Holiday from hell for West Belfast family

By Gráinne Brinkley

A WEST Belfast family’s dream Spanish holiday has been turned into a nightmare after they were set upon by a group of men twice in space of 24-hours in the holiday resort of Benidorm.

The Fitzpatrick family from the Falls Road were only days into their summer holiday when brothers Daniel (25) and Martin (17) were attacked by a group of men as they were walking home from the beach to their apartment on Saturday evening.

Other family members who went to the brothers’ aid were also set upon by the gang only to be arrested and beaten by Spanish police officers who themselves have been accused of denying food and drink to five members of the Fitzpatrick family while they were in police custody.

However after the initial attack the same gang would target the Fitzpatrick’s the following day, setting upon them as they ordered food at a local restaurant, leaving Martin Fitzpatrick with severe stab wounds to the neck and side.

Two of the Fitzpatrick family have since been released on bail in relation to Saturday’s bar brawl while three remain in police custody at an unknown facility near Benidorm after being formally charged.

20-year-old Alison Fitzpatrick, who returned home to Belfast on Monday with her little sister Clóideach (8), nephew Oisin (2) and family friend Alanah, has spoken to the Andersonstown News about her family’s ordeal and is calling on the Irish and British embassies to do all they can to help her family members still left languishing in a Spanish jail.

“About 12 of us went on the holiday to celebrate by brother Daniel coming home from Australia after a year away,” said Alison, who suffers from Epilepsy.

“We went out last week and we met up with our Scottish relatives on Saturday who came out to surprise us. We had been looking forward to this holiday all year.”

However, trouble started on the Saturday night when Daniel and his younger brother Martin were walking back from a day at the beach to their apartment.

“They were passing a bar and a group of Spanish men were standing outside,” said Alison

“One of them shouted to my brothers that it was a two-for-one offer inside at the bar and to come in. My brothers said no thanks and then one of group, who might have been English, started calling them “Irish w**kers”.  “Take a f**king drink, you Irish w**kers”, he said.  Daniel and this man squared up to each other but Martin asked them both to just leave it. It was then that the English speaker hit Martin as he was the smaller of the two brothers.”

Alison said both brothers were beaten to the ground by the group.

“Daniel managed to crawl away and call for help,” she said.

“My uncles could hear his screams so they ran down from our apartment.  It ended up turning into a massive fight and the police were called.”

As other members of the Fitzpatrick family were making their way back to their apartments they noticed the ensuing melee involving their loved-ones.

“My sister Kerry, her husband John Paul and their two-year-old son Oisin were walking towards the fight when one of the gang pointed at my brother-in-law as he was holding Oisin,” said Alison.

“The police just grabbed him (John Paul) and arrested him. My nephew was in hysterics when my brother-in-law was being arrested so my mummy Celine went to take him out of his arms. That’s when they pulled her by the hair and hit her head off a car.  She was arrested too. My mother, my brother-in-law and one of my uncles were all arrested and taken to jail while Martin and Daniel were taken to hospital for treatment for their injuries.  They were then transferred to jail where they were all kept in the same cell.”

The Fitzpatrick family were refused access to their loved ones in police custody.

“My brother Martin was eventually released the following day into my sister Kerry’s custody,” said Alison.

“He suffers from a serious immune deficiency condition and requires daily treatment for it. He said he was given no access to his meds and that they were all given nothing to eat or drink apart from water from the toilet cistern. He said they strip-searched my mother, no-one else, and banged on the walls when they tried to go to sleep.”

After Martin’s release on Sunday, the remainder of the Fitzpatrick family returned to a restaurant near their apartment so he could get some food. However the same gang would attack the Fitzpatrick family again.

“As we were placing our drinks order they came at us with chairs and started beating us,” said Alison.

“They stabbed Martin three times.  They did this in front of an eight year-old and two-year-old child. We locked the children in the restaurant toilets in case they got hurt. Martin was pouring with blood out of his neck and back.  After the attack they just walked away cheering, they didn’t care.  I wasn’t allowed to go in the ambulance with Martin and we were not allowed into see him at the hospital as two police officers were in with him.”

Alison said the Spanish police have refused to volunteer any information as to when the incarcerated family members would be appearing in court.

“My aunt and sister were told they were appearing in court in Alicante, so they paid money for a taxi the whole way out there and none of them appeared,” said Alison.

“They finally appeared in court on Tuesday where they were all charged.  My mother was released on bail but my brother Daniel, brother-in-law John Paul and one of my uncles from Scotland have been kept in custody. We don’t know which prison they’re being kept in as they wont tell us. A list of possible prisons has been given to the family that they have to contact themselves. No-one has been allowed into see them.”

Martin Fitzpatrick flew home to West Belfast yesterday from Benidorm but his mother Celine is remaining at the resort until the rest of the Fitzpatrick’s are released.

“Martin and mum will have to appear in court again in eight months,” said Alison.

“Mum is in a terrible state. I suffer from epilepsy and this is taking and awful toll on me. My eight-year-old sister, who also has epilepsy, keeps saying that she has no mummy. She is traumatised, she’s not eating or sleeping.  When she’s crying and I ask her what is wrong she says ‘I can see them hitting themwith the chairs’.”

To make matters worse for the Fitzpatrick family, a British tabloid carried a report on the weekend’s incidents which Alison says is “totally untrue”.

“They said it was 10 Irish guys that started the fight at the bar on Saturday evening, which is wrong as there’s not even 10 men in our holiday party,” said Alison.

“It said my family hit people with chairs, bottles knives but that’s not true. They were wearing shorts and flip-flops. They had nothing on them, they were the ones attacked.”

Alison said the family have been left in “absolute turmoil”.

“This was supposed to be family holiday celebrating my brother’s return and now look at us?” she said.

“For any family to go through this is absolutely horrendous.  I just want my family home.”

West Belfast MP Paul Maskey said he will be making representations to the British and Irish embassies on behalf of the Fitzpatrick family.

“Martin Fitzpatrick is in need of urgent medical help after being stabbed, it’s a terrible situation for the family,” said Mr Maskey.

“They were looking forward to a holiday which has left them in total disarray and heartbreak. Both embassies need to step up to the mark and help these people return home to their families.”

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