The year 1615 was a difficult year in Iceland with ice up to shores until late summer and considerable loss of livestock. In mid-summer three Basque whaling vessels got into Reykjarfjörður in Westfjords. Icelanders and the Basques had a mutual agreement at the beginning as they both had benefited from the enterprise. When the ships were ready for departure in late September a terrible gale arose and the ships were driven on the rocks and crushed. Most of the crew members survived (approx. 80). The captains Pedro de Aguirre and Esteban de Telleria wintered at Vatneyri (Patreksfjörður) and left for home the following year. The crew of Martin de Villafranca split into two groups; one entered Ísafjarðardjúp, the other went to Bolungarvík and later to Þingeyri.
The first conflict aroused when one group entered the empty house of a merchant of Þingeyri and took some dried fish. As retaliation, on 5 october, at night, a group of iceland forces entered the hut where the basques where sleeping and killed 14 of them, only one young man called García, scaped. Captain Martín de Villafranca of San Sebastián, whose father and grandfather had both been involved in Terra Nova whaling was among those who were killed. The bodies were mutilated and sunken into water. Jón Guðmundsson the Learned wrote about the injust and cruel deaths “dishonored and sunken into sea, as if they were the worst pagans and not inocent christians” Three days after the first slaying, Ari Magnússon summoned a council at Súðavík and twelve judges agreed to declare outlaws all basques.
On 13 October Martin and the other 17 of his group were killed at Æðey and Sandeyri in Ísafjarðardjúp, while they were fishing by the troops comanded by Ari Magnússon. Acording to Jón Guðmundsson, the victims were stabbed in the eyes, their ears, noses and genitals mutilated. The captain, Martín de Villafranca, was injuried in the shoulder and chest with an axe, anyhow he managed to scape into the sea but he was stoned in the water and dragged to the shore were he was tortured to death.
Two verdicts were instigated by sheriff Ari Magnússon of Ögur, Ísafjarðardjúp in October 1615 and January 1616. The Basques were considered criminals after their ships were wrecked and in accordance with the Icelandic law book of 1281 it was decided that the only right thing to do was to kill as many of them as possible.