Monday, February 19, 2007

The Strange Case of the Murdered Mayor

There was a board-game on the shelf, a game I hadn’t seen in years. If I tell you that Colonel Mustard was found, dead, in the library with a bloodied candlestick lying next to him, you will probably remember the afternoons sat on the floor all those years ago, surrounded by your family and friends, as you struggled to unmask the murderer.
I’ve forgotten if you used dice, or cards, but the game was called Cluedo.
In Spain, murders are usually as humdrum as they are anywhere else. Usually it’s a family member and the case is quickly solved. Sometimes it’s a terrorist, whether from the Basque Country (ETA), from Catalonia (Terra Lliure) or, as it appears, from North Africa as in the case of the 11th March 2004 bombings in Madrid.
Sad little murders performed by frustrated husbands or scheming step-mothers; together with dreadful killings committed by enraged and disturbed individuals to make a political point. Murders where the victims are usually unknown to the killers and the only criterion is ‘how many can I kill?’
However, Hercule Poirot would have been pleased this winter by the murder of the mayor of Fago, a tiny and forgotten village in the far north of Spain, located at the end of some sorry track high in the Pyrenean province of Huesca.
Fago has just thirty inhabitants and all of them were initially under suspicion after the mayor was found dead, in a ditch, with four heavy-bore shotgun wounds to his head and face.
There were many different motives as well. Miguel Grima had held back on hunting licences, had stopped the village bar from putting out tables and chairs and had upset the local farmers as well.
So one night, as the snow lay quietly on the hills around, a few sharp explosions woke the villagers.
On the death of the mayor, the nation’s press came to the tiny village to search for details. A gruesome murder and a handful of suspects. Was it Mrs Purple, who said she was in the kitchen… or Father Black who was in the church? Perhaps that vixen Miss Pink had something to do with it, or the postman, Mr White, or, as he clearly prefers to be called, Señor Blanco.
The police were also much in evidence, taking down the details of everyone’s alibis and checking the corpse and the crime-scene for clues.
The general feeling gathered by both the press and the detectives was that no one in the tight-lipped community cared for their alcalde. He had been mayor for more than a decade, and had managed to be involved in some fifty court-cases against his fellow villagers or the occasional home owning ‘week-enders’ for all kinds of spiteful reasons. There was no one to mourn him and, as one villager, loosened by a glass or two of wine, suggested to a Daily Telegraph correspondent - ‘revenge is a dish best served cold’.
The murder of the Partido Popular mayor occurred on January 12th and three weeks later, after the nation had been pulling out its collective hair in curiosity, a man stepped forward to take the blame. I did it, said the PSOE candidate for the village’s top job.
Santiago Mainar has been in prison since the beginning of February, and was briefly seen by the public as he was transferred to the provincial clink. ‘I’m innocent’, he shouted, to the evident frustration of the police.
A week later, another man turned himself in, claiming that he had pulled the trigger of the shot-gun: one-two, one-two. He was quickly released. ‘We have our man’ said a police spokesperson, unconvincingly.
The case is still open and the details remain elusive even if the motive is clear. But then, everyone had a motive. Perhaps they cooked up the whole plot in the bar (at an inside table). A bottle of blood-red wine and a few glasses. A whisper from a little girl. ‘Daddy, I found this game’.

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