Who is the Franco supporter accused of plotting to kill the Spanish PM?

When police arrested security guard Manuel Murillo Sánchez, they found 16 handguns and a military assault rifle

Rebeca Carranco
Weapons arsenal found in the apartment.
Weapons arsenal found in the apartment.Mossos

The Catalan regional police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, chose the safest way to arrest Manuel Murillo Sánchez: out in the street. They were worried he might have weapons at home. But they had no idea that they would find an entire arsenal in his apartment in Terrassa (Barcelona) – four precision rifles, a military assault weapon, a submachine gun and 16 handguns.

Murillo said he was willing to sacrifice himself for Spain and that he didn’t care about the consequences Mossos spokesperson Albert Oliva

Manuel Murillo, 63, was arrested on September 19 for plotting to kill Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, the online daily Público reported. In various WhatsApp groups, Murillo had declared his “clear intention and will” to murder the leader of the Socialist Party (PSOE). He had thought about how to do it, he just needed a little logistical support, said Mossos spokesperson Albert Oliva. He needed people who could help him get hold of the prime minister’s agenda and a place where he could hide out once he had killed Sánchez.

Murillo decided to shoot Sánchez after the prime minister announced his plans to exhume the remains of former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco from the Valley of the Fallen monument, northwest of Madrid. Police say that Murillo, who defines himself as a supporter of Franco, believed that Sánchez had crossed the line. And he expressed this in “explicit” and in increasingly “more public” terms on social media. Murillo is the son of Manuel Murillo Iglesias, the last mayor of the Franco regime in the town of Rubí in Barcelona province.

One of the people Murillo revealed his assassination plans to is a local leader of the far-right political party Vox. The woman did not hesitate to share his audio and text messages with the Catalan police, who waited less than a week to arrest him, according to police sources. Murillo had a gun license as a professional security guard and marksman.

The Mossos were also concerned about his lack of personal relationships – he had no children, partner or close friends. “Murillo had nothing to lose,” explain police sources. “On social media, he said he was willing to sacrifice himself for Spain and that he he didn’t care about the consequences, like being arrested or jailed,” said Oliva. He was the classic lone wolf.

Manuel Murillo Sánchez.
Manuel Murillo Sánchez.

Obsessive personality

Police sources describe Murillo as an obsessive and meticulous person, which was evident in his achievements as a long-distance runner. Murillo became an elite athlete when he was already in his 30s. He won the Spanish 100-kilometer race four times between 1993 and 1996. He also competed internationally and participated in six editions of the world cup of his specialty. Today Murillo continues to be good at sports; he has a healthy lifestyle and no prior criminal record.

His decision to kill Prime Minister Sánchez was an enormous shock to those who know him. Murillo belonged to various WhatsApp groups where things like the structure of the Spanish state would be discussed, say police sources. But none of these groups was secretly conspiring to assassinate members of the government, or to commit any other crimes. No one offered to help Murillo, and the regional police have not found any links with far-right groups. The Vox spokesperson said yesterday that he was not a party member. “His decision to take action was strictly individual,” explained Oliva.

Murillo decided to shoot Sánchez after the PM announced his plans to exhume Franco’s body

According to police sources, Murillo had not set a date for the assassination and was using social media to try to reach the prime minister. The Mossos don’t believe he would have been able to get close to Sánchez, who is protected by his own security team.

A spokesman for the High Court of Catalonia confirmed that Murillo is being held without bail. He has been charged with conspiring to attack an official, issuing serious threats, possession of illegal weapons, and one count of hate crimes in connection with his defense of Franco. His lawyer appealed to Spain’s central high court, the Audiencia Nacional, to have Murillo released, arguing, “his statements must be interpreted in light of the political problems in Catalonia.” The lawyer also maintained that his mother and sister, who live in the same building as Murillo, have disabilities that make them dependent on the accused, but the latter has admitted that they have a caregiver.

The court ruled that it was better for Murillo to remain in prison, arguing that there was “no doubt about the seriousness of his plans.” The court pointed out that he had the weapons, skills and intention to carry out the assassination and said that he was a flight risk.

The Terrassa Shooting Club has kicked out Murillo, but some of his colleagues still defend him: “To me, he will continue to be the great champion he has always been.”

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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