William James, the father of modern psychology, famously said: "There's nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will believe it." A decade on from the Madrid attacks of March 11, 2004, there are still people who insist that ETA was responsible, and that the police and the Socialist Party had conspired to overthrow the Popular Party (PP) government in the elections that took place three days later by blaming Islamist radicals.
In the months that followed, right-wing sections of the Spanish media, with the support of the PP, tried to discredit many of the officers and judges involved in the investigation because none of the evidence they found pointed to ETA’s involvement.
Below are some of the biggest myths invented by the conspiracy theorists:
“Everything points to ETA”
Within hours of the worst terrorist attack ever to take place in Spain, the PP government, led by Prime Minister José María Aznar, insisted that “everything points to ETA.” It maintained this position for two days, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. The judicial investigation found no proof of ETA involvement.
The miner’s testimony
José Emilio Trashorras, a former miner, sold the terrorists the explosives used in the attacks. He initially told police that ETA was involved, but later retracted his statement, admitting that he had done so to “create confusion”. He also said that Jamal Ahmidan, aka El Chino, the head of the group that carried out the bombings, had links to ETA.
The backpack that never was
Conspiracy theorists insist that the backpack containing explosives found in a police station among the personal possessions of victims was planted by the police to throw investigators off the trail of ETA.
The conspiracy theorists claim that the autopsies carried out on the men who blew themselves up a month after the attacks in a Madrid apartment when facing capture were falsified.
Goma 2 high explosive
The analysis into the explosives used in the March 11 attacks conclusively showed that it was of a type that had never been used by ETA.
The van: empty or loaded?
One of the many myths created by right-wing daily El Mundo was based on the supposed appearance of detonators in the van used by the terrorists.
Three police experts attempted to link ETA to the bombings: they cooked up a report a year after the attacks citing the presence of boric acid in the bombs, a material also used by ETA.
The washing machine timer
According to this theory, the timer found in the apartment where the Islamic radical suspects blew themselves up was of a type also used by ETA. In reality it was simply a washing machine programmer.
The Mondragón connection
On May 3, 2006, El Mundo published a story claiming that a Grupo Mondragón (a cooperative based in the Basque town) business card had been found in the van used by the terrorists. The idea was to create links between the attacks and the Basque Country.