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CRIME

Spanish family seeks canonisation of London attack ‘skateboard hero’

Five years after the London Bridge attack that left eight dead, the family of a Spaniard who died defending a woman with his skateboard are seeking his canonisation, his father told AFP Friday.

Ignacio Echeverria's parents
Ignacio Echeverria's parents, pose with a George Medal, which was awarded to their son. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor / POOL / AFP

Ignacio Echeverria, a 39-year-old financial expert from Madrid, was at the scene on June 3rd, 2017 when three men rammed passers-by in a van before going on a stabbing spree in the nearby Borough Market area.

He rushed to help a woman who was being attacked, hitting the assailant with his skateboard but was himself fatally stabbed. Hailing his bravery, the British press named him “the skateboard hero”.

Speaking to AFP by phone, his father Joaquin Echeverria said the family was hoping to have him recognised as a saint by the Catholic Church.

The family was gathering all the information about his case which would be presented to the Church so it could examine whether “to proceed with his possible canonisation”, he said.

The idea was first raised by Madrid’s auxiliary bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino after holding a mass to mark the first anniversary of Echeverria’s death, pointing to the Church’s new stance on canonisation for someone who “voluntarily offers” their life for another.

Although his father knows the process may be very long and that they will also need to show that his son performed a miracle, he believes there’s “a chance they will consider canonising him” because of the “generosity he showed in death” and his “exemplary life”.

He was “a devout person” who actively participated in the Catholic community, made donations and “used to give Catholic education classes at a parish” in London, he said.

“It makes us happy to think that Ignacio’s death made an impact and served some purpose,” he said.

In Spain, Ignacio Echeverria’s bravery has been recognised in several ways with the late banker posthumously awarded the Great Cross of the Order of Civil Merit for “extraordinary services” and several skate parks in Madrid named after him.

And there has even been a “Skate Hero” musical written in his honour tha documents the last 24 hours of his life before the attacks.

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CRIME

Spain investigates mysterious ‘needle spiking’ attacks on women in nightclubs

Spanish police are investigating a string of cases of women being injected with possibly spiked syringes in crowded clubs, following similar incidents in Britain and France. However, no chemical trace has been found yet in the victims.

Spain investigates mysterious 'needle spiking' attacks on women in nightclubs

The worrying trend of ‘needle spiking’ (pinchazos in Spanish) in bars and nightclubs that has been seen across Europe in recent weeks has reached Spain.

The strange attacks, the first of which reportedly happened in October 2021 in the Scottish city of Dundee, can cause sudden dizziness, memory loss and then, usually the morning after, bruises caused by what experts believe are needle pricks.

In Spain, the first reports of these needle spiking attacks have been in the Basque Country, Catalonia, Andalusia, Aragon and Cantabria.

The Ertzaintza (Basque police) are investigating as many as a dozen neede spikings in bars and restaurants across the northern region in the last two weeks alone, while national police in Andalusia are investigating two women claiming to have been victims of ‘chemical submission’ due to needle spiking in a nightclub in El Puerto de Santa María in Cádiz.

Catalonia and the Basque Country are the regions where the largest number of cases have been reported so far, and the complaints are familiar: young women who feel a prick or sharp pain while dancing or waiting at the bar in a cramped environment, and then feel dizzy and disorientated and have a physical injection mark on their body.

Often the needle pricks are accompanied by memory loss.

Social panic

Worrying though the attacks are, it must be noted that scientists have only detected one case in Spain (in the northern region of Asturias) where the victim’s body was found to have a toxic substance present.

The victim in question was a minor, so it is unclear if they were in a bar or nightclub at the time. The 13-year-old girl reported a sharp pain in her leg, and later tested positive for liquid ecstasy after analysis at the Cabueñes Hospital.

But this seems to be the exception.

Physical needle pricks without any chemical or toxic traces have been the case in almost every other case across Europe.

By January 2022, in Britain there had already been already 1,300 complaints about needle attacks. Of these, zero cases were confirmed with chemical evidence.

In France, of 800 or so reported needle spiking cases, not a single chemical trace was found in any of the victims tests.

In the medical analysis of Spanish victims, according to police sources, no traces of toxic substances have been found besides the single case in Dijon.

Mireia Ventura, head of analysis at Energy Control, said in the Spanish press this week that “we do not deny that there are aggressions with something sharp, but this story that they [the victims] are inoculated drugs with a syringe in nightclubs sounds fanciful to us, there are several pieces that do not fit in.”

Not a single syringe has been found on any premises nor have any culprits been identified.

None of the dozens of recent victims in Spain have tested positive for toxic substances in medical tests, nor have they suffered sexual assault, harassment or theft.

As sociologist Robert Bartholomew wrote in ‘Psychology Today’, “anyone who believes she was drugged while on the go must be taken seriously and her claims thoroughly investigated. However, a recent wave of news involving syringes has all the characteristics of a social panic.”

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