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Beauty Queen is shot dead


 BEAUTY: Monica Spear

BEAUTY: Monica Spear

BEAUTY: Monica Spear

A FORMER Miss Venezuela and her ex-husband were shot and killed and their five-year-old daughter wounded when they resisted robbers by locking themselves inside their car.

The attack in Venezuela happened after their tyres were punctured, stranding them on an isolated stretch of road, police said.

The killing of Monica Spear, 29, a popular soap-opera actress, and Thomas Henry Berry, a 39-year-old British citizen, was the latest high-profile crime in a country where killings are common in armed robberies.

Monday's murders followed a pattern in Venezuela of late-night assaults carried out by disabling cars with obstacles placed on roads, or by removing sewer covers.

Ms Spear and Mr Berry were killed at about 10.30pm local time between Puerto Cabello, the country's main port, and the provincial capital of Valencia.

On their return by car to Caracas their four-door car hit "a sharp object that had been placed on the highway" which punctured at least two of its tyres, the director of the country's investigative police, Jose Gregorio Sierralta, said.

Two tow trucks arrived almost immediately afterward and the attack occurred after the car had been lifted onto one of the trucks.

Seeing the assailants coming, the victims locked themselves inside and the robbers fired at least six shots, he said.

"They fired with viciousness," President Nicolas Maduro said of the attackers.



The killings are the latest symbols of the rampant violent crime that is afflicting this oil-rich nation and provoked an angry backlash against the government.

TV personality Camila Canabal expressed what many were feeling in a tweet: "Sadness, anger, indignation, impotence, shame and pain dammit!"

"Monica and Thomas are the face of thousands of men and woman whose children have been left without parents because of the violence of Venezuela," she added. The couple's daughter, Maya, was in stable condition after treatment for a leg wound and was with relatives in Caracas, authorities said.

Police in Puerto Cabello arrested five suspects, some under the age of 18. It was not be clear if the victims had called the tow trucks, or if any of the drivers were among those arrested in connection with the killings.

Luis Carlos Dominguez, a longtime friend and former business associate of English-born Mr Berry, said he was raised in Venezuela and ran a travel agency.

"He knew Venezuela a lot better than many Venezuelans," said Mr Dominguez, describing the slain couple as people "who really loved the country," had a good relationship despite their divorce and made it a point to holiday together.

Mr Maduro lamented "the loss of a very spiritual young woman" who was actively involved in various charities. She was crowned Miss Venezuela in 2004.