News East West
NEW YORK : A former Miss Venezuela and her former husband were shot dead by robbers on a highway in one of the most high-profile cases of violent crime in the South American nation.
Monica Spear, the 29-year-old beauty who won Miss Venezuela in 2004, and her former husband Thomas Henry Berry, 39, were killed in what the Venezuelan authorities said in an attempted robbery on the highway.
They were shot dead between the cities of Puerto Cabello and Valencia. Her 5-year-old daughter Maya Berry Spear survived with bullet wounds to her legs.
Reports quoting forensic police director Jose Gregorio Sierralta said the family were traveling on the scenic highway when their car was hit by a blunt object placed on the road. Ms Spear sought help from a tow truck. As the two workers of the tow truck were reportedly helping the family, five robbers showed up at the scene. While the tow truck operators fled, Ms Spear and her family locked themselves in the car. But the robbers shattered the window glass with fire and killed them. They fled from the scene without taking anything away.
Miss Spear lived at Orlando, Miami, in the US where she had a contract with the Spanish language television network Telemundo. She was visiting her native Venezuela for holidays with his former husband who was born in Britain but had Venezuelan citizenship. The couple had split in 2012 but remained on friendly terms.
After winning the beauty crown, she went into TV and appeared in many soap operas such as “La Mujer Perfecta” and “Calle Luna, Calle Sol.” Later, she moved to the US where she appeared first in the show called “Flor Salvaje”.
President Nicolas Maduro said, “This is a massacre.” He said he would come down on crime with an “iron hand.”
At 39 per 100,000, Venezuela has the highest homicide rate in Latin America. But if one were to go by the Venezuela Violence Observatory which says that an estimated 24,763 people were killed unlawfully in the country in 2013, the murder rate stands at a shocking 79 per 100,000 inhabitants. It makes Venezuela one of the most violent societies in the world.
Rampant corruption in the judiciary and police is one of the factors behind the shockingly high murder rate in a country which has won the Miss Universe pageant more times more than any country.
Miss Spear too had finished fourth in the Miss Universe pageant in 2005.