9 August 1995: ETA terrorists arrested over plot to kill king

A scene from the filming of the two-part TV drama made about the failed assassination attempt in 2008.
A scene from the filming of the two-part TV drama made about the failed assassination attempt in 2008. / EFE
  • They had been watching the royal family from an apartment overlooking the harbour and the hit-man had the king in his sights on three occasions

Every summer, the Spanish royal family spend a few weeks at their residence in Mallorca, the Marivent Palace. It has become a tradition over the years, and 1995 was no exception. That year, however, King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofia and their three children were enjoying a relaxing break with plenty of water sports and had no idea that somebody was planning to assassinate them.

That August, an armed unit of the Basque separatist terrorist group ETA was also in Mallorca, staying in an apartment overlooking the harbour in Porto Pi, where the royal yacht was berthed. Late at night on 9 August, the security forces swooped on the apartment and arrested three men, who were later named as Juan José Rego Vidal, his son, Iñaki Rego, and Jorge García Sertucha. According to neighbours, several shots were fired during the raid.

The Spanish police had been tipped off by their French counterparts, who were monitoring Rego Vidal and alerted them when he left France by yacht the previous month, and they had been watching the suspects closely.

In a statement to the press the following day, the Secretary of State for the Interior, Margarita Robles, said the men had been arrested for allegedly plotting an attack on the royal family. Suspicions had been aroused by the location of the apartment in which they were staying, the fact that they had weapons with them and documentation which suggested that they had been following the movements of the king and his family.

The Spanish authorities said later that Jorge García Sertucha, the member of the gang who was supposed to carry out the shooting, had the king in the rifle's crosshairs three times in late July and early August of 1995 but had not pulled the trigger because he couldn't be sure he would be able to escape safely immediately afterwards.

Rego Vidal had already spent a year in jail for conspiring to kill King Juan Carlos and the then Prime Minister Adolfo Suárez in Ibiza in 1979, and had been suspected of being part of an ETA unit that tried to kill the king's father, Don Juan, in 1975.

After the arrests on 9 August, the king and his family continued their holiday with every semblence of normality. Years later, the dramatic incident was featured in a two-episode TV drama in Spain.