Blowing up the block over EUR 16 rent hike

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Third victim of Barcelona building blast may be disgruntled tenant

20 March 2008

BARCELONA - An EUR 16 increase in her monthly rent following a lengthy legal battle with her landlord may have been the final straw for Ana Moreno, a 53-year-old woman who police believe triggered the explosion at her Barcelona apartment on Monday, killing two neighbours and, possibly, herself.

Though DNA tests have yet to confirm the identity of a third body found on the second storey of the apartment building in the La Verneda district, evidence suggests that it could belong to Moreno, a tenant who local residents described as "conflictive." The other two victims were a brother and sister in their early twenties who lived in the flat adjacent to Moreno's. Their mother, a widower, was injured in the explosion, which tore through the building at 7.30am.

Having ruled out the possibility of a gas leak, investigators suspect Moreno triggered the explosion intentionally to exact revenge on her landlord for taking her to court for not paying her rent and winning an injunction ordering an increase in monthly rental payments from EUR 77 to EUR 93. It is unclear whether Moreno, who had lived in the apartment since the 1970s, had intended to claim her own life in the blast.

"She was always problematic," said José García, her landlord, who also happens to be her brother-in-law.

García's decision to take her to court began a feud that apparently unhinged Moreno. She appeared on television talk shows and complained bitterly to the local media, and even apparently turned to magic.

Neighbours said she rarely spoke to them except to ask if she could read their palms or hold tarot card sessions. One day, residents of the apartment block said they found her spreading oil on the stairs to "scare away evil spirits" and many, like García, grew increasingly worried about her mental health. None, however, expected she would fill the apartment with flammable substances, possibly gasoline, and trigger an explosion, leaving two of her neighbours dead and 87 homeless.


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