Thursday 22 August 2019

Chef faces court over murder of Irish holidaymaker in Spain

John Pender (inset) died following an attack in Spain
John Pender (inset) died following an attack in Spain
Shock death: Dubliner John Pender was drinking at an Irish bar on the Costa del Sol when he was stabbed in the men’s toilet

Gerard Couzens and Alan O'Keeffe

An Englishman has appeared in court in Spain after being arrested on suspicion of murdering Irish charity worker John Pender in a Costa del Sol pub.

Leigh Anthony Gardiner (49) was in court in the resort of Fuengirola flanked by two police officers yesterday.

Gardiner was remanded in custody pending an ongoing criminal probe.

Mr Gardiner, a chef who lives in Mijas, near Fuengirola, bowed his head and said nothing as he was led away from the courthouse.

He was arrested after allegedly attacking Mr Pender with two broken bottles while he was using the toilet at the Pogs Old Irish Rock Pub.

Police said Mr Pender, who lived in Shankill, County Dublin, was attacked after politely asking the suspect to stop bothering his wife and the partner of a friend.

Sources said witnesses told the police the dead man was targeted with two broken beer bottles as he was relieving himself and was stabbed in the neck and body. One blow is believed to have severed his jugular vein.

Police who happened to be passing by the pub tried to save the tourist's life but he bled to death in front of them.

He was on holiday with his wife, Caroline McGuigan, founder of charity Suicide or Survive, and their two children Conor (21) and Amy (18)who were not in the pub. Mr Pender, an acupuncturist who trained in China, was previously on the board of his wife's charity.

A source said the suspect had no criminal record in Spain and was a chef at a well-known Costa del Sol hotel resort and was on his own because his wife and children had gone on a foreign holiday.

A police spokesman said: "National Police officers have arrested a 49-year-old British man in Malaga in the early hours of this morning over his suspected involvement in the death of an Irishman aged 53 at a pub in the town.

"The victim received cuts to his neck and other parts of his body with a broken beer bottle. The incident occurred around 1.50am in the toilets of the Irish pub.

"Police have established from inquiries that the victim and attacker didn't know each other. According to initial inquiries, the suspect took an interest in several women inside the pub, including the partner of the victim. At one point the man who was killed spoke to the suspect. The victim was allegedly attacked by surprise in the men's toilets.

"The arrested man, who allegedly had two broken bottles in each hand, is suspected of inflicting several wounds on his victim, including some to the neck. He tried to flee the scene afterwards but was stopped from doing so by security staff and subsequently arrested by police in the area.

"Medical responders could do nothing to save the victim, who died at the scene. The British man has been arrested on suspicion of murder."

A neighbour of the dead man described him as a "fantastic, friendly man and a gentle giant". "He'd do anything for you. If the weather was bad, he would often knock in here to see if I needed anything in the shop."

A 66-year-old local woman said: "He was a kind, gentle man and they are a lovely family. He was originally from Deansgrange in Dublin."

She said the couple were well known for their work with the mental health charity.

"I remember attending a wellness course given by him in the local community centre.

"Local people are great supporters of the charity. The Dublin GAA team had been big fundraisers for the charity.

"Everyone is outraged and in absolute shock," she said.

Local Labour Councillor Denis O'Callaghan said : "The enormity of this awful tragedy is only beginning to sink in now.

"The community is deeply saddened."

Sunday Independent

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