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Former Miss Venezuela shot dead in attempted robbery

Caracas, Jan 9 (): A single bullet killed former Miss Venezuela in a double murder that also claimed her British partner and highlighted the violent crime epidemic of the country, her manager said on Wednesday.

Monica Spear, former Miss Venezuela and a popular soap-opera actress, and her British-born ex-husband Thomas Henry Berry, 39, were shot dead in the mountains of western Venezuela. They were killed in what seems to have been a failed robbery after their car broke down on a highway late on Monday, police and prosecutors said.

The couple had fought robbers by locking the doors of their broken-down car. Their young daughter Maya Berry Spear, was wounded but was stable after receiving medical treatment. Spear was found dead with a gunshot wound in the head, while Berry, who ran a Venezuelan-based adventure tourism agency, was shot in the chest. Their daughter suffered a gunshot wound in the right leg. The family apparently had locked themselves inside their disabled car, at which point the attackers opened fire. The killings have called attention to the widespread violent crime in the oil-rich country.

After this brutal killing, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro met with governors and mayors on Wednesday to discuss procedures to deal with the out-of-control violent crime of the country. Maduro said the couple had been “slain with fury”.

He told a delegation of actors who had come to his office to call those behind the crime be brought to justice that “violence is an evil we have [in Venezuela]“. He promised them that the full weight of the law would be brought to bear on the criminals.

Maduro said Venezuelans should disarm and he has planned to draft a “pacification law” intended to reduce the number of firearms in public hands. “Guns are for the police and the republic,” he said.

Officials in Carabobo state said they have arrested five suspects in a poor barrio in Puerto Cabello, where the killings took place.