Antigua murder: Scotland Yard asked to help

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The Independent US

The Prime Minister of Antigua called for Scotland Yard to help solve the murder of British bride Catherine Mullany and the shooting of her husband today.

Baldwin Spencer told residents on the Caribbean island the shootings were "threats to our very survival" and would not be tolerated as they threatened the country's vital tourism industry.

His national address came as Mrs Mullany's husband Benjamin was fighting for his life in hospital. The BBC is reporting that arrangements are being made to fly him back to the UK.

Mr Spencer said: "Your government will not tolerate any action that will tarnish the reputation of this country."

"It is a fact that this country has made significant gains over the past four years, and as a government and a people, we cannot allow lawlessness and crime to erode the tangible benefits and the quality of life that our country now enjoys.

"The truth is unpalatable to some people. But the recent killing of Dr Mullany and the brutal attack on her husband are threats to our very survival as they directly threaten our main industry: tourism."

He added that the government of Antigua and Barbuda made a formal request for assistance from Scotland Yard "in cracking the number of unsolved murders still on the books".

But he also criticised the UK and the US for "a marked increase" in the number of criminals being deported to Antigua "year after year".

"Over two hundred and eighty criminals have been deported back to our 108-square-mile island during the past 10 years," he said.

"To any small island-developing-state, this figure is astronomically high.

"In ours, particularly, with its small population, these criminal deportees, with skills developed and nurtured in the US and UK, are impacting tremendously on our society.

"We, as the Caribbean community, have raised our concerns with our international partners; however, the criminals are still being deported.

"In many cases they are being sent to countries with which they have little or no connection, except for the fact that they were born here."

Mr Spencer added that Antigua had "long been a nation of law-abiding citizens" and had "come to cherish the peace and security that our nation has enjoyed" with the UK.

But he said the nation had been "overwhelmed" by crime and violence in the past decade and, in the last several weeks, "the nation's sensibilities have been outraged by the continuing incidents of rapes, robberies, and shootings".

The prime minister said the nation's sympathies went out to the victims, but he added: "Beyond sympathy, I assure you that we will employ every legal measure to hunt down and bring to justice those who are responsible for the senseless acts.

"As chief servant of this nation, I pledge my government's commitment to ensuring that our nation remains a paradise."

Mrs Mullany was murdered on Sunday morning and her husband Benjamin remains critically ill in intensive care amid fears he will not survive.

Police have questioned more than a dozen people, including two security guards at the Cocos resort where the incident happened, but there are no official suspects and no clear leads.

A reward of more than £60,000 has been offered for information leading to the conviction of the killer.

The couple's parents appealed for time "to come to terms with the devastation of the past few days" after they spent around 30 minutes at Mr Mullany's bedside yesterday.

Mr Mullany's parents, Marilyn and Cynlais, and his wife's parents, Rachel and David Bowen, looked sombre and held hands as they left Holberton Hospital in the Antiguan capital of St John's.

Antigua's tourism minister Harold Lovell, who met them at the hospital, said a task force had been set up on the island to review security at the resorts and hotels.

He said there was "no reason to be alarmed" and that the task force - consisting of police, the defence force, private security associations, and the ministries of tourism and justice - had been set up out of an "abundance of caution".

Asked about the reward to catch the killer, he said: "This indicates the national feeling where all Antiguan people are coming together at this time and we have to make sure this is treated as a national issue, quite rightly."

Police commissioner Gary Nelson, who was brought in from Canada to improve Antigua's troubled force earlier this year, told Observer Radio: "This suspect, this person that's committing these terrible crimes - they have to have a girlfriend or boyfriend who knows something, and I call out for them to help us.

"I suggest to a girlfriend that (the reward) is good money. You can go somewhere in the world and live pretty good for quite a while."

Inspector Cornelius Charles said yesterday the island's 350-strong police force was not at the stage where it could identify any suspects and added: "There's no telling when we're going to get there."

A photograph of a guard sleeping at the resort where the incident happened was published around the world.

Inspector Charles also denied reports that the couple, both aged 31, had been tortured in cottage 15 at the Cocos hotel, but police confirmed Mrs Mullany had called for help during the attack.

Mr Mullany remains in a critical condition and the hospital has refused to confirm comments by one of its surgeons, Dr Fidel Fernandez, that he was brain dead with "no chance of survival".

The hospital building where he is being kept, a single-storey white building with Barclays Bank Intensive Care Unit written on its outside wall, sits on a hillside in the Antiguan capital St John's.

Wooden slats cover the windows, which overlook the city.

The couple set off on their two-week honeymoon after marrying at a church in the Swansea valley in South Wales on July 12.

They were on the last day of their holiday when at least one gunman burst into their cottage as they slept and the shootings occurred.