British chef awaiting Costa del Sol murder trial found dead in prison cell

Leigh Anthony Gardiner after appearing at Fuengirola court in 2019.
Leigh Anthony Gardiner after appearing at Fuengirola court in 2019. / SOLARPIX
  • Leigh Anthony Gardiner was arrested in June 2019 for the alleged murder of John Pender in a bottle attack at an Irish pub in Fuengirola

The British chef Leigh Anthony Gardiner, aged 50, who was awaiting trial on the Costa del Sol for the murder of John Pender, an Irish acupuncturist, has been found dead in his Malaga prison cell with signs he had taken his own life.

Gardiner was accused of stabbing the victim with a broken beer bottle, who reproached him for allegedly pestering his wife in a Fuengirola pub in June 2019.

Prison officers found Gardiner lying motionless on his bed at the Alhaurín de la Torre prison on the morning of 30 December during the morning count.

An inquiry into the prison death will now take place but the prison workers' association, Tampm, said the accused man was found "with cords tied around his neck, which appeared to indicate it wasn't a natural death" and an autopsy report points to suicide.

Gardiner, who worked as a chef in a Costa resort and lived in Mijas with his wife and children, had been held in the Malaga prison since June 2019 when he was arrested for the murder of John Pender, a 55-year-old Irishman who was on holiday with his family.

Bottle attack

Police investigations revealed that an argument started after the alleged attacker had been trying to start conversations with several women in the bar and had bothered the victim's partner.

The two men, who didn't know each other, got into an argument.

At one point the victim went to the toilet and the other man followed him, according to the National Police, attacking him several times with two broken bottles.

The victim suffered cuts to several parts of the body, one to the neck. He managed to reach the door of the bar where he collapsed.

Despite attempts the emergency services were unable to save him and the man died at the scene.

The alleged killer attempted to leave the bar after the attack but was held back by security staff until National Police officers arrived and arrested him.

Gardiner was sent to prison, without bail, on suspicion of murder and was still awaiting trial when he was found dead on the morning of 30 December in module 5 of the Alhaurín de la Torre prison.