THE family of a British mum who vanished 28 years ago fear she was kidnapped and killed by a Costa del Sol crime gang.
Bar owner Bernadette Cooper was last seen alive in January, 1993 in South London, when she was aged 48.
Bernadette Cooper’s family fear she may have fallen victim to a Costa del Sol crime gangCredit: Facebook
She had been trying to secure funds to save her bar in BenalmadenaCredit: PA:Press Association
The mum-of-three had been trying access loans to save her bar Molly Malones at the coast’s Benalmadena resort.
Her nephew, Leon, fears a “sinister explanation” for his aunt’s disappearance.
The Met Police has opened an investigation after a missing person report was lodged last year.
But her family believe she may have fallen victim to an organised criminal gang on Spain’s ‘Costa del Crime’.
Bernadette had told relatives she and her husband Brian had been “gassed and robbed” at their Spanish flat, with their bar smashed up.
Leon told the Daily Mirror: “Some of my aunts and uncles are still alive and hold out hope but I think in their heart of hearts they know something terrible has happened.
“Spain is where I’m getting the most resistance to my questions, for obvious reasons, people are very scared.”
He added: “If her disappearance was at the hands of others and something terrible has happened to her then our cause will become one of justice to find out the truth and bring anyone involved to justice.”
“Some of my aunts and uncles are still alive and hold out hope but I think in their heart of hearts they know something terrible has happened
Bernadette, originally from Co. Monaghan, Ireland, moved from Spain to England after the break-up of her marriage in 1991.
She had to temporarily close her bar after falling into debt and was trying to raise £10,000 from relatives to save it.
Bernadette was last seen alive in The Horse & Groom pub in Tooting, from where she called the president of the Irish Bar Owners’ Association in Malaga.
She told him: “Tell the lawyer acting for the bar that I have the funds…
“Tell him don’t give the bar away – I am on my way back with the money.”
But the next year her sister flew to Spain after she failed to reply to Christmas cards.
The bar was under new owners and there was no sign of Bernadette.
She was last seen alive at the Horse & Groom pub in Tooting, South London
Her bank cards and passports haven’t been used since the night she was last seen at the Horse & Groom.
In the late 1990s, her family approached missing persons charities, the Salvation Army and private investigators in a desperate bid to find her.
Leon, who launched a new investigation into his aunt’s disappearance last year, has received threats since looking into the case.
He said: “There is a very strong possibility, although it is only one theory, that people and situations she encountered whilst living and working in Spain may have had a direct bearing on what happened to her.
“Obviously we need keys to unlock that theory and it is one of several theories being pursued by British and European police.”
A Scotland Yard spokesman told The Mirror a missing persons inquiry had been launched, assisted by Locate International.
A spokesman said: “In June 2020, Bernadette Cooper was reported missing to Devon and Cornwall Police.
“The last known contact with Ms Cooper was in 1993, she would now be 76.”
Bernadette told her relatives she and her husband Brian had been gassed at their Spanish apartment while they ran their bar in BenalmadenaCredit: Getty – Contributor