From day one, the story has been portrayed as one of obsessive love gone wrong — a deranged former girlfriend lashing out and killing the man who rejected her.
When British businessman Andrew Bush was shot and fatally wounded at his plush, five-bedroom villa in Spain a week ago, attention immediately focused on Mayka Kukucova, a beautiful young Slovakian woman who allegedly gunned him down in cold blood.
It seemed an open-and-shut case; killer lies in wait for her unsuspecting ex to return home late one night with his equally glamorous new partner, then out of the shadows shoots him and flees the scene in his £60,000 Humvee. The man bleeds to death because the emergency services are unable, for two hours, to break through the security gates he’d installed to protect himself.
Tangled tale: Mayka Kukucova, the former girlfriend who was accused of killing Mr Bush out of jealousy
Mr Bush and Mayka Kukucova when they were still a couple, left, and his last girlfriend Maria Korotaeva, right
The glamour of the setting, Mr Bush’s reputation as a multi-millionaire gold dealer, the tragic irony of the security system, and a love triangle involving two Eastern European beauties — one blonde, one brunette, each half his age — are more reminiscent of a fictional thriller than real-life murder. Yet all this happened in a small seaside village of Cancelada in the foothills of the beautiful Sierra de Ronda mountain range, a place popular with well-off European tourists and expats lured by the 18-hole golf course and the sailing.
One of the few known facts about the case is that Mr Bush was shot once in the head and once in an arm in what appears to be a planned assassination.
After that, the story becomes murky.
According to Miss Korotaeva, Mr Bush couldn't stand to hear Kukucova's name and his family resented her
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A key figure, though, is Mr Bush’s latest girlfriend, 20-year-old Maria Korotaeva. She told police she saw her predecessor, enraged by jealousy, running from the house and leaving Andrew to die.
The ex-girlfriend, Mayka, 26, a former model, is then said to have driven 2,000 miles through the night to her home town of Nove Mesto, Slovakia, where she promptly handed herself into a police station.
But Mayka has made no confession. Quite the reverse. In a sensational new twist, she claims she is pregnant with Mr Bush’s child and was actually a victim of the violence that took place that night, after she’d gone to speak to Mr Bush about their unborn baby.
Certainly, doctors examining her in hospital discovered bruising to her legs and evidence she’d been struck hard on the head. They also reported that clumps of hair had been torn out at the roots — none of which tallies with the notion of a cold-blooded execution.
Mayka is said to have told police that she didn’t know her former lover was dying or dead, and that she fled the scene because she was frightened.
Mr Bush's daughter Ellie (right), ex-wife Samantha Mason (middle) and her sister Rachel (left) visited his villa to collect his personal belongings and lay flowers
Samantha Mason's new partner carries some of Andrew Bush's belongings to a waiting taxi
Her defence lawyers are believed to be conceding their client was at the house that night, but claim any injuries sustained by Mr Bush were brought about as a result of Mayka defending herself.
Further, they will allege the firearm belonged to him.
So with two women apparently in love with — and avowedly grieving for — the same man, but telling such conflicting stories, small wonder there is a growing school of thought that all is not as it seems.
Police from Britain, Spain and Slovakia are also looking at Mr Bush’s business activities and discovering a colourful (some would say brash) lifestyle.
Cancelada, the quiet Spanish village where he lived, is an illusion too: it provides a discreet shelter for a number of dubious characters — including many ex-cons from Britain and, more recently, a Russian and Eastern European contingent — making it part of what is dubbed ‘the Costa Del Crime’.
Mr Bush, who has been variously described as a multi-millionaire, a businessman and a jeweller, was all these things and more. From a working-class family in Bristol, he owned and ran a number of small jewellery shops.
He also had outlets where you could sell gold for cash. He loved expensive watches and was an expert in buying and selling the big, flashy variety.
But, according to some who knew him, he was also a man who made his money from the misfortune of others. He had a couple of pawnbrokers lending money to people who could not secure deals from banks.
And he had an ostentatious taste for champagne and expensive cars. He owned both a red convertible Ferrari and a grey Lamborghini. At one stage, he had a Bentley, too. Over in Spain, he kept the ultimate boy’s toy, a top-of-the-range Hummer.
Unlike many of his customers, he clearly had access to money and was considered, in Bristol at least, to be a wealthy man whose businesses were doing well. He worked out with a personal trainer twice a week, wore expensive designer labels and was always tanned. In the mid-Nineties, he married Samantha Mason, then a news presenter for ITV’s HTV channel in Bristol. They had a daughter Ellie, now 19, but split up a few years after her birth. The couple remained friends, and Bush was said to adore his daughter, who worked for him part-time.
Miss Korotaeva has accused Miss Kukucova of Mr Bush's murder
She has taken to twitter and Instagram to praise Mr Bush, calling him her 'teacher' who 'changed my world for better [sic]'
Maria Korotaeva met Mr Bush in a Costa Coffee branch in Bristol last year and they became a couple
The house owned by Andrew Bush on the Costa Del Sol where he was shot dead
He went on to have a series of short-lived relationships with much younger women. He met his last girlfriend, Maria, in a Costa Coffee in Bristol.
As one associate remembers: ‘He had confidence and presence. And he had an eye for the women — always beautiful and much younger than him — and he had the front to pull it off.
‘Maria is so beautiful that most blokes would be petrified to approach her, least of all someone our age, but Andy didn’t worry about things like that. He swept her off her feet and whizzed her over to Paris for Valentine’s Day, with the full, five-star experience.
‘He lived the life all right, but there was always a sense of mystery about him. He wasn’t the sort of bloke you’d mess with, put it that way.’
Although Bush was considered a ‘player’ in Bristol, there were some who wondered how he could afford such a lavish lifestyle on the profits of a handful of small shops. One look at his company records and the mystery deepens.
Officially, he had four businesses, although three of them are dormant. One in particular, VIP Limos, has an impressive name, even though the company has never traded and the limousines do not exist.
His only trading company, Bigwig Enterprises, has a balance sheet that doesn’t suggest a booming income. The latest accounts show ongoing profits held in the business at £21,040 — an improvement on losses of £6,327 in 2012.
So why would somebody keep three companies running despite never doing any business?
One possible explanation is that Mr Bush had big dreams that never materialised. Another is the firms were there to give the impression to casual observers that he had a more diverse financial portfolio than was the case.
Certainly, Mr Bush’s business did not contain what you’d call high-flying executives. An accountant by the name of Julian Arnold acted as company secretary of the three dormant companies. He works out of a dingy office alongside Bristol prison.
William Brice, company secretary of Bigwig Enterprises, is more elusive. The address given to Companies House for him consists of a caravan in a field. Hardly the colleagues one normally associates with millionaires.
That Mr Bush was generally viewed locally as a man of means was beyond question. He was always seen around Bristol with two burly minders.
No one seems sure if it was pure affectation — that this jewellery shop owner had been watching too many gangster movies — or that he was taking sensible precautions given the line of business he was in.
Perhaps he had made enemies. His domestic arrangements certainly suggest he was frightened of something.
He lived in a large, detached house near Chepstow racecourse in rural Monmouthshire. It is unremarkable for this relatively prosperous part of Wales, save for the fact it is surrounded by a 7ft-high stone wall. Access is via a giant set of electronic gates.
The house and gardens are stuffed with security cameras and sensors, while every window and door is reinforced by steel shutters.
All the cars were removed from the garages some months ago. According to neighbours, Mr Bush had them taken to a neighbouring farmer’s barn for safekeeping, such was his fear they would be stolen.
It is more Roman Abramovich than Bristol jeweller, and indicates either a degree of paranoia or that Mr Bush genuinely felt threatened. But as with all wealthy, mysterious men, rumours abound. There was talk he had a fortune in diamonds stashed away.
True or not, his home was certainly a target. It was raided last year by an armed gang who tied up and threatened Mayka — who was then his girlfriend — while he was away.
‘It not so much a house as a fortress,’ said one associate of Mr Bush in South Wales. ‘I always wondered why he didn’t just move if he was in danger. But then he wasn’t really the type to back down from a fight.’
All of which paints a picture of a man who was living on the edge of a world that included some pretty unsavoury characters. Describing Mr Bush’s business dealings, the associate said: ‘This was not gold-trading on the stock exchange — it’s bring in your granny’s wedding ring and we’ll give you a few quid for it.
Mayka Marica Kukucova and Mr Bush before they split up. She claims she was also a victim of the violence
Mayka Kukucova claims to be pregnant with Mr Bush's child
Kukucova was allegedly obsessive about Mr Bush after the split up in 2012
‘It’s like the payday loan companies — there’s nothing illegal about it but you can definitely question the morals of buying gold off the poor and desperate for a song.’
Two of Andrew’s main shops in Bristol were subjected to a series of attacks in which, according to news reports, armed raiders made off with £500,000 in jewellery and diamonds. This week, two sturdy-looking security men were outside the biggest shop. They weren’t answering questions.
Other people who knew Mr Bush in Spain said he was, in many ways, playing out of his league. He loved celebrity haunts such as La Sala and the News Cafe in Marbella. And he always made the grand summer opening of the town’s Beach White Party. One friend in Marbella said: ‘Andy was like a kid in a sweet shop when he first moved out here. He bought himself a flashy car and wore expensive watches and jewellery. He stood out like a sore thumb when he turned up in some of the bars.’ The British contingent of criminals who still inhabit Southern Spain believe he might have been a victim of some kind of ‘hit’ or deliberate killing rather than a straightforward lover’s revenge.
But the friend in Spain said: ‘The problem for Andy was that he was not a criminal. He wasn’t into drugs. That meant he was a bit green.’
It is against this background that he met Mayka Kukucova, the woman now accused of murdering him.
They began dating three years ago and were said to have been inseparable. But after a series of arguments, they split up in November 2012.
Miss Kukucova was apparently distraught, and bombarded her ex with forlorn messages and online videos professing undying love. Mr Bush, it appears, was unmoved.
Then last year, he met Maria, a student at the West of England University, by chance over a cup of coffee. Despite the fact she was just a year older than his beloved daughter, she became his significant other.
Deliberately or not, Maria made sure via Instagram and other social networking sites that the world knew they were an item.
What she didn’t know is that the woman she had replaced was jealously monitoring their fledgling romance.