Angry residents protest outside Alcalá de Gaudaíra Town Hall.
Three members of the same family died in Alcalá de Guadaíra near Seville onSaturday, apparently after consuming food that had been in contact with some sort of toxin or poison.
News of the deaths of Enrique Caño, 61, his wife, Concepción Bautista, 50, and their 14-year-old daughter, spread to the international press after it was reported that the family was destitute and had eaten food salvaged from refuse containers.
The couple’s second daughter, 13, who was also taken ill, is recovering in hospital.
Sources close to the case have pointed out that it is possible that a very toxic substance, for example rat poison, had got into the food. Even if the food had been out of date or in bad condition, it seems unlikely that this alone would cause such sudden deaths, explained the sources.
Miguel Ángel López Rosa, the couple’s nephew and family spokesman, denied that Enrique, an unemployed plumber, had rummaged through refuse containers to find food. He stressed that these reports had been upsetting for the family.
“The Police have the receipts for all the products, as well as the products themselves, to help them investigate the cause of death,” he said in a statement on Monday.
They had even bought food for their Christmas dinner and were planning a short trip to visit relatives in Azuaga in Badajoz, he explained.
The preliminary results of the post mortem examinations show that the deaths were caused by cardiorespiratory arrest and multi-organ failure, but indicate that there was no evidence in the victims’ stomachs that pointed to the cause of death. Further tests are being carried out in toxicology labs in Madrid and Seville.
In response to the tragedy, onSaturday the regional Health Department activated a health warning, although it stated on Tuesday that no new cases had been detected.
Department head María José Sánchez Rubio rejected claims of medical negligence on the part of the Andalusian Health Service, after the gravity of the situation was not detected on the first visit. She said that the first ambulance team called out at 2.55 on Saturday morning had acted “according to established protocol”.
The three victims were buried on Monday in the local cemetery.
Neighbours call for more social help
The Caño Gutiérrez family, like many, had suffered financial difficulties since Enrique, a plumber, became unemployed as a result of the crisis.
Their ground floor flat in Alcalá de Guadaíra had apparently been seized by the bank although they had not been evicted. According to reports the couple collected and sold cardboard and second hand clothes for extra income.
The head of the regional Health Department, María José Sánchez Rubio, confirmed on Monday that the family had received the ‘social salary’ from the Junta in 2010 and 2011 and had applied for this again in November after Enrique’s 426-euro unemployment benefit from the central government ran out.
Around 200 local people gathered outside Alcalá Town Hall on Monday to show their grief at the family’s death to call for the local authority to increase its social services.