A British woman and her partner have been arrested by police investigating an assassination attempt on veteran Spanish politician Alejo Vidal-Quadras in Madrid.
The couple were arrested in the town of Lanjaron, the gateway to the picture-postcard Alpujarras region, this morning after another man was arrested in the Costa Del Sol.
Mr Vidal-Quadras cheated death after being shot in the face in broad daylight on a central street in the Spanish capital on November 9.
The victim, former regional leader of the right-wing Popular Party in Catalonia before breaking away to help form the far-right Vox party, told police from his hospital bed he blamed Iran for the shooting because of his ties with the country’s opposition.
Police sources said this afternoon they were working on the theory that the partner of the Brit had hired a paid assassin to murder Vidal-Quadras.
They are said to be closing in on a North African hitman allegedly paid to carry out the crime, Granada-based newspaper Ideal reported. It has not been made clear if investigators believe the unnamed British woman knew about her partner’s suspected involvement.
Vidal-Quadras is pictured here in 2009
The couple were arrested in the town of Lanjaron, the gateway to the picture-postcard Alpujarras region, this morning after another man was arrested in Fuengirola, Spain
The other arrest is understood to have taken place in the Costa del Sol resort of Fuengirola.
Detectives suspect he organised the assassination attempt at the ‘request of other people’, Ideal claimed citing sources close to the ongoing investigation.
A police source confirmed this morning the British woman was one of the three people arrested. They said: ‘Her possible participation in the crime is being investigated. She is the partner of one of the other two detainees.’
A Spanish National Police spokesman said this afternoon: ‘All three people held earlier today remain in custody. There is nothing more we can say at this time.’
The couple held in Lanjaron had been living in a rented first-floor flat above one of the town’s main roads for the past fortnight according to neighbours, although the owners have told local press the property had been rented to the British woman’s mum. She has been described as someone who has lived in Lanjaron for many years.
No official information has been released about a possible motive for the shooting in Madrid.
Local reports said the Briton and her partner, who is Spanish, were arrested after their car was removed on the orders of police in the spa town of Lanjaron from an area were trees were about to be pruned.
The hire vehicle had been parked on the street despite signs warning locals to remove their cars because of the pruning that was going to take place.
The number plate on the car is said to have aroused the suspicions of investigators probing the attempted assassination in Madrid as detectives were reportedly hunting for the vehicle after viewing CCTV footage of the victim’s movements in the days running up to the shooting.
Earlier this morning, a spokesman for Spain’s National Police said: ‘I can confirm three people have been arrested by police in connection with the ongoing investigation into the shooting in Madrid earlier this month.
‘Two are Spanish nationals. We are not in a position at this moment in time to confirm the nationality of the third person held.
‘Two of the arrests took place in Granada and the other in the province of Malaga.’
A police source later confirmed the third person was the British woman.
Police sources said the detentions had been supervised by Francisco de Jorge, the judge based at Spain’s Central Criminal Court the Audiencia Nacional.
It is leading the judicial probe into the shooting on the basis it could be terrorism-related.
Mr Vidal-Quadras, 78, who was targeted near his Madrid home by a man wearing a black helmet who fled on a motorbike driven by an accomplice, is still recovering from his injuries in hospital after an emergency operation.
The Spaniard was among the first politicians to be placed on Iran’s terrorist list due to his support for the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (MEK), a group whose goal is to overthrow the Tehran regime.
A Civil Protection spokesperson said Vidal-Quadras retained consciousness and was rushed to the nearby Gregorio Marañón hospital
Police work at the site where Alejo Vidal-Quadras, former head of Spain’s People’s Party in the Catalonia region, was shot in the face, in Madrid, Spain, November 9
He is also a member of the European Friends of Israel, a lobby group aiming to defend Israel’s interests within the European Union.
Spanish investigators have yet to comment on a possible motive for the shooting, which left Mr Vidal-Quadras with a double jaw fracture after the bullet fired at him from close range hit him in the right cheek.
The attack happened around 1.30pm on November 9 in Nunez de Balboa Street. The victim was rushed to Gregorio Maranon Hospital in the Spanish capital.
Local reports have pointed to at least one of the people arrested this morning being linked to the motorbike used in the hit.
None of the detainees are believed to be the gunman, although this is not something police have made any official comment on.