SQUATTING IN SPAIN

A man’s desperate bid to evict squatter granddaughter from his Madrid home

Paula, 18, entered Vicente Moreda’s apartment last week with a friend and a locksmith, and has since refused to answer the door to her family or to the media

Paula’s mother, Amelia M., and her grandfather Vicente in a file photo.
Paula’s mother, Amelia M., and her grandfather Vicente in a file photo.

It happened three weeks ago. Eighty-seven-year-old Madrileño Vicente Moreda was in Cartagena, Murcia, when he got a phone call from the residents’ association in his building, located at 112 Atocha street in Madrid.

“Vicente,” the voice said, “one of your relatives just went into your house with another girl and a locksmith.”

That relative turned out to be his granddaughter, with whom he has had no relationship for the last year or so. “I’m completely devastated,” he explains over the phone. “For this to happen to me at the age of 87 and with all this fuss…”

I have had no news from my granddaughter since she threatened me with a knife a year ago

Vicente Moreda

Moreda has not been able to speak to his granddaughter, Paula, who is 18 years old. “I have had no news from her since she threatened me with a knife a year ago in Cartagena. I don’t understand it. She got mixed up in drugs and all that and now…”

Amelia M., 51, is Paula’s mother. “My father came to Cartagena two years ago because he wasn’t well. He was in hospital for a month. What’s more, my mother is in a home because she has very severe Alzheimers.” When her father told her that Paula had entered the house with a friend, they went straight to the closest police station in Cartagena.

“We gave the details of the girl and it turns out that we shouldn’t have done that,” Amelia explains. “I said that it was my daughter and that it was a forced entry. They told me that they would evict her in 48 hours, but now they have told me that there will be a delay because it’s a family member, and we will have to take it to the courts.”

The street entrance to the building on Atocha street in Madrid.
The street entrance to the building on Atocha street in Madrid.Samuel Sánchez

Since regional TV channel Telemadrid broadcast a segment about the case earlier this week, Amelia’s phone has not stopped ringing. “One second,” she says over the phone. “I have to speak on [daytime TV show] Ana Rosa and I have a call on my other cellphone.” Now talking on the other call, she says: “Yes, yes, the apartment is in Madrid at 112 Atocha street. OK. OK. Yes, it appears that there’s a minor in there, but it’s not hers. She’s being advised by her partner’s family, who are very sharp. They also have three cats. They’ve changed the locks and they’ve installed an alarm. Yes, yes, a neighbor saw it happen and the residents’ association called us. I have to go now. Goodbye.” When she hangs up, she explains her strategy. “The company Desokupa told me that I should respond to all media inquiries, in case she gives in, but I don’t think she will.”

Amelia got in touch with Desokupa – a company that helps people get their properties back if someone has squatted in them – several days ago. In the Telemadrid segment, one of its employees is seen trying to negotiate with Paula from outside the door. “Can you open the door please? Your grandfather is here.” No one responds. “I have to get in, please open up,” her grandfather says through the door. “Paula, why did you come up with this idea?”

When she was young she was already showing what was to come

Paula’s mother, Amelia

According to her mother, Paula was in a center for minors. That was the last she had heard from her. And when she turned 18, she left. “When she was young she was already showing what was to come,” her mother explains. “She is the middle child and has two brothers. The other two are studying, and they knew that this could happen. My ex-husband came with her to Madrid, and in theory, he was with her. Until now,” she explains. “Her brothers know what she is like. A lot of the problems that I had with my ex-husband were due to her. How can I get her out of there, how do I do it?”

Vicente bought the flat six years ago. “I’ve worked in imports my whole life,” he explains. “I’ve got a number of properties and I live off the rental income and a €470 pension. I lived in the flat with my wife – who is Paula’s godmother – until she started to have problems with her head. That’s why I go to Cartagena on a regular basis, because I want to be close to her, she’s in a home.”

On Tuesday of this week, a number of journalists and TV cameramen were jostling with each other outside 112 Atocha street. Paula, however, would not answer the intercom. “I don’t want to die without having sorted this out,” says Vicente. “Please just stop this craziness. I don’t want to see my granddaughter in jail. I have always loved her loads and I used to take her to the park when she was little.”

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