Former Miss Venezuela and ex-husband killed in robbery
Department of Foreign Affairs investigating after local media reported husband was Irish
Former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear, pictured during the Miss Universe 2005 pageant in Bangkok, and her husband Thomas Henry Berry, where shot to death following a hold up after the vehicle they were riding in broke down. Photograph: Rungroj Yongrit/EPA
A former Miss Venezuela became the latest victim of her country’s breakdown in law and order when she was murdered with her former British husband on Monday night.
Mónica Spear Mootz and Thomas Henry Berry were travelling towards the city of Puerto Cabello when they reported their car had broken down along the highway. They were found shortly afterwards shot dead after what police believe was a botched robbery.
Their five-year-old daughter who was in the car with them was found shot in the leg but is not in a critical condition. The couple had remained on friendly terms after splitting in 2012.
Local media initially reported that Mr Berry (39) was an Irish citizen, but a spokeswoman for Carabobo state police said he was travelling on a British passport. The British embassy confirmed he was a British national travelling on a British passport. His Facebook page says he came from London.
After winning Miss Venezuela in 2004, Ms Spear (29) represented the country in the following year’s Miss Universe competition, placing fourth. Since then she had pursued a career as a model, and was a rising star in the world of Latin American soap operas.
Her death has shocked Venezuela, a country devoted to both beauty pageants and the melodramatic soaps that comprise much of TV programming across Latin America.
Ms Spear was in Venezuela on a holiday from her base in Miami ,where she is under contract with the Telemundo network. In previous interviews she said rampant violence in Venezuela was one reason she had sought work abroad.
Murder rate explosion
An explosion in the murder rate since Hugo Chávez launched his Bolivarian revolution in 1998 has become an increasingly problematic issue for the Venezuelan government.
Last year it deployed troops to tackle the problem and last month the interior minister claimed the homicide rate had dropped from 50 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012 to 39 last year.
But human rights groups in Venezuela say the real number is far higher and that the government has censored murder statistics to prevent the full scale of the problem becoming public.
The Venezuela Violence Observatory estimates 24,763 people were unlawfully killed last year, which would push the homicide rate to 79 per 100,000 inhabitants, making Venezuela one of the world’s most violent societies. In 1998 the homicide rate was just 19 per 100,000 inhabitants.