NEWS FROM AROUND THE REGION

with Madeleine McMullin

Fire in Torreilles – Death of Fireman in Accident

A fire engine was involved in an accident in Baho while on its way to a fire at Torreilles.  One officer, a professional firefighter died and 3 other volunteers were seriously injured and are in a critical but stable condition.  The fire started on the banks of the Agly in St Laurent de Salanque on the way to le Barcarès at about 3pm on Wednesday 13th.  Fanned by the strong winds it jumped the river and spread towards Torreilles Plage where 4 campsites had to be evacuated, although nobody was hurt.  The RD80 was cut off in both directions between Canet and Leucate.  A second fire broke out on the 14th but was quickly put out. The fire destroyed 22 mobile homes, as well as tents and vehicles and 80 people were left without anywhere to stay, and with no food or even in some cases clothes as they were in their swimsuits when the fire started. The mayor organised an appeal on the village’s facebook page and the locals rallied round with food, clothes, towels etc. The town has a “communal reserve” which was started in 2014 after the floods which allows them to come to people’s aid in times of emergency.

Fireman honoured

Bruno Collard, the chief fire officer who died on his way to fight the fire at Torreilles was honoured in a ceremony attended by Bernard Cazeneuve on Wednesday 20th July.

Benitez affair: bodies still not found

3 years after mother and daughter Marie-Josée and Allison Benitez disappeared, investigators yesterday searched tanks in the garage of their apartment but found nothing.  They disappeared from their flat in Vernet on the 14th July 2013.  Allison was 19, a candidate for Miss Roussillon and her mother was 53.   Investigations were not helped by the suicide of father and husband, Francisco Benitez, 3 weeks later in the Joffre barracks where he was in charge of recruiting for the Foreign Legion.  He left a video proclaiming his innocence and changed from chief witness to prime suspect.  Searches were carried out in the sewage treatment works at Leucate where Francisco Benitez had been seen in the days following the 14th July but nothing was found.  The searches in the garage were in 2 tanks: one for grey water and the other for oil.  They were carried out at the request of the brother of Marie-Josée who wanted to be sure that the bodies were not there.  The case is being re-examined to make sure nothing has been missed and the disappearance of Simon Alvès de Oliveira, another ex-partner of Francisco Benitez, in Nimes in 2004 in similar circumstances could now be linked with it.  The family are asking that a psychological profile of Francisco Benitez is built up from the witness reports of his mistresses in Paris and Leucate, and his military colleagues.  Francisco Benitez said that his wife and daughter left voluntarily for Toulouse after an argument over an electricity bill, and a text message was sent from her phone to this effect on the afternoon of the 14th.  At that point the phone was still in the flat.  Neither it nor the daughter’s phone were ever turned on again afterwards.  It is assumed that Francisco killed the mother in the morning and then picked up his daughter from a party for the Miss Roussillon contestants and killed her too.  Traces of Allison’s DNA were found in a washing machine in the barracks and in a freezer which a colleague helped him transport from the flat to the barracks on 17th July, so it is likely that he got rid of the body in the 3 days in between their last known whereabouts and the moving of the freezer.

Drunk driver nearly hits a merry go round in St Cyprien

About 11pm on Saturday evening the driver of a Golf came screaming to a halt near a merry go round by the tourist office in St Cyprien.  The municipal police answered calls from the public and came to intervene.  The driver who was visibly drunk, refused to park his vehicle and had to be forced out of the car by the police.  He was breathalysed at the station and had 2.23g/l of alcohol in his blood.  The 39 year old who lives in the village was arrested for recurrent drunk driving and brought before the court in Perpignan where he was sentenced to 8 months, banned from driving and had his car confiscated.

A year in prison for Feria stabbing

A brawl broke out between 2 youths early in the morning of Sunday in the middle of Céret, when the bars had just closed. In the fight which started over a look, one of the 2, aged 36 and from Perpignan was badly injured with a knife by the other, aged 34 and from Ceret. The Perpignanais was taken to hospital in Perpignan where he was treated and then released as the wound was not too serious. The Ceretan ran away but was later arrested and held. The incident started with a fight during which the guy from Perpignan headbutted the man from Céret. Friends separated them and thought that was an end of it, but the man from Céret ran home, grabbed a kitchen knife, returned and stabbed the other 3 times in the back. He didn’t deny the crime but said that he did not really remember it, as he had drunk 30 beers and taken heroin substitutes prescribed for an old drug addiction. He agreed that it was out of all proportion and apologised. Given the fact that he was already known to the police for 3 different crimes he was sentenced to a year in prison starting immediately.

Fire in Estagel & Cabestany

28 hectares were destroyed in 2 fires on Saturday 16th July – the first above Estagel where 80 firemen with 20 vehicles, 4 planes and a helicopter fought the fire for an hour before getting it under control after 26 hectares had gone up in smoke. At more or less the same time a fire was getting underway in Cabestany which destroyed 2 hectares. There were no injuries and no material damages at either fire.

12 year old girl bitten by a viper

On Saturday the emergency services at Osséja were called out as a young girl had been bitten by a viper. She was taken by helicopter to the hospital at Perpignan. According to one of the police officers, viper bites are rare in Capcir.

Man found dead at the Sierra de Maury

A cyclist who was riding in the mountains found the body of a 36 year old man from Cambrai, Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie up above the ski resort on the Camporells road. The body was taken away by helicopter and doctor and a team of investigators were looking into the cause of death.

Fire on A9

On Monday 18th July a fire broke out between Le Boulou and Le Perthus which ran through 25 hectares although only 15 of them were burnt. About 130 fire officers were involved in fighting it and the A9 was shut in both directions. It was reopened around 5pm only to be shut again later in the evening due to a lorry fire. It is the 11th fire in the department in less than a month since the fire in Cerbère which burnt 120 hectares on 19th June. In total about 250 hectares have gone up in smoke in the P-O since the beginning of the season.

Lavender festival in Mosset

A celebration of the lavender cultivated around the Corbiac Monastery in Mosset has been organised for 24th July, with a day of activities on the theme of the flowers, including a demonstration of distilling, a conference on essential oils and various other activities, all free, with the exception of refreshments.

Paedophile caught by cyber patrol

A 54 year old Perpignan man has been sentenced to 2 years in prison, with 1 and a half years of it suspended plus 3 year’s probation and prohibition of any contact with minors. He was caught by a routine cyber patrol which found him downloading and viewing pornographic videos and images of very young children. The police first came across him in chat rooms and on video gaming sites in March and arrested him at the end of June. The unemployed man who lives alone was sentenced for a sexual attack on a minor in the 1990s.

Regional opposition contest new name

The right and centre opposition group in the regional assembly has written to Manuel Valls asking him to reject the proposed name for the region when it is put to him in October. They would like him to call it Languedoc-Roussillon-Midi-Pyrénées as Occitanie is too divisive in their opinion.

Madeleine McMullin lives in Palalda from where she runs her marketing business Marketing66.  She has worked both in the UK and abroad, with big brand names in the interiors and design industries such as Wedgwood, Denby, Sebastian Conran, Laura Ashley, Hemingway Design……..

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