Former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear and her ex-husband Thomas Henry Berry were killed by assailants in an attempted robbery on a highway in northwestern Venezuela late on Monday, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Gunmen shot dead Spear (a popular soap-opera actress) and Travel firm boss Berry (British citizen) in front of their five-year-old daughter Maya, who was injured in the attack. Maya was wounded in her right leg, but was in stable condition after receiving medical treatment at a hospital.
Spear, who lived in the United States, was vacationing in Venezuela with her ex-husband and their daughter when the incident happened. The family was travelling in their car, a gray Toyota Corolla, from the city of Merida to Venezuela's capital Caracas. The gruesome killings happened after the car hit a sharp object placed on the road, forensic police director Jose Gregorio Sierralta told reporters.
It has been suggested that the object was deliberately placed on the highway as part of a planned robbery. After the car broke down, Spear waved down to a tow truck to get help. According to Sierralta, the attack happened when the car was shifted to the tow truck. As five armed men emerged and told them to stop, the couple and their daughter ran back and locked inside their car to shield themselves from the killers, but the assailants shot them before escaping without stealing anything. The truck operators fled to a nearby police station located about one mile (1.5 kilometer) away.
Police have detained five people and have probed them in connection with their murders, said Venezuelan Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez, according to AFP.
The incident highlights the rising murder rates in Venezuela. The country has one of the world's highest murder rates. According to the non-profit Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, Venezuela's murder rate was 79 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2013.
Following the brutal murder of Spear and her ex-husband, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has promised to use an "iron hand" to crack down on crime. "We were evaluating the cruelty with which the suspects acted. Violence is an evil that we have," Maduro was quoted as saying by BBC. "There will be no tolerance to those who carry out acts like that, killing decent men and women, who have a right to live," he further said.