5 Jun, 2024 @ 10:16
3 mins read

Major manhunt underway in central Spain after brother of prominent former politician gunned down in broad daylight over reported drug debt

Armed police at the scene of the shooting of Borja Villacis
Credit: Policia Nacional

A MAJOR manhunt was underway in Madrid on Wednesday morning after the brother of the city’s former Deputy Mayor Begoña Villacis was gunned down in broad daylight over a reported drug debt. 

Borja Villacis, who was the younger sibling of the one-time politician with the centre-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) party, was shot dead on Tuesday afternoon at around 12.30pm on the M-612 motorway in the northern Fuencarral-El Pardo district of the city. 

The 41-year-old had a long criminal record, stretching back some 20 years thanks to his membership of far-right football gangs such as the Ultra Sur, made up of Real Madrid followers, and a splinter group, the neo-Nazi Outlaw Madrid. 

He was also involved in a number of cases of assault, as well as being among 27 people who were arrested in a police operation that seized 239 kilos of cocaine and more than 700 kilos of hashish, according to Spanish daily El Pais. Villacis was suspected of being in charge of protecting stashes of drugs before their sale and distribution.

Shotgun and a rifle

According to press reports, Villacis was targeted on Wednesday by three occupants of a vehicle on the road, and was shot at with a shotgun and a 7.62mm calibre rifle.

As a visible blood trail at the scene showed, Villacis managed to reach the side of the road but died there from his wounds. 

A second occupant of the vehicle was reportedly left with a bullet wound to the head, and was delivered to a Madrid hospital by the driver of another car shortly after the shooting.

He is reported to be a Spanish national aged 43, and was being treated last night for his injuries. His life was not said to be in danger. 

While the assassination had all the hallmarks of being a professional job, events soon took a somewhat amateurish turn. 

The apparent occupants of the car that had been involved in the shooting later stopped on the side of the M-603 motorway not far from where they had found their target.

The video captured by employees of a nearby company of the alleged assailants changing the number plates on their rental vehicle.

There, in full view of occupants of a hotel and office buildings opposite, they proceeded to change the number plates of their vehicle.

The scene was recorded by several members of the public, some of whom can be heard in the recordings – which quickly went viral – calling and alerting the police to what was happening.

The videos show two male occupants of the car making their way into scrubland behind the parked vehicle, while the female occupant drives off, her BMW clearly damaged on its left side. 

Both the BMW used by the alleged killers and the car that Villacis was travelling in were reportedly rented.

Shortly after, the woman was arrested at a petrol station in the south of the city, near the Carabanchel district. 

Top: A video released by the Policia Nacional of the female suspect arrested after the shooting.

When detained, she claimed to be the victim of a kidnap. However, she was quickly identified as having an extensive criminal record, and of belonging to a clan of drug traffickers based in Toledo. 

Police launched a major search on Tuesday afternoon for the other two occupants of the vehicle.

As well as armed officers, drones, sniffer dogs and horseback riders also took part in the operation. 

The men were still being sought on Wednesday morning, but given that they have now been identified the police said it was just a matter of time before they were found. 

A bare-knuckle fight? 

According to a report in Spanish daily El Español, the fatal confrontation may not have been related to a drug debt, but rather a long-running feud that had escalated. 

The same report stated that Villacis had arranged a bare-knuckle fight with members of the family, but was met instead with an armed ambush. 

The family of Begoña Villacis is reported to be ‘destroyed’ by the news of their relative’s death, but have requested privacy. 

The 46-year-old politician served as the deputy mayor of Madrid from June 2019 to June 2023, under the leadership of Partido Popular Mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida. Her political career stretches back to 2015.

At the 2023 municipal elections, however, her party failed to win a single seat, at which point she decided to abandon politics having run as the number-one candidate on the Ciudadanos list.

Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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