The demonstration in favour of Leonard and Helen Prior took place today in Vera (Almería). The Priors, unwillingly known as 'the most famous ex-pats in Spain', had their house demolished in front of them by the Junta de Andalucía in a surprise attack a little over eight years ago, in January 2008. Their house wasn't on a floodplain, or on the beach, or in an area of surprising beauty, or in front of a planned motorway. It's just a quiet backwater outside Vera, where, since the demolition, a number of houses have been built. The perpetrators, hoping to teach the Vera Council a lesson (it was run by a minor party, the Partido Andalucista) and hoping that the foreign owners of a holiday home would return to the UK, were thwarted in their plan. The same mayor still runs the same town, and the Priors remain as well, living in their old garage, now converted into a bedroom.
That's Gerardo Vásquez in the picture (left) - he's the British lawyer who has managed to get the Spanish Government to change the law on 'illegal houses' - now, there can be no demolition without a full refund to any 'buyer in good faith'.
Too late for the Priors, unfortunately.
The picture also shows Helen Prior (centre) and her husband Leonard (on the right). Len is holding two photographs: a before and after of their home. Helen says: 'Pictures speak a thousand words. This was our retirement dream. And this is our living nightmare'.
Some of the supporters from the AUAN and the eastern Málaga group SOHA are in this picture. Some local politicians (and even a deputy from the Junta de Andalucía) were present. The other speakers were Maura Hillen (AUAN), Me (a nice picture below), Philip Smalley (SOHA), the Mayor of Vera Féliz López. and Gerardo Vásquez, who rolled the presentation up with words of support from other organisations, including the AUN, the AMA and the AGADE (Valencia, Cantabria and Galicia, respectively).
My theme was not to merely support the Priors, who in eight years had moved nowhere, resolved nothing. One must think of the other people, I said, those half a million home-owners who are in a similar situation across Andalucía and beyond. Houses without papers, worth nothing. Homes without water or electricity, with elderly residents, who can't afford to leave. Who must subsist in poor or inhuman circumstances.
But, let's forget them too. The tragedy is wider still. The people of Almería - a province with 30% unemployment - have lost untold riches in foreign investment, in jobs. All thanks to this one case known to readers and TV viewers across Europe: the case of Helen and Len Prior, who lost their home in a barbaric attack in January 2008.