IT has been a year marked yet again by the coronavirus pandemic, with much of our daily coverage focusing on the ever changing rules, updates on infection rates and the progress of Spain’s vaccine drive.
We have also reported this year on some extraordinary natural disasters beginning with Storm Filomena in January, which left much of Spain, including Madrid, under a blanket of thick snow.
Natural disasters continued with flooding, summer heatwaves, one of the most devastating wildfires to hit the Costa del Sol and finally a volcanic eruption on the Canary Island of La Palma.
We also dedicated many stories to environmental issues during 2021, from the continuing plight of the Mar Menor in Murcia, to the tragedy of Spain’s disappearing wetlands as aquifers are plundered to irrigate farmland.
Plus we delved into protests against mass solar farms that threaten to destroy some of the most beautiful corners of Spain.
Later in the year, a team of campaigners – who were fighting to reinstate the protective status of an ancient valley near Granada’s Alhambra – thanked the Olive Press for bringing much-needed and impactful awareness to their story.
But beyond these wider issues we have focused on the stories that most affect our readers and the expat communities in Spain.
This was the first year that the ramifications of Brexit were felt by Brits living in Spain and we covered the ongoing complications from struggles to exchange driving licences and complications with residency applications, to the scandal of extra post office fees and limitations of the 90-day-rule.
We wrote articles about the thousands of Brits left vulnerable thanks to Brexit and uncovered a massive fraud investigation involving a gestor service on the Costa Blanca that saw expat British pensioners arrested and left in limbo over residency applications.
We have followed the trials and tribulations affecting our readers thanks to a combination of travel restrictions and Brexit including a plane load of British visitors being turned away from Alicante airport because a border guard refused to acknowledge that their paperwork was in order.
We also caught up with the Brexit refugees who moved to Spain from Britain while they still could.
Our coverage in 2021 included the shocking experiences of patients at Torrevieja hospital with Brits reporting that they had been either ignored or mistreated and abused at the hands of staff including one Brit who went in for a gallstone operation, and came out minus his right leg after disastrous post-op complications.
Our year included reporting on numerous scams perpetrated against expats in Spain.
We covered several stories about the plight of readers from a man who had to pay to have his dream home demolished after falling foul of planning rules to a single mother evicted from her home after council notices were sent to the wrong address.
Then there were the horror rental stories, from the traumatised mother who moved her family into a cockroach infested home after being hoodwinked by rental agents in Malaga, to the couple who returned from holiday to find the locks changed, the contents of their home removed by the landlord and their cat stolen.
Our journalists have worked on the ground on some of the biggest cases of the year, starting with the mysterious death of Scot, Kirsty Maxwell, who plummeted from a 10th floor apartment while on holiday in Benidorm with her friends.
We uncovered the ease with which a convicted British paedophile was able to change his name and find work in schools in Madrid where he was arrested for committing sex crimes against children. Our investigation won praise from the UK’s leading safeguarding charity and was mentioned in reports to both British and Spanish legislators.
We exclusively revealed the identity of a cake making expat accused of using her baking business to make quick cash before vanishing and leaving ‘dozens’ of wedding clients out of pocket.
Madeleine McCann case
The Olive Press has been continually leading the world’s media over the Madeleine McCann case this year.
Following its many twists and turns, we have published exclusive after exclusive on the missing British toddler, who vanished from the Algarve in 2007.
As well as revealing many new details on the prime suspect Christian Brueckner, we looked into other possible criminals linked to the case.
Our research saw editor Jon Clarke, visiting Portugal over half a dozen times in 2021 as well as discovering links to Brueckner in Granada and Valencia.
He even went to Germany on two occasions to track down Brueckner’s family and to grill Chief Prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters.
In a hard-hitting interview, which features in detail in Clarke’s book My Search for Madeleine, Wolters revealed how Brueckner was being probed over ‘at least six separate cases’.
He added he expected him to be arrested and charged in ‘early 2022’ and that he was ‘certain’ he took Maddie.
Our Maddie stories have been among the most read this year, in fact the exclusive, German and Portuguese cops meet to swap evidence on prime suspect who ‘wanted to catch something small’ in Madeleine McCann case, was the second best read story of the year.
Most recently, in December, Clarke revealed that Brueckner would be charged in February with the rape of an Irish girl in 2004 in Portugal.
He will also be charged with two separate counts of child molestation, and later in the spring his involvement in the Maddie kidnapping.
It is expected to be a busy year ahead on the Madeleine front.
But it hasn’t all been doom and gloom. 2021 saw the launch of our dedicated travel section where we publish features and reviews from across Spain.
This year saw us undertake horse riding adventures in Andalucia, culinary discoveries in Extremadura and hang out in the coolest venues in Ibiza as well as try out some of the best new restaurants in Spain.
Plus we shared some of the most interesting tales we came across in 2021 from the mystery of how the Cold War spy who met the Kennedys ended up dead in a ravine in Spain to the extraordinary story of the man who dedicated his life to building a cathedral out of scrap.
We sought to explore the context behind Spain’s biggest news stories, following the continuing scandals plaguing Spain’s royal family, looking into why PM Pedro Sanchez wants to ban prostitution, and what the hell is going on with Spain’s rat population.
Overall it’s been a busy year.
So a big thank you to all our readers and subscribers for your continued support of what we do at the Olive Press.
Happy New Year!!