The case of Michelle and Margaret is tragic in many ways. Not least, that the lives of two young women were changed forever by their injuries and the loss of their loved ones, but also by the cold and callous behaviour of those who were supposed to be helping them achieve justice in the years after the explosion. This is a shocking case and all of us at David Swindle Crime Solutions are dedicated to finding justice for Michelle and Margaret. Baywatch magazine in Spain kindly let us run an article about the girl´s case which you can read here.
Michelle´s grandmother and her friend took the girls, Michelle, 13 and Margaret, her cousin, 17, to Lloret de Mar as a change to going to Blackpool. The girls were excited when their airport coach arrived at the Brava Park Apartments. Michelle says “our room was still not ready, although we had been delayed, so we waited with other guests in reception. Gran eventually asked how much longer it would be and the Receptionist handed her a key". The party headed along the walkway with Gran leading and noticed a smell which they thought was cleaning fluid. Gran opened the door, the room was in darkness. She tried the light switch, nothing happened, so she walked to the windows and opened the curtains. All now inside the room, Michelle says “I bent to put down my case and as I straightened up there was a massive explosion and a fireball engulfed the room”. The blast blew out windows and the room filled with thick smoke. The girls, charred and covered in ash, managed to get to the access walkway. A man with a fire extinguisher arrived and doused their bodies, only then did the girls realise that they were still on fire. He went to look for other survivors, but there was little he could do. Michelle said, “Gran was critically injured and although still alive, she died some hours later in hospital. Her friend was already gone, we only discovered this later as nobody would answer when we asked". The only other memory the girls have is one of intense pain. They were taken by car to the local emergency clinic, where they were separated and their clothes and rings cut off their burned bodies. When the extent of their injuries was established, Margaret had 75% burns and Michelle 50%, the girls were transferred to the dedicated Burns Unit at Barcelona Hospital. There, areas of burned skin were cut off with scissors, saline solution put all over their bodies, catheters put in and then they were bandaged from head to toe.
Meanwhile police initially informed their families in Scotland that there had been an “accident”. Only some time later did they learn the true horror of events at the Brava Park. Next day the girls were flown home by air ambulance and taken to the Burns Unit at Bangour Hospital in West Lothian. Set up in 1940, it was one of the most advanced in Britain and led by Alexander Campbell Buchan, a pioneering plastic surgeon. The girls say “we shall be forever grateful to Mr Batchelor, our Consultant, a prodigy of Mr Buchan and all the staff who were fantastic to us. They prepared us physically and mentally for life ahead as burns survivors”. Many years of treatment and plastic surgery, pain and compression garments followed, but strong family and fantastic friends got them through.
A criminal case was brought against the Brava Park Apartment owners. A witness came forward saying he had smelt gas in the apartments and complained about it. There were suggestions by the defence that the party had entered the room, then gone out and left the gas on, causing the explosion when they returned. This view was shot down by a witness from Ayr. Having headed to her apartment, she returned to reception where Gran and the girls were still waiting. Setting off again she arrived at her apartment at 4.58pm and heard the blast, proving that the party could only just have arrived in their apartment when the explosion occurred. Even with these excellent witness accounts, the Court found insufficient evidence and Brava Park walked.
The family engaged a local Spanish solicitor. We will call him Mr R. He raised a civil case and won the family compensation of just under half a million pounds. Ninety thousand to be paid by the Brava Park insurers and the remainder by the owners. Mr R warned the family there could be an appeal and that could take up to an astounding 10 years. In time, the family asked where the money was, only to discover 90K had been paid out some years previous by the insurers. The money was passed to Mr R to forward to the family, but instead, he stole it. The family had no idea what happened to the remainder of the money. A second solicitor, let us call this one Mr S, was taken on to pursue Mr R. The police picked up Mr R, who was no longer a practising solicitor. On the day of the trial, there was a plea bargain. The girls were asked to not demand a jail sentence. Mr S, said that if they got a conviction in a criminal court, it would be far easier to take out a civil action to recover the remainder of the money. With some reluctance, and bearing in mind, the case was being conducted in Spanish which the girls did not speak, they accepted what their lawyer advised. Mr R went to court, pled guilty and was ordered to pay back the money in instalments. Michelle and Margaret recall, “we spoke to Mr S when he was at the Court on the day of the trial and asked him to confirm with the defence solicitor for Mr R if he had professional indemnity insurance when he represented us. This would mean if Mr R had not pursued the claim and the rest of the compensation was not paid by the owners of Brava Park and Mr R did not make any application to the Court to have the judgement enforced against them, we could pursue a civil case against him to recover the money from him/the insurers as he had not represented us to the professional standard required”. Mr S confirmed, yes, he did have professional indemnity insurance. So we thought we were fine”. The girls did get their 90,000 less legitimate expenses from Mr R over a long period of time, but nothing was said about the 420,000 still owed. As time passed, the girls asked Mr S if they could now pursue the 420,000 via the insurer, but the confirmation he had indemnity insurance became a maybe he had it, and then he said he was only shown quickly a piece of paper at the Court and he became more difficult to contact, less keen to answer the girl´s questions and eventually said there was nothing more he could do to help them.
the Brava Park owners paid the 420,000 where did it go? This case is now in its
4th decade and David Swindle, the well known Scottish detective/media face and founder
of David Swindle Crime Solutions says “the passage of time does not diminish
the right of victims to justice. This is shocking, it should be a very
simple case, Michelle and Margaret were awarded this money and someone else seems
to have it. Two British victims of a horrible life changing event have been let
down by legal representatives they placed their trust in.” Michelle and
Margaret say “its not the money, it’s the difference it would have made to our
lives for all these years. We have both worked, Margaret works with
youngsters through the Job Centre and Michelle worked for the NHS and now
has a website https://facetofacewithshell.
The strength of character of these two women cannot be denied, they said “what happened has not affected our love of Lloret de Mar and we would like to thank all the people who have helped us. Finally, our thanks to David Swindle, Susan Terris and Lesley McEwan of David Swindle Crime Solutions and Caroline de Jong of the British Consulate for their ongoing help and support in finding our missing money”.
If you can provide any information, you feel would be useful to this case, please contact David Swindle/Susan Terris at David Swindle Crime solutions by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on UK 07956 210600 or International +44 7956 210600.