Alfredo’s green eyes crystallize as soon as he leaves the courtroom this Wednesday. In the hall, leaning against a column, he stammers as he cries. He does not believe what he has just heard inside him: Judge Emilio Buceta had told him that he will not go to prison for some events that occurred in a hostel in Illescas in August 2018.

He tells Gema Manzanares Fresneda, a social worker at Pretox, a Toledo association for the prevention and help of addictions, who has also attended the very brief appearance of just a few minutes. “I don’t remember anything,” Alfredo told the court, made up of three magistrates, because he was up to his ears in drugs that day. “I am going to send you to a world that you are going to freak out!” He launched, among other threats, to the agents who ended up arresting him.

The Pretox social worker knows Alfredo very well, a former drug addict and rehabilitated bank robber, who also slept on the street. He has accompanied him on this journey to the Provincial Court of the capital of Castilla-La Mancha for this 58-year-old from Gijón to settle his last debt with the justice system. He is convinced that he will receive the four years in prison requested by the Prosecutor’s Office for drug trafficking.

However, after a long hour wait in the lobby, the court acquits him of the two crimes he was charged with. He is given the complete exemption for drug addiction when the events occurred, although he must comply with a security measure: she will be on probation, so she will continue to go to Pretox. “It’s about her directing her life as best as possible,” encourages Buceta, who may have been told about the defendant’s situation; She has a job, a salary, a house and even a car thanks to the generosity of a businessman and his brothers.

Alfredo Luis Menéndez Andrade is now just a heavy smoker. He has left behind the hellish world of drug addiction and a hated criminal career for decades, in which this former drug addict did not stop in and out of prisons. “My life would give for a book,” he says, sitting on a bench in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento de Toledo, shortly after leaving the Audiencia, while the sun illuminates his face.

Alfredo does not have enough fingers on his hands to review the 23 years he spent in prison throughout Spain – the last one, in Ocaña -, although his first contacts with crime were as a child. “I started when I was 14 years old, counting robbery coins from kids older than me. A gang from my neighborhood in Gijón used me. This gave me a lot of money, I didn’t know what to spend it on, I saw heroin and started using. That’s where I messed everything up, I got hooked.” He was 16 years old.

As a criminal, he did everything, but he specialized in robbing banks with firearms. «He was a cold and calculating guy, but polite. The police called me ‘the friendly mugger’. It’s not a joke -he clarifies-. He walked in politely, asked for the money politely, and I never hurt anyone; I never shot. In fact, once I was caught for serving a woman who was giving her a jamacuco. She was an old lady, during the bank robbery. I thought she was dying of a heart attack and a secret policeman arrested me ».

During this extensive spiral of crime, Alfredo used all kinds of drugs. “I’ve gotten so much crap that I’m terrible at dates, at names, at… I’ve gotten into everything I can get my hands on,” and he enumerates a long list of drugs. «Heroin, cocaine, tripis…, even in prison I have consumed it. Because there is, although it is more expensive », he testifies.

He speaks in the past perfect, but he left the world of drugs almost four years ago. It was after the events that were judged this Wednesday. He believes that they occurred on his birthday, August 25, after he was released from prison, but the Prosecutor’s Office dates it five days earlier. «They gave me a bag with one hundred grams of cocaine to test the quality. I took it, got into a pension and tried it. Good. But then I put a little bag with a brown substance, which I didn’t know what it was. I went to an imaginary world of elves and I made a mess », he recounts calmly.

Arrested by the local Police and the Civil Guard, this episode was the turning point to kick drugs. “I started with methadone, lowered the dose and came to leave it completely,” according to Alfredo, who assures that at the age of 14 he was already in psychiatric treatment.

At the end of 2008 he arrived in Pretox, where his life changed. “I saw a family,” she continues as she breaks down emotionally and her eyes glaze over. “They gave me the trust they placed in me; I did not want to disappoint them and I gave up the drug », she recounts along with the social worker, who nods her head. “This trial kept you awake at night from day one,” Gema reminds him. “Yes,” he replies, “because I had already achieved everything but, knowing that I was risking four years in prison, I was on a tightrope.” “That now they have told me that I am free and that I only have to go to Pretox, it is incredible.”

Alfredo could tattoo the phrase that many people repeat: “Things happen for a reason.” Because, in the case of this man from Gijon, the fact that he broke his leg and went to the hospital changed his life forever. In the same room he coincided with Agustín, a businessman from Albarreal del Tajo who was also admitted. It was Christmas 2020. «I told him about my life and, when we left the hospital, he offered me a job, house, salary and that he was going to give me a car. I thought he meant it as a joke, but he wasn’t. I have a car, a house, a job and my money because I work for it».

He is employed in a gravel pit and also watches the farm of Agustín and his brothers. «I sent him a video of a television report that they had done to me and I warned him: ‘Look who you put to work’. He answered me that the past is the past; come tomorrow », he evokes.

The businessman went to pick him up in Toledo, where Alfredo had slept on the street and was staying in a shelter while he was still under the protection of Pretox. «They furnished my house galore; washing machine, microwave, ceramic hob, television… Everything new, except the bed and the sofa, but I didn’t care. I have slept on the floor, on top of cardboard, because I was homeless». He is now fully reinserted, under Pretox’s supervision, and tells his life story to anyone who wants to listen.