EXCLUSIVE: BY EUGENE COSTELLO
A BRITISH businessman and his wife have been robbed in a car-jacking incident in Spain by criminals posing as ‘good Samaritans’, the Olive Press can reveal.
Company director Chris Ogilvie-Taylor and his wife Linda were forced over by motorbike robbers in the heart of Barcelona during the broad daylight attack.
The couple, 65 and 64, were en-route from their home in Porto, northern Portugal, to their holiday home in Palma, Mallorca, via ferry, when they were attacked.
The couple, Chris originally from London and Linda from Porto, had decided to drive into the Catalan capital for lunch with three hours to spare before their ferry.
“I guess we looked like wealthy targets with the car being on Portuguese plates,” said Ogilvie-Taylor, who was driving a Mercedes GLC ‘SUV’.
“I’m pretty certain we were tailed as we left the port.”
They were finally apprehended as they drove near the zoo by Parc de la Ciutadella.
“Someone on a scooter tapped on my window, pointing to my rear tyre, and at that moment the onboard computer indicated the tyre had deflated rapidly,” he continued.
He pulled over and got out of the car to inspect the tyre, while the rider explained to his wife, who speaks good Spanish, that he had seen the tyre blown.
“He said he knew a mechanic who would be able to bring a spare and help change it and then he drove off, promising to return with his friend.”
It was then they suddenly realised that the man had been distracting them while an accomplice had opened the rear door and snatched two expensive designer handbags.
The Louis Vuitton and Caroline Herrera bags belonging to his wife contained their passports, credit cards and some cash.
“A haul of over €10,000,” added Ogilvie-Taylor.
It emerged the tyre had been slashed by a long knife – suggesting the hijack could have got very violent if they had tried to stop it.
“It’s a classic ‘Good Samaritan’ theft, which I call the modern equivalent of lawless 18th-century highwaymen,” continued Ogilvie-Taylor.
“The fact it can take place in broad daylight in a modern, European city like Barcelona, is amazing.”
Last year, Spanish police warned tourists about a migrant gang who were slashing car tyres, then robbing owners by posing as Good Samaritans when they were forced to pull over.
The gang from eastern Europe preyed on tourists on a 450-mile stretch of the AP-7 motorway, running from Catalunya’s border with France to Murcia.
“We are experienced travellers, we know of Barcelona’s reputation for pickpockets and so would never go into town with more than, say, €20 in our wallets but nothing could have prepared us for being ambushed in this manner.
The police were initially professional, sympathetic and helpful, with the case being investigated by detectives from La Guàrdia Urbano. So he was shocked to receive an email to tell him that the CCTV at the cashpoint they used was not working, they had no further evidence and that the case was being passed to the general Catalunya police, the Mossos d’Esquadra.
“After that, the police stopped responding to our emails. And we complained to the Mayor’s office at the Ayuntamiento, demanding to know whether this type of crime was on the increase. All we received was a lengthy, self-serving statement about how they had put record numbers of police onto the street in order to make the city safe, which provoked a hollow laugh.”
Intriguingly, investigators believe they stole £42,800 (50,000 euros) in cash and valuables including designer handbags and jewellery, as happened to the Ogilvie-Taylors.
A number of reports in the UK press in March 2019 stated that CCTV footage filmed gang members in the act, preying on victims at toll booths along the AP7.
One video showed a gang member sneaking up to a Porsche that had stopped, slashing the rear tyre with a knife and then rushing back to the passenger seat of the vehicle that his accomplice was driving.
These events came to light when six member of the gang were remanded in custody by a judge at the court in Reus, Tarragona, also in Catalunya and less than a 90-minute drive southwest of Barcelona
Violent robbery in Barcelona itself appears to be on the increase. The Mossos d’Esquadra has identified 159 recidivist ‘career’ criminals specialising in street robberies, says Spanish newspaper El Peridico. And of the 159, says Mossos d’Esquadra, some 11% have committed violent robberies.
In June of this year, the Mossos initiated the “Tremall” project to combat violent robberies by targeting repeat offenders. In August, they reported some success, with the arrest of 360 criminals linked to 1,280 violent robberies, according to Metropoli Abierta, a Barcelona-focused news website.
None of these initiatives have brought any succour to the Ogilvie-Taylors.
“Subsequently,” says Ogilvie-Taylor, “we have learned that these gangs post scouts at the ferry port to advise others up ahead that a wealthy tourist is on their way.
“And that people in the know do not drive out of the port but instead park up within the ferry compound and take a taxi to a restaurant, so for the Ayunatamiento to act as though they are not aware of this type of crime is disingenuous, to say the least. It’s happening under their very noses.”
The Olive Press approached the press office of the Ajuntament de Barcelona but they declined to comment.