THE parents of a Spanish schoolgirl murdered by a British serial killer are suing the Spanish authorities for failing to act on warnings from Scotland Yard that the sex attacker known as the Holloway Strangler had fled to the Costa del Sol. They blame police ineptitude for not capturing Tony King long before he killed their 17-year-old daughter.
Spanish and British police are blaming each other for the bureaucratic bungles that have led to both countries demanding a change in the rules about keeping a watch on violent criminals who move abroad.
British police suspect that King, 40, made a number of visits back to Britain from his home on the Costa del Sol to attack more women over the past eight years.
He was sentenced to 36 years in prison this week for sexually assaulting and strangling Sonia Carabantes, 17, after ambushing her in 2003. He will go on trial again in Málaga next year for the killing of a Spanish woman in October 1999.
Scotland Yard’s Serious Crime Directorate says that it wants to question him about seven murders — including that of the schoolgirl Millie Dowler in March 2002 — and three rapes and the disappearance of two young women in Ealing, West London, in 1999.
In Spain there is growing support for a public inquiry into why King was not caught sooner. José Maria Garzón, the lawyer representing the Carabantes family, says that the Spanish Government “has civilian responsibility for not controlling Tony King”.
Spanish police claim that they mislaid Scotland Yard’s first e-mail warning about King in September 1998. It was not until January 1999 that police in Málaga responded to a second warning. But they misunderstood the message and did not realise that the British police were warning them about a violent sexual predator.
Spanish investigators insist that Britain did not send them a full dossier on King until after he was arrested in September 2003. By that time he is thought to have killed four women in Costa del Sol resorts.
King fled to Spain in 1997 after being freed from jail in Britain. The London-born barman had been sentenced to ten years for attacks on women. He would throttle them with flex until they fell unconscious, then sexually assault them.
He was released in 1991 but jailed afterwards for five years for robbing a woman at gunpoint. He escaped to Spain after allegedly attacking a woman in Leatherhead, Surrey, though police failed to extradite him when the courts ruled that there was insufficent evidence to bring him to Britain.
Scotland Yard detectives are not expected to visit King in prison until after his second murder trial in Spain, for the killing of Rocio Wanninkhof, 19. In October 1999 the au pair had her throat cut and was stabbed 21 times.
A month after King was arrested the Spanish Interior Minister said it would create a database between the national police and civil guard. After a change of government in March last year, this has still not happened.
ON THE TRAIL OF TONY KING
1986 Tony Bromwich, 19, from Holloway, is sentenced to ten years for throttling and sexually assaulting five women
1997 Changes name, moves to Costa del Sol
September 18, 2003 Former partners alert police. King admits murder of Sonia Carabantes and Rocio Wanninkhof and other rapes
September 23, 2003 King’s fingerprints are found by Spanish police to match those of the Holloway Strangler