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The failed assassination attempt on King Juan Carlos of Spain


In 1997, the life of the Spanish King came under threat as a plot was made to kill him during the opening of a new museum. The failed assassination attempt on King Juan Carlos was discovered by Spanish police by chance and resulted in an international hunt for the men who wanted to kill the Spanish monarch. Eneko Gogeaskoetxea Arronategui was the master of the plan together with some other members of the Spanish separatist and terror-organisation ETA.

ETA, “Basque Country and Freedom”, was an armed leftist Basque nationalist and separatist organization in northern Spain and southwestern France. The group was founded in 1959 and later evolved from a group promoting traditional Basque culture to a paramilitary group. Between 1968 and 2010, it killed 829 people, including 340 civilians, and injured thousands more.

The Guggenheim museum in Bilbao. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Spanish Police stumbled upon the plot as two men, dressed as gardeners, were attempting to hide the weapons they wanted to use in flowerpots outside the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao five days before its scheduled opening in October 1997. Eneko Gogeaskoetxea Arronategui and his accomplice were discovered by the police. During the following fight, Eneko Gogeaskoetxea Arronategui shot dead a police officer at close range and managed to escape.

The Spanish interior ministry announced that the Spanish police received a tip off in 2011 that Eneko Gogeaskoetxea Arronategui was living in England after a Spanish national spotted the man at a sports club. He was quickly arrested by British police and, in 2012, he was extradited to Spain.

For five years, he had worked for’s IT team, the WebFactory, based in Histon, under the pseudonym Cyril Macq. He was also membership secretary of Cambridge Squash Club in Histon Road and in the men’s first team.

First in 2016, a Spanish court sentenced Eneko Gogeaskoetxea Arronategui to 92 years in prison over the failed plot to kill Spain’s king at the opening of Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum in 1997. In addition to 92 years for the failed assassination, he was sentenced to 30 years in jail for murdering a police officer and another 15 years for conspiring against the monarchy. He was handed down a further 47 years behind bars for several other crimes relating to the plot, including forgery of public documents and possessing weapons.

About author

Senior Europe Correspondent Oskar Aanmoen has a master in military and political history of the Nordic countries. He has written five books on historical subjects and more than 700 articles for Royal Central. He has also interview both Serbian and Norwegian royals. Aanmoen is based in Oslo, Norway.