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Judge's investigation holds landowner in Julen case responsible for negligent homicide

File photo of David Serrano (c) arriving with his lawyers at the Ciudad de la Justicia in Malaga.
File photo of David Serrano (c) arriving with his lawyers at the Ciudad de la Justicia in Malaga. / F SILVA
  • David Serrano, owner of the land in Totalán where the toddler suffered a fatal fall down a borehole, failed to take necessary precautions, according to the investigating judge

The judge investigating the cause of death of two-year-old Julen in Totalán in January has reached her conclusion. According to a statement released by the magistrate on Wednesday, the owner of the land, David Serrano, has committed the crime of homicide through gross negligence because he, among other reasons, left open the prospecting shaft into which the boy fell.

The judge declared that the investigation is now officially over and both the public prosecution and the defence have ten days to request the opening of proceedings, by filing an indictment, or to request the dismissal of the case.

Following a number of tests, including the autopsy, as well as statements issued by the landowner and the boy's parents, the investigating judge has been able to piece together an official version of events which led to the boy's death. It states that Serrano purchased the land in Totalán, near Malaga, in October 2018 and in order to bring water to the area, he verbally contracted well-digger Antonio Sánchez. On 17 and 18 December he drilled two boreholes - the second 110 metres deep. However, when no water was found in the second one, he removed the metal tubing used to carry out the digging and placed a rock over the borehole to close it off.

Work on the land continued, as explained by the judge, with the creation of an L-shaped trench to create a retaining wall. This happened on 5 January after which the borehole, located at the end of the trench, remained covered.

However, according to the judge, Serrano returned a few days later to take some measurements, at which point he left the borehole uncovered and left the area.

He then didn't return until 13 January, the day on which the fateful accident occurred. Serrano came to the area with his wife, Adriana Jiménez, and his younger daughter, as well as Julen and Julen's parents, Victoria García and José Roselló. The plan was to spend a day in the countryside and to enjoy a paella.

When they arrived, Serrano and Roselló went for a walk to explore the surroundings and to prepare to get a fire started for the food, while their wives stayed behind with the children.

After warning Roselló that she was going to call work and that he needed to look after Julen, García moved a few metres away from the group. With Jiménez 2.5 metres away from the borehole and Roselló and Serrano preparing the fire, Julen entered the trench and started to run in the direction of the open borehole.

According to the judge, Jiménez noticed what was happening and called the boy's name while the father ran after him. However, he couldn't reach him in time and he fell down the hole.

Biggest rescue in history

What followed was the biggest rescue effort in the history of Spain with numerous engineers and specialist machinery deployed to the area, at a cost of 687,749 euros.

Overall, according to the judge, all indications point towards Serrano as responsible for what happened. She says there were insufficient safety measures and that Serrano did not take steps to avoid any harm coming to those present, failing to warn of the existence of a well, which was not clearly visible.

No permits

After also listing the shortcomings in terms of permits for the work he had carried out on the land, the judge has concluded that these factors represent a crime of homicide through gross negligence.

The lawyer representing the family of Julen, Antonia Barba, said that her clients were in agreement with the judge's statement and that they would be pressing ahead with action against Serrano.

The law firm representing Serrano, however, said that they would appeal on the basis that it is not certain that their client hadn't warned Julen's family about the borehole and because Serrano maintains that he hadn't left the hole uncovered and had covered it with two breeze blocks.