Long-term resident


The origins of the conflict go back to 1896, when the mountain was declared the joint property of the 13 heads of family

In 1997, the investigative journalist Carles Porta made a short film for TV3 (Catalan Public Television) about Tor, a tiny hamlet near Andorra in which three murders had been committed in the mid-1990s. Since then he has spent 30 years carrying out further research into the case, and in May and June of this year he released a stunning docuseries called Tor, la muntanya maleïda (Tor, The Accursed Mountain), the hamlet in question being named after the huge mountain it gives onto. The origins of the conflict go back to 1896, when the mountain was declared the joint property of the 13 heads of family, their ownership being conditional on their permanent residence in the village. This eventually led to arguments between the families as to who really lived there all year round and who didn’t, a disagreement which, in the second half of the 20th century, coalesced around the two village caciques, who went by the nicknames El Palanca and Sansa. Tensions rose to the extent that both men hired two bodyguards each: the first deaths were caused when the bodyguards of one were shot dead by those of the other. Eventually, in a half-cocked attempt to dissolve the feud, a judge declared that as Sansa was now the only inhabitant to live in the village all year round, he was the rightful owner of the entire mountain. Five months later he was bludgeoned to death at an unknown location and his corpse dragged, probably by more than one person, into his own home.

Anyone might be forgiven for thinking that finding the killer of a big landowner in a hamlet of 13 houses should be child’s play, but there were countless suspects. In the 1940s, people smugglers - many of them Andorrans - guided Jews fleeing the Nazis across the Pyrenees, some of whom they robbed of gold and jewellery. Tor was on one of the most convenient escape routes, and rumours had it that a few of the fugitives had buried their valuables there for safekeeping, with a view to collecting them later. No wonder, then, that for a while Tor was a target of eager gold seekers with metal detectors, who were chased away by Sansa: could one of them have beaten him past an inch of his life? Since the 1970s, there had also been a small community of hippies living on Sansa’s land: two of them were accused by a witness of having clubbed Sansa to death. Another hippy, a man with a violent criminal record who was once closely trusted by Sansa, had a serious disagreement with him, so Sansa threw him out of the village, making him a vengeful suspect. Yet another villager was spotted in a bar in a neighbouring village with blood on his clothes the night Sansa was killed. Two of Sansa’s other hippies held up convoys of tobacco smugglers’ vehicles at gunpoint and demanded money, so these smugglers might also have killed the gunmen’s boss. El Palanca, the other cacique, was furious with Sansa’s plans to turn the mountain into a ski resort, so may have murdered Sansa (or had him murdered). Rumour has it that Carles Porta eventually discovered who the murderer was, but was unable to reveal his name in the programme for legal reasons. But perhaps all that really matters are Tor’s history and the people who affected this tiny village for decades, making it a fascinating microcosm of a dark side of life which can be found in so many other places. If not in absolutely all of them.


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