HALLOWEEN TRAGEDY

Police chief refused to attend Madrid Arena emergency call

Senior officer remained parked outside venue after being told of crush

Cándida Jiménez was the senior Municipal Police officer assigned to supervise the Halloween party held in Madrid Arena, where five young women were killed during a stampede in the early hours of November 1, 2012. But the officer's movements during the night in question, which were logged on the GPS in her patrol car, and to which EL PAÍS has had access, show that she spent barely an hour at the municipally owned venue.

During her appearance in court last week, it emerged that for an hour-and-a-half during the night in question Jiménez could not be located. She spent two hours during her 9.30pm to 6.30am shift at her precinct, and the rest of the time driving around the capital.

Jiménez first heard that something serious had happened at Madrid Arena a few minutes after hundreds of partygoers became trapped in a narrow exit tunnel at 3.30am but refused to attend, saying that she was "a bit too far away," despite being in the city's university district a few kilometers from the Casa de Campo park where Madrid Arena is located. She finally responded to a second call at 4.20am but did not enter the venue, waiting outside instead and still unaware of the tragedy that had taken place inside.

Jiménez told the investigating magistrate overseeing the case that she had not been told by her superiors that she would be supervising security at the Halloween party until the day before the event, although the order assigning her is clearly dated October 29.

She did not contact her superior until the day of the event itself, when she was told that it would be a high security risk. Jiménez told the judge that she was not given written instructions regarding the security status of the event. When she asked what resources were available, she says she was told: "Sort something out yourself."

Jiménez's GPS shows that between 10.22pm and 11.24pm, when the doors were opening at Madrid Arena, she was at her precinct station. At 11.30 she drove around the Madrid Arena car park for 15 minutes, heading off to other areas of the city until 1.04am, when she returned to her precinct. At 2.01am, she headed for Madrid Arena, but did not enter, and at 3.30am she left, heading for the university district.

The crush in the exit tunnel took place at 3.32am, but it took another half-hour before the first ambulances arrived. At 4.20am, Jiménez finally appeared, but did not go inside the venue despite the chaotic scenes at the exit, with ambulances taking the injured away. Instead, she sent a junior officer inside. On a recording made at 4.46am, Jiménez is heard saying that the problem was due to "drugs cut in bad conditions," or "some mixture of alcoholic substances." She then told a colleague: "Whatever happens, at 5.30am I have to leave."

At 5.15am, by which time at least two young women were known to have died, she told her colleagues by radio: "Of course there are no deaths." Shortly afterward, she learned of the deaths, saying: "We'll soon find out what has happened."

The ongoing investigation into the tragedy has revealed that as many as 6,000 extra tickets had been sold for the 10,600 capacity venue. Due to the large number of people, partygoers were unable to easily enter and leave the dance floor. Several bottlenecks were created at the exit where the lethal crush took place.

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