The Spanish Civil Guard arrested four people – two Spaniards and two Algerians – on Tuesday for the murder of 52-year-old Javier Ardines, a local councilman for the left-wing United Left (IU) party in Llanes, a municipality located in the northwestern region of Asturias.
Ardines was beaten and strangled to death on August 16, 2018 when he left his home to go fishing. After months of investigations, officers believe the crime was “ordered” out of revenge. The councilman was allegedly having an affair with a cousin of his wife, and it is believed her husband, identified as Pedro L. N., planned the murder.
Ardines and his suspected murderer spent their summer holidays together
Pedro L. N., a 48-year-old electrician, his wife and two children were awoken early on Tuesday morning as the Civil Guard knocked down the door to their home in Amorebieta in the Basque Country. After searching the house for several hours, the officers arrested Pedro for being the “mastermind” behind Ardines’ murder.
The two families spent their summers and vacations together in Belmonte de Pría, a small area 200 kilometers from Amorebieta where Ardines lived with his wife and two children. It was was there where the 52-year-old was killed last August. Pedro and his wife also had a second home in the area and the two families shared many lunches, dinners and parties together, as photos on social media show. More than just family, they were also friends.
Detectives in charge of the case – the judicial police from the Asturias Civil Guard and officers from the Central Operational Unit (UCO) sent from Madrid – quickly ruled out the theory that the crime was politically motivated, and instead centered their investigation on Pedro, whom some locals had described as “aggressive and violent.” Police suspected that the electrician had spent a long time plotting to murder Ardines to punish him for having an affair with his wife.
A friend of Pedro, his alleged accomplice, is believed to have helped him contact the two alleged Algerian “hitmen,” who were “two guys dedicated to small-time drug crime and not exactly professional criminals,” according to sources close to the investigation.
The alleged accomplice, identified by the initials J. M. B., and one of the Algerian men were arrested on Tuesday at their respective homes in Erandio in the province of Bizkaia and Otxarkoaga in Bilbao. The second suspected hitman had fled to Switzerland shortly after the murder. He was arrested by Swiss police, and on Tuesday Spanish authorities issued an extradition order for his return.
Ardines was a charismatic figure in Llanes who was well known for his political commitment. As councilman for personnel and beaches, the 52-year-old had denounced what he saw as a “clientelist network” where City Hall contracts were given to friends of those in power, and criticized the environmental damage caused by large hotel businesses. He was also known as a “womaniser.” Sources close to the investigation said that, while he lived with his wife, their marriage had fallen apart due to his “multiple infidelities.”
Sources say that Ardines’ marriage had fallen apart due to his “multiple infidelities”
When Ardines was murdered, many argued his crime had been politically motivated, claiming there was tension between the four parties in Llanes: Foro, the Popular Party, IU and a local organization.
Following news of the arrests, the mayor of Llanes, Enrique Riestra, read a brief statement: “As mayor of Llanes and a personal friend of Javier, I want to thank the Civil Guard and the security forces for their impeccable work that has brought justice closer today.”
Investigators are set to take the statements of the four accused to verify whether “many people” took part in the murder of Ardines, as they suspect. According to sources, the culprits “seemed to know the habits of the councilman well,” and may have “ambushed” him by cutting off his path. It’s also thought they may have “practiced” the crime beforehand, given that Ardines had mentioned one day at home that he had found the path blocked.
Police are clear that the crime involved “certain premeditation” and “was not a casual meeting.” “The person who did it knew him, knew what time he left home, where he would pass and that he would be alone,” explained sources close to the investigation.
On August 16, Ardines left his house at 6am. He was meant to pick up a photographer friend who would join him on his boat to go fishing. He never arrived. A neighbor said he heard screams before finding Ardines’ body, just 100 meters from his car, which was still running and had the keys in. Ardines, who was a large man and in good shape, tried to fight off and escape his assailants but he was dealt three blows to the head and strangled, according to the autopsy report.
English version by Melissa Kitson.