Double shooting a stark reminder of dangers facing agents who monitor hunting and fishing and protect endangered species
Paco Morales brings his patrol car to a halt on a windy and almost deserted stretch of road smack in the heart of Spain. In the hot spring sky overhead, eagles, vultures and kites wheel, idly scanning the lands mid-morning menu.
This guy looks a bit pissed off, says the veteran forest ranger, nodding towards the figure on the verge.
More than three decades as a ranger or environmental agent as they are now known have taught the 54-year-old how to read people quickly and from a distance. Fortunately, the angry man on the verge wanted nothing more than to complain about his neighbour stealing stones.
During his time patrolling the huge, mainly rural and sparsely populated region of Castilla-La Mancha, Morales has often found himself threatened by those who take exception to his duties.
Illegal hunters have warned him to bring a gun the next time their paths cross, and there was an incident in which he was nearly run off the road by a man who followed him out of a restaurant where he was having lunch.
Not all of Spains 6,000 rangers have been so lucky. Three months ago, two in Catalonia asked a hunter to show them his firearms licence. He responded by shooting both men dead at close range.
The murders have served as a stark reminder of the dangers rangers face and spurred calls for the service to be armed.
We knew it was something that could happen one day, but we were surprised by the way in which it happened and the violence of it all, said Morales. You know that if its happened to someone else, it could happen to you.
Perhaps the biggest problem, he says, is the lack of understanding of the job he does. Half-police officer, half ecological steward, Spains environmental agents are responsible for everything from monitoring hunting and fishing to tackling pollution, protecting endangered species and combatting forest fires. Last year a ranger died fighting a fire in the Canary Islands.
To do the job, says Morales, an agent must be a cop, watchman, teacher, negotiator, diplomat, psychologist and firefighter an all-round juggler.