Former Miss Venezuela, partner shot dead

A former Miss Venezuela and her British-born partner have been shot dead and their five-year-old daughter wounded during a suspected roadside robbery, authorities say.


Monica Spear, a 29-year-old soap opera star, and Thomas Henry Berry, 39, were killed after their car broke down on a highway in Venezuela’s northwest late on Monday, prosecutors said in statement.

Their daughter, Maya Berry Spear, was wounded in the right leg but stable after receiving medical treatment in an assault that put a spotlight on the country’s soaring murder rate.

Five people have been detained and are being interrogated in connection with the crime, Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez said on Tuesday after a televised meeting with President Nicolas Maduro.

“We presume it was a robbery … but we are in the middle of an investigation,” Rodriguez said.

The family was attacked by five assailants just as a tow truck had finished lifting the car, which had broken down on the highway between Puerto Cabello and Valencia in the state of Carabobo.

The terrified mother, father and child locked themselves in the car but “the criminals fired multiple shots at the vehicle”, Serralta said.

Authorities are interrogating the tow truck’s two operators. Investigators impounded the couple’s car for further analysis.

Spear, who was a quarter-finalist in the 2005 Miss Universe contest, appeared in the Miami-based Telemundo series Pasion Prohibida (Forbidden Passion) and Flor Salvaje (Savage Flower).

The dark-haired actress, who lived in the US, was vacationing in her native Venezuela at the time of her death. She had posted videos of the countryside and herself horse riding on Instagram in the last couple of days.

Her husband was born in Britain, but has Venezuelan citizenship.

“This is a massacre,” said Maduro, who vowed to curb the country’s runaway violence during his presidential campaign last year.

“This violence is a sickness that we have.”

Maduro called mayors and governors to a meeting on Wednesday to co-ordinate actions against crime.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who refused to concede defeat to Maduro in presidential elections last year, reacted to the killing by calling on the socialist leader to put aside “deep differences and unite against the lack of security, as one bloc”.

The beauty queen’s killing shocked fellow artists in this Caribbean country that is passionate about soap operas and the Miss Universe contenders it regularly produces.

Venezuelan actress Gaby Espino, who lives in Miami and stars in the Telemundo telenovella Santa Diabla, said she would never return to her home country.

“This is the day-to-day life in our country. We have all left Venezuela, fleeing in fear, terrified because this is the reality of our country. And today it happened to Monica,” Espino told Telemundo.

“I love my country, but I won’t set another foot in Venezuela,” she said.

Venezuelan telenovela director Leonardo Padron said he was “absolutely saddened, horrified, speechless, over the murder of my dear Monica Spear! My God!”

Telemundo, a leading Spanish-language network in the US, said in a statement that it was “deeply shocked and saddened by the horrible crime that hit our dear actress Monica Spear and her family”.

Jencarlos Canela, Spear’s American co-star and love interest in Pasion Prohibida, expressed grief of Twitter, writing: “I am speechless. I will miss you my friend @MonicaSpear.”

Addressing Spear’s daughter, he added: “My pretty, beautiful Maya, I love you. You are not alone!”

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