Friday, March 20, 2009


“La ley suprema es el bien del pueblo.” - Marco Tulio Cicerón.

I admit I tell this story second hand but the person who informed me about it was a journalist not given to exaggeration.

I believe it took place in the 1980s on the outskirts of a village in the mountains behind Marbella.

A Scandinavian national, who lived alone in the house, was brutally murdered at night although he had a shotgun that was also found at the scene. At the time he had a young Briton staying with him who was not there that night and although he initially fell under suspicion he was released as long as he stayed with a designated family for the course of the investigations.

The murder scene was horrific so he had not been killed by chance during a break-in or robbery, indeed there was nothing missing. The Guardia Civil headed up the murder investigation but it later petered out without anybody being charged and the Briton was free to leave.

A year or so later my informant met the Spanish lawyer who’d acted for the Briton in Marbella and asked him what happened.

“La ley del pueblo,” he replied. It is his belief that the man was murdered by a person or persons from the village. Although he lived alone, he employed local women to clean and care for the house. It is presumed that he, shall we say, caused a nuisance and hence the boyfriend, husband or family dealt out their own form of justice.

Remember these were the days when a woman of a village on the road would not accept a lift from a man as word would soon spread that she’d been seen in a stranger or so-and-so’s car. Shame would be hers.

And what about the Guardia Civil? In a small community like this village they knew the locals and the locals knew them. ‘La ley del pueblo’ – ‘the law of the village’ held sway over and above any court of justice and the locally based officers would have interfered with that at their peril.

Those events were only just over 20 years ago and the mentality is ingrained in the Spanish character especially in small communities. So when horrific crimes are committed in Spain today, especially in rural areas, and you are looking for a motive never forget ‘la ley del pueblo’.

1 comment:

Prospero said...

Not quite 20 years ago, a house I was staying at was broken into on New Year's Eve - I was out celebrating, of course. When the Guardia came to 'investigate' I asked what would have happened if I had been there and beat the intruder up.
The reply from the 'investigating' officer was: "Make sure he was dead and take the body into the forest for the pigs to eat. But don't let anyone see you." I took it as an official answer, though I haven't had the opportunity to try it out, fortunately.