March 9 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, January 9, 2014
The killing of London man Thomas Henry Berry and his ex-wife in Venezuela earlier this week follow a pattern of similar late night attacks on roads in the South American country, according to a violence watchdog.
Former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear, 29, and her 39-year-old ex-husband, a British citizen, were shot dead on Monday, in an attack that also injured their five-year-old daughter.
The director of the Violence Observatory, Roberto Briceno, said the killings “bring into relief a common reality of daily life in Venezuela”.
Hundreds of actors and writers took to the streets of the capital Caracas yesterday to demand the government protect its citizens from the callous killers responsible for giving Venezuela one of the world’s highest murder rates.
More than nine in 10 murders go unsolved in the troubled oil-rich nation, according to the independent Venezuelan Violence Observatory.
Robbers killed Ms Spear and Mr Berry around 10.30pm local time on an isolated stretch of highway while the couple was returning to the capital by car with their daughter from a holiday.
Mr Briceno’s watchdog counted nearly 45,000 people killed last year - 79 for every 100,000 Venezuelans.
“One need not necessarily be flashing around signs of wealth to be a victim,” Mr Briceno said. The dead couple were driving a 2002 Toyota Corolla.
Prosecutors last night announced the arrest of seven suspects, saying that “various belongings of the victims were seized”.
Police said Ms Spear and Mr Berry tried to foil the assault by locking themselves inside their car, which had been disabled by tyre punctures. But the attackers fired into the car.
A single bullet that entered through Ms Spear’s right rib cage killed her, said Katty Pulido, her manager.
Mr Berry was killed by three bullets to his chest, while their daughter, Maya, was wounded in the right leg by a bullet that did not strike bone, Ms Pulido added.
It was Maya who told police how the criminals killed her parents “out of vengeance,” she said.
“This is something that happens a lot in Venezuela,” she said of fatal shootings during armed robberies.
“They (the police) cover it up in a lot of cases but they can’t when the victims are well-known.”
Ms Spear’s parents have arrived in Caracas from their home in Orlando, Florida, while Mr Berry’s parents had been with Maya at a private clinic in Caracas.
Ms Spear was crowned Miss Venezuela in 2004 and competed in the Miss Universe pageant the following year.
She had acted in numerous soap operas, most recently in Pasion Prohibida for the US-based Telemundo network.