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Encounter in Madrid

November 08, 1987

I write in the hope that it will assist other Americans who may be thinking of traveling to Spain. Last summer my wife and I, both wearing money belts, had just left the Plaza de Mayor in Madrid about 1:30 p.m. Two young men about 18 years of age came up behind me and gave me a push forward. Another young Spaniard was trying to take my wife's purse, dragging her and she wouldn't let go. I was still being pushed ahead and didn't see everything. The thief working on my wife slashed the purse straps and then stabbed her in the elbow area, grabbed her purse and started to run. I'm 62 but have run seven marathons, so took after the thieves for four blocks, shouting, "Police!" No one tried to help us, in spite of the fact that there were many people in the street.

I gave up the chase and returned to my wife, unaware that she had been stabbed. An emergency clinic put eight stitches in her arm. They called an ambulance and my wife was taken to a hospital. She suffered a concussion, a pulled groin muscle and her pelvic bone was broken in two places. Her treatment at the Madrid Hospital was terrible. No one spoke English and they didn't take enough X-rays. They said go home and you'll be better in two days.

The police took me to three stations and were only interested in getting a tip. At the American Embassy the next day I got no help but a list of doctors who spoke English. A sign at the embassy said: "American women, do not carry a purse in Madrid." We did get some medical help in Paris and continued our journey, but my wife was on crutches. Americans who plan on going to Spain, please be careful--the cities are full of thieves and purse snatchers.

ED RASKY

Canoga Park

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