News Americas

Thursday 18 September 2014

Beauty queen and ex-husband shot dead after car breakdown

Ex-Miss Venezuela victim of robbery

Published 08/01/2014 | 02:30

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Monica Spear pictured in 2005 taking part in Miss Universe
Monica Spear pictured in 2005 taking part in Miss Universe
Forensic experts inspecting the car in which former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear Mootz and her husband Thomas Henry Berry were killed.

A former Miss Venezuela and her ex-husband were shot dead in front of their young daughter during a robbery after their car broke down in the country.

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Monica Spear (29) and Henry Thomas Berry (39) were attacked near Puerto Cabello, Venezuela's main port.

The couple's five-year-old daughter, Maya Veliz, was reported to have been injured in the attack and was stable in hospital. She has non-life-threatening injuries.

It is understood that the couple were the victims of car thieves.

Mr Berry, the British son of a retired university professor, was the head of a travel company. A close friend said that he had already survived one attempt on his life in the violent South American country.

The dead man moved to Venezuela with his parents, Tom and Kate, when he was aged seven but used to travel back regularly to visit relatives and friends.

His sister Katie lives in Scotland after moving back to Britain several years ago with her Venezuelan-born husband, Luis.

Murder squad detectives were last night hunting his killers, who struck after their victims broke down on a motorway.

Mr Berry's ex-wife had forged a successful new career as an actress and had returned to Venezuela for a family break from her new home in the United States.

The pair divorced in 2013 after four years of marriage but had remained good friends and are thought to have holidayed together with their daughter before Monday night's shooting.

They were travelling from Puerto Cabello towards Venezuela's third-largest city Valencia in a grey Toyota Corolla when they were attacked. The incident took place in an area 300km west of Caracas called El Cambur.

Mr Berry was shot in the chest and Ms Spear is believed to have suffered multiple gunshot wounds.

Close friend Luis Dominguez, a former business partner of the dead man, said: "Thomas was a very close friend of mine. I'm absolutely devastated. He had already been shot once by robbers trying to steal his car.

"His friend died in the incident and although doctors saved his life, they couldn't extract the bullet and he still had it in his stomach.

"He moved to the States to get away from things here for a while but missed Venezuela and came back."

The bodies of Mr Berry and Ms Spear were taken to a morgue in Valencia, the capital city of Carabobo state which lies about 160km west of the capital Caracas.

RESISTANCE

A team of detectives led by police chief Jose Gregorio Sierralta were sent from Caracas to Valencia to work on the case.

Police sources said early reports suggested the couple had been shot dead after putting up resistance before taking refuge in their car.

The vehicle they were travelling in has been taken to a police pound for forensic tests.

Two state prosecutors have been put in charge of the investigation into the double murder.

Venezuela is one of the world's most violent countries.

The capital Caracas has the sixth greatest murder rate of any large city in the world, with 98.7 murders per 100,000 residents in 2011. There were 118,541 homicides in Venezuela between 1999 and 2010.

Irish Independent

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