us leaving. After 15 minutes or so arguing, the waiter called the police. When they arrived, they were as bad as the waiter – aggressively told us to pay and started demanding ID. We were in a difficult place – to give in or stand our ground. We choose the later. We did agree to walk back to the hotel (250m away or so) with the police to get our passports. As we passed the police car, one of the policemen tried to push me in. I instinctively but passively held back and the other policeman punched me in the face and the first one jumped on me and then I was cuffed and pushed in the police car. Bridget who was knocked over at the same time, voluntarily jumped in the police car to be with me. Our 2 friends were left behind. We were then processed down at the police station with no information and put separately in the cells for the night. We did get water by drinking from a hose when we went to the loo and we did get some biscuits and a carton on fruit juice at breakfast time. After 12 hours, the state lawyer and translator arrived and we were told we were both charged with resisting arrest, assaulting the police and defrauding the restaurant – criminal charges which carried a maximum sentence of 1 year in jail. About 6 hours after we gave our statements, all these charges were dropped, but instead we were charged with disobeying a public official. In court, we were fined 90 euros each (less 12 for a day in jail) and 200 euros as compensation to the police! We also had to pay for the lawyer (400 Euros).

    I should also like to add that we had great support and understanding from the local cycling rep and our lawyer, so we are not holding a general grudge against Spain or the Spanish. But it was a frightening experience and one that has badly damaged our normally positive view of traveling abroad.

    The restaurant is the Taberna Divisa Blanca in Calle Navas, Granada. If you look on Trip Advisor, most of the reviews are in Spanish. You will see some good reviews and quite a few bad ones. The bad ones are the telling ones! There is even one with the title “Pesimo, menudos mafiosos” which I translate as “Nasty little gangsters”. We haven’t put a review up yet.

    Although we spoke to our local paper about this, the national press picked it up and ran with it without reference to us.

    In the Mail Online there were over 1000 comments! Some have suggested that there had to be more to the story ie there is no smoke without fire. Therefore they have extrapolated that we were probably drunk and/or abusive. For the record, neither is true. In fact I said to Bridget at the police station before we were put in the cells that we should ask to be breathalysed, because I feared the police would say we were drunk. But she said, don’t make a fuss, Luckily on this point the police did not embellish their story.

  5. Geoff,
    Thanks for your honest account of what took place. It must be obvious to you that had you looked at the menu you would have paid and that was that but the treatment by the ‘police’ was bang out of order. You don’t say what police – were they Guardia Civil, Policia Local, I doubt they were Nacional.

    You should be aware that the Justice system in Spain is totally corrupt and you need to warn others who might visit of this fact. There is a word in Spanish ‘enchufargo’ – it means connected and of course this does include all police (not much different there from the UK).

    Next cycling holiday – try France, lots of beautiful rural roads that are a cyclists delight and that simply don’t exist in Spain. Also lots of secluded chambre d’hote where you are guaranteed a good night’s sleep.

    Fred – are you serious, the only winners in such an action will be the lawyers, much better he spends his money on entertaining friends with the story.

  6. Steve,
    apologies for not referring to your tale as well. I had two instances of the Spanish ‘justice’ system, one in Galicia and one in Andalucia.

    I must add that it can and does apply to the ordinary decent Spanish as well.

    For all those Brits who don’t know about the ‘enchufargo system’ time to study so that you are prepared should you ever be unlucky enough to encounter a problem with someone who is.

  7. Thanks Fred and Stuart for your comments.

    Although We’d love to take the policeman who punched me to court for assault and both of them for lying in court, it isn’t going to happen unless some video footage turns up. I’ve already asked about cctv, but there was none in the Puerta del Carmen. There would also have to be their side of the story to consider. I can’t imagine what that would be, but they could claim that we were argumentative and uncooperative and angry etc. We couldn’t, in all honesty, deny this and it would be sufficient to muddy the water.

    It was the local police who arrested us, but black (or very dark blue) uniformed police who took over at the police station. I’m still not quite sure of the difference.

    In court, I thought we got a reasonable hearing, but we were both convicted (if that’s the right word) of disobeying a public official by not showing ID when requested. Technically this was true. What was also true was that the waiter (who also claimed to be the manager and owner) was also guilty of extortion, or at least trickery, not to mention threatening behaviour, if such a thing exists; and the police were guilty of assault and perjury. The trouble was, they were not on trial.

    On the subject of ‘enchfarge’, my friend who was on holiday with us, thought from the start that the police and the waiter were connected. I’m not so sure, but they certainly nodded and smiled at each other at the court hearing.

    PS I’m not blogging on all the sites that have covered the story (there are, unbelievably 100s!), only this one and the Sun.

    PPS We’ve been cycling in France – lovely.

  8. Sounds like this couple can’t speak Spanish and may well have come across with the stuck-up attitude that “foreigners” should speak English………
    Some basic Spanish would have saved the situation……

  9. Forgive me for saying so but your photograph does not exactly exude an image of measured and calculated complaint but one of belligerence. But maybe this was a specific photo-shoot set up designed to reflect your annoyance. Of course that in no way excuses the alleged treatment meted out by these agents but unless you noted their identity you will get nowhere trying to present a denuncia. Don’t imagine for one minute that such incidents only apply to foreigners. And an inability to communicate in Spanish further exacerbates conflicting arguments.

    Hindsight, I know, but asking for the complaints book, which all businesses are obliged to make available would more than likely have produced a) an explanation and b) a solution (given a basic knowledge of the language). AND the local authority are obliged to follow up if initiated.

    Your continued blogging may well be a suitable warning for future diners who, through innocence/ignorance, fall victim to the common restaurant practice of “buncing up” an order. Paella is the common one because (as you now acknowledge) it is generally assumed to be ‘para compartir’.

  10. Ok Stuart, we get it you hate Spain and France is all wonderful. Please stop generalizing about all Spaniards! Yes we judge things based on our own realities and I don’t doubt you had some bad experiences but give it a break. I have had some not so great experiences in Paris(and other places) but I don’t bash France in every post. And the system of “being connected” enchufado is not unique to Spain but I know you know that.
    With that being said I’m sure you will have lots to say to me; however,the couple stated they don’t hold ill will against Spain itself because of this very unfortunate incident.
    I sincerely hope that this couple can be able to get things sorted out and rational heads prevail.

  11. When I read a report in a newspaper I would expect the person wrting it to at least have gotten some sort of statement from the “accussed”by which I mean the police and restaurant. Theses people may be truthful and have suffered injustice. However with such onesided reporting it difficult to decide either way. I am afraid I do not count trip advisor as a reliable source of infomation as quoted here. I know myself i have used businesses that have very poor reviews and found them to be good. One mans meat and all that.
    The fear of being accused of drunkeness does I feel reflect the common behavior of very many British people when in Spain, we are perhaps all tarred with the same brush on occasion. The ID issue is a matter of Law here, you are required to carry it and show it on demand to an authorised person. It does seem to me taking into account what Mr. Cox himself is quoted as saying that they he should have looked at a menu when the bill seemed incorrect and he could have then paid up what he did indeed owe. He and his party could have then left the premisis disgruntled but free!

  12. I’m impressed that the victims in this case are not holding a grudge against Spain. I live in Spain and I have seen a lot of misdeeds by the police. They are spurred on by a corrupt government which is now dependent on its newly created police state so as to save its miserable neck from the angry mob. Presumably, these were local police officers, and this is a little surprising to me, since it is the CNP national police corps which has the worst reputation.

  13. Well reasoned, sensible post, Christine. Too much knee-jerk reaction on this publication. It’s getting like the Daily Wail. Personally I have had many bad experiences in many countries, especially in UK – hardly surprising, given that I spent most of my life there. Hey, maybe that’s why I left! Haha!

  14. Christine,
    you did’nt read my post because what you have accused me of simply is’nt true. Your rant against me takes no account of the numerous times where I have said here on the Olive press forum that these kind of things happen to ordinary Spanish people as well.

    I don’t hate Spain and have never said that – are you a Daily Mail reader you certainly seem like one.

    Paris is’nt France, the same as London is’nt England – what a stupid statement.

    The Spanish ‘enchufargo’ system is notorious and quite unlike any other in it’s intensity and I have lived and worked in quite a few countries.Indeed it is this very system that has created all Spain’s problems.

    Ever been taken to court in Spain, ever attended a single court case – no I thought not.

    Amparo has on the other hand written a very sensible post and indeed there is a complaints procedure. Geoff does’nt seem like an unreasonable man to me but it is a warning that many Brits would do well to remember – I have never visited a country without first learning some basics of the language and finding out basic facts about life there.

    When I first visited Spain in 68 I first had a good long conversation with a friend of my father who had a little fishermen’s cottage in a small fishing village – Torremolinos. He warned me that I should be very careful about what I said and to whom when in Spain – this was in the days of Franco – I heeded his advice and on a few occasions I was savvy enough to realise that Francistas were trying to make me say things that could cause me a lot of problems – it pays to be streetwise.

    Of course visiting a country and living there are two very different things.

  15. Finding it difficult to see why the Spain in rose tinted spectacle brigade cannot say how wrong it is for Mr Cox to have been punched in the head by a policeman whilst walking to get his passport? I suppose he made that up too?

  16. Nice to feel welcome, and then protected when the locals try to take the pxxx.
    Typical Spain … give us your money and don’t come back! They ain’t exactly good business-men, as those of us who live here all know.

  17. OK These people had a bad experience and judging from some of the comments so have some others. I have been living in Spain for six plus years. The Spanish locals have been welcoming from day one both businesses and private individuals, yes there are the odd miserable ones but hey you get that everywhere. My wife is not in the best of health and my neighbours ask after her nearly every day. If I have to go the airport to pick up a visitor one of my neighbours has our house key in case my wife needs help while I’m away. We are always invited to their family celebrations, I look after their dog if they go to see their son (lives in an apartment so no dogs). The locals help me with my Spanish but despite their best efforts it’s still pretty rubbish but better than most. We have found the health service to be excellent on the occasions we have needed it.

    Yes I’ve been ripped of while I have been here but not by the locals but by my so called countrymen. Is it perfect No but where is, bottom line so far I would rather be living with the Spanish imperfections than those in the UK which seems to go further down the tubes as each day passes. Looking at some of the vitriol published here it begs the question, why do you stay.

  18. Peter, I agree with all you say. We have been here 6 years too, and our experiences have been similar. We know a good few expats in the area and, apart from the occasional criticism, we are all happy to be here. N.B. My gafas are a neutral grey tint.

    Just got my first ever parking ticket yesterday at 71 and my first speeding fine 6 months ago. Am I happy about that? Certainly not but I was responsible.

    I am sure we have both met whingeing poms, but one tends to avoid them in real life. Not so easy in cyberspace.

  19. Blah I live in Spain and my neighbour is lovely. Blah I live in Spain and the health service is great. Blah I live in Spain and I can ski and sunbathe on the same day. On it goes, none of it to do, whatsoever, with why Mr Cox was punched in the head by a policeman for no reason.

  20. Spain is essentially a mob of belligerent, uneducated, filthy, stubborn, arrogant, racist, mostly drunk, corrupt sheep. I lived there for 2 years and witnessed this behavior in all the people daily. It’s a horrible culture once you see and learn the truth.

  21. Fred,

    What yopu say is true, but what do you expect when people change the subject to a general attack on Spain and the Spanish. Just take a look at the ludicrous post by the moronic Rich. Well, if he is not a moron, he is an evil troll. One wonders where he lived in Spain – perhaps an institute for the criminally insane !

    I thought I had seen some crazy posts on here, but the above post should be removed and the poster censured. That does not happen here though, does it ? Freedom of speech rules, OK!

  22. Bill,well said. I am an expat forum moderator and have been for many years. I do not think any site does itself any favours by allowing all posting to remain in the name of free speech. However this is the website of an online paper that prints onesided accounts and calls it news!

  23. @Bill, you may as well stop reading and commenting on all news websites if you want to question every single possibility in every published story. I tend to err on the side of Mr Cox since he gave a very well balanced account of what happened, and even said he held nothing against Spain after the incident. He has no axe to grind.

    @Mary, it may come as a surprise hat I actually worry much much about people like yourself than people like Rich, whose OTT post can of course be dismissed in a second. However, you get to censor what you don’t like, and that is a very dangerous thing indeed.

  24. It seems to have escaped Freds notice that I have bemoaned the fact of lack of the information in this item. In fact the items that i remove are done within strict guidlines which include the rules of the sites, agreed by members when they take up the free access and the law of the country in which the sites are published. No slash and burn at will from the moderators.

  25. Fred,

    I worry more about people like you, who jump in with both feet at every “news” item. I am however glad to see that you admit erring on Mr Cox’s side.

    I suppose you are in favour of free speech for all, no matter how vile that speech might be. Fair enough, but that gives me the right to denounce whatever displeases me.

  26. @mary, sure, you want free speech but on your terms. You already made a silly comparison between the UK and Spain; you are not fit to moderate if you are already so biased against the UK (as your comments above demonstrate).

    @Bill, erring is not an admission of anything, it’s just that Mr Cox’s side of the argument is the more plausible. Granada police made a statement yesterday and said that whilst walking back to the hotel to get his passport “the Cox’s suddenly started to attack the police”. I’ve never read such nonsense; I know a stitch-up when I see one.

    Btw, jumping in on a blog post is called “replying” and is the principal function of a blog, if you haven’t worked it out yet lol. And where did I say that I was in favour of “vile” speech? You’re grasping at straws now, Bill. Debating comments is always better than Mary’s approach. If an argument is weak let it be overturned in debate amongst peers.

  27. Fred you seem a little confused. I really do fail to understand you. My own experience of UK, and I have lived in many parts of it, inform what I said about Saturday nights there. How on earth does this affect my job? Can you not understand that a person can have their own opinions and be adult enough to put them aside for work purposes? You sir are one of the most judgemental people to comment on this thread. Neither you nor I witnessed the incidents, you say Mr.Cox’s side is more plausible, I say there is not enough information to make a judgement,which has been my main point all along.
    If you feel that you can”know” for sure what happened by what you have read that’s up to you. For myself I cannot make that absolute choice.
    BTW I spend my time between UK and Spain. It is my personal belief that you have to very wary of the police in Spain I a however able to take an unbiased view which is more than the story above does,my main point all along.

  28. I’m not confused Mary. I understand you have your own opinions, and so do I. In my opinion I don’t think the Cox’s look like people who would attack two Spanish policeman over a Paella. Being wary of the Spanish police (your words) reinforces my belief in this matter.

    Btw, funny how you lived all over the UK and yet still saw a punch up every Saturday night. I have lived in six different parts of the UK, including London, and never saw a single punch up. I must have been lucky.

  29. Fred, I cannot find the post where I mention saturday night in UK cities but i do not think i said I hade seen “punch ups” I would have been alluding to drunken behavior in general. Though thats not to say I have not seen drunks fighting. What you say seems to imply you doubt my word.If this is the case maybe I should send you a photo so you can judge if I am trustworthy? . I have lived in places as far apart as Penzance and Inverness also had a restaurant with an international cliental so understand the problems of sorting out issues when the people do not speak the same language.The Cox´s were not asked to pay for a meal they did not have, I know I have said this before! They refused to pay the price stated on the menu. There may be fault on both sides,if we had a photo of the rstaurant staff maybe we could decide if they “looked like” the sort of people we could believe! Perhaps I did not make myself clear re the Spanish police, the point i wanted to make was dispite the fact that I am wary of the police in Spain we are not given both sides of the story here so cannot truly judge the situation. As an aside, or is this all an aside I wonder, how often do we read about the quiet unassuming person who surprises everyone by committing a violent crime. Is it possible to judge a book by its cover or believe what we read in the papers?

  30. Mary, positive one sided news only is dangerous. I have been ripped off three times in Spain in restaurants, that I know of so maybe only three times in over 20 years that I have been going there is not too bad. The last time, the police were in the restaurant having a coffee but we told the owner of the restaurant in Spanish that they are thieves and we will not be coming back, we paid the rip off price. All of these thick people lost more money than they gained as we never went back, all for the sake of a few euros. All inland as well in Spanish areas. I have been stopped by the police about 5 times over the years, the last time was a month ago when I was there in a hire car and believe it or not all times have been a pleasant experience, I would rather not have been stopped but all times they were professional in handling me. You can see what happened with Mr Cox, a tourist comes along, they normally pay without too much trouble, he takes a moral stance when the bill arrives, the heavy handed brigade arrive and the Spanish police don’t like anything other than yes sir, no sir, so they man-handle and punch him. When dealing with any police in any Country they only like politeness and if you start arguing with them or putting your point across strongly it normally ends up going downhill. Mr Cox was brutally dealt with by the police and it is difficult to see why anyone can argue against that. Let me tell you of my worse experience. I purchased a brand new car from Citroen in Albox a few years ago when I lived there. I had a contract, and after I paid and took the car away the log book arrived at the garage, that is how it worked in Spain at that time and probably now as well. I had to collect it but the garage said they wanted another 2,000 euros in addition to the contract before they would give me the log book. I took exactly the same stance as Mr Cox and sat in the office at this garage until they gave me the log book. I told them to call the police, no response. After 20 minutes, which felt like 2 hours in a tense situation, I told them I was going to build a website about them and give them a lot of bad publicity. He gave way and handed over the log book. This is the first time I have spoken of this but on my life that is true. The price I had on the contract was the going rate as I checked it out with another Citroen garage about 30 miles away so it was not as if they had made a mistake on the pricing. I could have easily been Mr Cox when it came to 2,000 euros and I was not giving in, police or no police and I was not leaving that garage. I would probably have gone to a lawyer or stood outside with a large sign. Hopefully this will ocst them another customer so they all fail in the end with their rip off ways.

  31. Reap: I am sure many people have stories to tell about problems in many countries. You say “positive one sided news only is dangerous” I would say all onesided news is dangerous. I am more than aware that the media whcih produces”news” worldwide is very very rarely unbaised and that bad news sells papers. If the Olive press had at least tried to talk to the other sides in this tail i would not have gotten into this debate. I am just so feed up with the english language press in Spain printing stories that always but the expat in the right, I would love to given the chance to make my own mind up about issues.We none of us know mr. Cox yet his word it taken as gossip.Just because one person has had a bad experience, like yourself, it does not follow that everyones story of woe is the truth.

  32. Nothing more to add really Mary, the police statement is enough for me to make an opinion, indeed I came to the same opinion without reading the police report. There is no one-sided news here; we have both sides of the story from Mr Cox and also from the police. The only time we get one-sided reports is when people start censoring, sorry, ‘moderating’ out material.

  33. this is happening more and more. the spanish are trying everything to rip foreigners off.i have lived on costafor 12 years. ridiculouscover charges for a slice of bread, charges for butter, there are great value goodquality placesbutyou have to search for them. overpriced cerveza. and stubborn waiters who never put customer first.

  34. I note you have moderated your answers by ignoring many of the points i have made.
    Do you feel that you can “win” an argument by denegrating the job I do. Do you even understand the job I do?
    Moderating is not about impossing a personal bias it is about creating a safe place, free from sexism, racism, homophobia, coarse language, a place that everyone can feel comfortable looking in on. Not everyone is as outspoken or as forthright as we are but they should be given the same opportunity to express themselves.

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