Kitchen hand held over toxic tapas

A kitchen hand at a popular restaurant in Asturias has been arrested on suspicion of deliberately poisoning his workmates.

Kitchen hand held over toxic tapas
Statue of cider waiter in Asturias. Photo: Gonmi

The dishwasher at the well-known El Lavaderu cider bar in Gijón is facing 14 counts of poisoning, said the region's El Comercio newspaper this week.  

In a case that the paper described as something out of a crime novel, the kitchen worker is suspected of serving up a nasty splash of calcium cyanide with the restaurant´s dishes for as long as eight years.

The substance is commonly used in the treatment of drug addiction and alcoholism. But when it is mixed with alcohol, it can cause everything from heart arrhythmia to nausea and anxiety. Over longer periods, heart attacks and multi-organ failure are also possible.   

The alarm bells in this case first rang back in May 2011 with the death of the chef at El Lavaderu — a man who went by the nickname of Juan El Pistolas (or Pistol Juan). An autopsy after his death revealed large quantities of calcium cyanide. But the chef hadn't been undergoing any drug or alcohol treatments.

Police soon discovered that other staff at the restaurant had been suffering from mystery health issues as well. These problems only cleared up when those workers hung up their tea towels and stopped working at the restaurant.

According to El Comercio, one of the restaurant's waiters even ended up in hospital three times.

One local hotelier described the suspect as a normal fellow who didn't cause problems. "We can´t believe he has a story like that behind him and that he was intentionally trying to slowly kill his workmates," he told the Asturian daily.

If that is the case, the charges against the man – known for legal reasons only as Andrés Avelino F.F. – could soon be boosted to attempted murder.

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Spain seizes first underwater drug smuggling drones

Spanish police said on Monday they had seized six underwater drones capable of transporting large quantities of drugs from Morocco to Spain and broken up a gang suspected of manufacturing them.

Spain seizes first underwater drug smuggling drones

Officers seized six of the so-called “drone submarines” and arrested eight people in raids carried out in Barcelona and the southern provinces of Málaga and Cádiz, a police statement said.

Police said it was the first time they had seized such devices, which are officially known as unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).

They believe the gang made underwater drones “capable of bearing big loads” for use by other criminal organisations.

“These devices could allow drug traffickers to transport large quantities of narcotics remotely across the Strait of Gibraltar,” the statement said.

The drones had up to 12 motors each and a range of 30 kilometres (18 miles).

That is easily enough to manage an underwater crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar separating Spain from Morocco which measures just 15 kilometres (nine miles).

Three of the drones were due to be delivered to a French drug ring to “transport significant amounts of cocaine”, the statement said.

The gang also built false bottoms into vehicles to allow gangs to smuggle drugs, as well as “unmanned semi-submersible vessels” that could carry up to 200 kilogrammes (440 pounds) of product.

Their customers included criminal gangs in Denmark, France, Italy and Spain, police said.

Spain’s physical proximity to Morocco, a major hashish producer, and its close ties with former colonies in Latin America, a major cocaine producing region, have made it a key entry point for drugs bound for Europe.