PERCARIOUSLY perched in woodland high above the Fuengirola coast, the white-walled Andalucian town of Mijas has long been a haven for the more discerning of the wealthy Britons who migrate to the Spanish costas each winter.
There are no nightclubs or casinos here, not even the slightest hint of the seedy side of life on the coast, only a web of narrow cobbled streets punctuated by secluded cafs, geranium-filled terraces and the occasional chirping canary.
The road south of Mijas winds down the pine-clad mountainside towards Marbella - an altogether different, but more familiar, side of this region, with its yachts, deep-blue marinas and, more recently, its racy reputation for drugs and high-class prostitution.
Accidents aren’t uncommon along this stretch of road, especially at night, but the circumstances surrounding a fatal head-on collision in broad daylight, involving a notorious Scots gangster and a Spanish factory manager, are causing the locals in Mijas serious concern and the Spanish national police, the Cuerpo Nacional de Polica, a major international headache.
On 28 June, 40-year-old Stewart Boyd, a relatively small-time drug dealer and gangland enforcer from Barrhead, Renfrewshire, was at the wheel of his Audi TT sports car when it careered through a crash barrier on the outskirts of Mijas and ploughed into a BMW heading the other way. Six people were killed.
Boyd, incongruously nicknamed Specky by his criminal associates, died instantly along with three other Scots, including his daughter, Anna Nicola Gavin, 21, her best friend, Louise Ann Douglas, 21, and three-year-old Helen Williams, the daughter of Boyd’s girlfriend Catherine Finlay. Two occupants of the BMW, a 42-year-old Spanish factory manager and his 13-year-old son, also died.
The only survivor from the second vehicle was a 43-year-old Spanish housewife, who remains in a coma - her survival, according to the surgeons who operated on her in the nearby Clnico Universitario de Malaga, was nothing short of miraculous.
Such was the ferocity of the crash that both cars were left as unrecognisable, burnt-out shells. According to one of the first officers on the scene, it looked as if a car bomb had exploded. His instincts have not been ruled out. The mangled remains of Boyd’s vehicle are being re-examined by the Spanish authorities for traces of Semtex explosive.
Within Malaga’s elegant marble-clad police headquarters, there is growing concern the incident was a meticulously orchestrated hit on Boyd by a major criminal organisation - and the other victims simply got in the way. According to a number of well-placed police sources in Glasgow, reports are circulating within Europol that the 40-year-old Scot was killed by Russian hit men because he had failed to pay them for a 1.5m shipment of cocaine to Scotland’s west coast. It is believed in some quarters that the Russian gangsters placed a bomb incorporating a timer underneath Boyd’s car as it sat outside his villa.
Forty kilometres south of Mijas, in the former fishing village of Marbella, the leather-skinned tuna fishermen and shawl-clad widows are long gone, replaced by Europe’s wealthy elite - from Swiss bankers and diamond brokers to international drug dealers.
Further along the coast, powerful spotlights have been fitted to beach areas to illuminate the Moroccans who risk their lives attempting to smuggle immigrants from North Africa in tiny boats, but there is no such monitoring of the Europeans’ luxury yachts that line the shore in Marbella’s marinas.
In the last three years, the Spanish authorities admit that around a dozen such yachts laden with drugs have been seized by customs officers. In March this year, Spanish police seized a Venezuelan fishing boat just off the coast of the Canary Islands. The Marbella-bound vessel was carrying 76 bundles of high-quality Colombian cocaine, worth around 250m. Spanish customs officials believe that some of the drugs would have been off-loaded at sea on to smaller boats, which would in turn have transferred the drugs to yachts bound for the marinas.
The drugs are then transported to Britain in a variety of ways, mostly by being stuffed into specially created hidden compartments in cars and coaches and simply driven across France and through the Channel Tunnel. In other cases, drugs are smuggled to mainland Britain, particularly the isolated west coast of Scotland, on fishing boats and sea-going yachts - for a small-time drug dealer with big ambitions, such as Boyd, the Costa del Sol would have been the perfect place to be.
There have been over a dozen drug-related murders on the Costa del Sol in the past two years. Three of the victims since 2001 have been British or Irish. Last year, in one three-month period, eight suspected drug traffickers were murdered. The victims were French, Colombian, Algerian and Spanish. Two were gunned down in restaurants in a throwback to 1930s Chicago - the perpetrators of the killings were all thought to be professional assassins hired by the Russian mafia, who have been muscling in on the costas’ lucrative drug smuggling trade for the past decade.
The Russian mafia is widely accepted as the world’s most powerful criminal organisation. In recent years, the scale and ruthlessness of its operations has put the Sicilian Mafia and Chinese Triads in the shade. Russian gangs have bases in every major city in the world, and are particularly strong in New York and London.
The gangs, many of which are loosely affiliated, made money by selling off old Red Army guns and explosives to terrorist groups such as the IRA and crime gangs in the west such as the Yardies, and gained further notoriety and cash by supplying mercenaries for foreign wars. The power vacuum left by conflicts in the Balkans and in former Soviet states allowed the organisation to establish smuggling routes for drugs and illegal immigrants. They have made inroads into Scotland by supplying prostitutes for saunas in Edinburgh and establishing links with major gangland figures in Glasgow.
One Sunday night in August 2001, Michael McGuinness was spending the evening with his Brazilian girlfriend at his apartment in Puebla Aida, just outside the town of Mijas Costa. At 2.30am, two men rang his buzzer. Four days later, McGuinness’s Range Rover was discovered in Malaga airport’s car park. When the boot was opened, the Irishman was found handcuffed with a bag over his head. He had been suffocated. The question of why he was killed remains unanswered. According to sources in Ireland, he was wanted for his part in a massive money laundering operation linked to the local drug trade.
Garda sources in Dublin have long believed that McGuinness was murdered by members of the Moscow-based Russian mafia, who were taking over a number of lucrative smuggling routes from Spain to northern Europe.
Whether Boyd met a similar fate remains unclear, but what cannot be denied is the fact that the Scot had been attracted to the Costa del Sol by the same intoxicating mix of sun and untold riches that had brought McGuinness to Spain. Only, according to those who knew him, Boyd was probably out of his depth as soon as he arrived in Marbella.
The dreary town of Barrhead, on the outskirts of Paisley, is about as far away from the sun-kissed Spanish costas as you can get. With its grim, poorly-lit shop fronts and run-down schemes, the closure of the Armitage Shanks factory in 1992 was widely seen as the death knell for the town, where unemployment was already chronically high.
In the early 1990s, amidst Barrhead’s and Paisley’s crumbling council schemes, drug use - particularly heroin - was rife, and like many criminal opportunists of his generation, Boyd thrived. The surge of Temazepam use in Renfrewshire was to provide the platform for small-time dealers like Boyd, who found an insatiable clientele in Barrhead and neighbouring areas such as Glenburn, Ferguslie Park and Mosspark, in Paisley. The seeds of the Temazepam scourge were sown at a time when quality heroin was in short supply. For the dealers, the prescription drug - normally prescribed as a sleeping pill - was the perfect answer. Widely available and readily prescribed to pensioners, the capsules were easy to get hold of, leaking in their millions from factories and collected in doorstep ‘buys’ from middle-aged women with repeat prescriptions. For addicts desperate for heroin, the liquid in the Temazepam gel capsule - when withdrawn, heated, placed in a syringe and injected in sufficient quantities - was the ideal replacement fix.
But as sales of the drug grew, Temazepam became the cause of a bloody drugs war centred around Paisley that would spark a decade-long power struggle between drug barons over attempts to replace the town’s ‘jellies’ market with the more lucrative heroin trade, imported from Glasgow. Boyd aligned himself with one of Paisley’s most notorious criminal gangs, quickly earning himself a reputation as an enforcer. According to one former associate, ‘Specky’ was the man who would knock on the door to call in drug debts and threaten to cut off your fingers.
In the early 1990s, Boyd diversified into ‘security’ services, running a number of seemingly legitimate small businesses that protected building sites throughout Renfrewshire and south Glasgow. In the mid-1990s, his decision to branch out brought him into partnership with Stewart Gillespie, a known drug-dealer from Paisley’s Ferguslie Park scheme who had carved a niche for himself managing building sites for the now notorious FCB security firm. At the height of his partnership with Gillespie and FCB, Boyd found himself at the centre of a police and government probe into alleged protection rackets, drug peddling, money laundering, and even threats against local MP Irene Adams, who had launched a campaign against the town’s drug plight.
That particular criminal association would lead to Boyd’s arrest, in 1997, for the execution of rival Paisley dealer Mark Rennie, 26, who was shot on his doorstep on 23 May, 1996. Although Gillespie was later jailed for murder, Boyd, who was accused of conspiracy to commit murder, was cleared in 1997. In a special defence of incrimination, Boyd named Stewart Gillespie, his brother, Billy Gillespie, and key Crown witnesses Sheila McKirdy and George Kerr as the killers.
Boyd’s narrow escape from justice only served to strengthen his resolve to expand his security empire. And, according to one former associate, he quickly found that being linked to a murder did his business plans no harm whatsoever. He says, "The links to Mark Rennie’s murder, and a number of other hits around Renfrewshire, boosted Specky’s reputation, and it wasn’t long after he was cleared that he started to get involved with some of Glasgow’s biggest gangsters - particularly John Healy, who saw Boyd’s potential as an enforcer and brought him into his security business."
Boyd’s association with Healy, 43, a known drug-dealer from Glasgow’s Thornliebank, was also short-lived. Healy was arrested and sentenced to ten years in prison in 1997. But, according to many, it was Boyd who took up his mantle, controlling a number of Healy’s business interests, including his security arm and a Glasgow taxi firm. But the long arm of the law finally caught up with Boyd, and in 2001 a jury at the High Court in Paisley jailed him for 18 months for intimidating a witness.
Described by the prosecution as the right-hand man of jailed drug baron Healy, Boyd cut a deal with the authorities, admitting threatening fellow security boss John Jeffrey "with serious bodily injury" in a bid to stop him giving evidence in an extortion trial.
Following his release from prison, in late 2001 Boyd continued to attract the attention of the police, particularly the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency, which in the last six months had been alerted to the father of two’s movements by officers from Paisley’s K division. Within a year of his release, he had practically set up home in Fuengirola.
According to one Paisley detective, Boyd was thought to be planning something big, with the security businesses acting as a front. He says, "Boyd had his eye on early retirement, and was spending a lot of time shuttling back between the Costa del Sol and Glasgow. We have no doubt he was planning the most audacious deal of his career. Whether it backfired or he was simply involved in a car crash, nobody knows. What is certain is that his presence on the costas would have been linked to criminal activity. The fact that he crashed at the wheel of a 40,000 car interests me too - his probation records declare him as unemployed."
Paisley MP Adams, who has gone on the record accusing Boyd of taking a contract out on her life at the height of her campaign against Paisley’s drug wars, also believes Boyd’s presence in Spain pointed at one thing. She says, "Stewart Boyd played an integral role in the violence surrounding the turf war to control Paisley’s drug trade, and I have been told by the police that he was responsible for a number of threats against my own life, for campaigning against drugs in my constituency. I have no doubt that Boyd was involved in drug-smuggling in Spain. Whether this led to his death, I don’t know."
A spokesman for the Cuerpo Nacional de Polica, in Marbella, refused to rule out foul play in Boyd’s death. He says, "We are still investigating this crash, and it may not be as straightforward as it first seemed. We will not know until the results of the autopsies and the forensic tests are available. We are also speaking to the police in Scotland, in relation to Mr Boyd’s background. It is our job to account for all possibilities, especially when six people have been killed."