Antigua shootings: Manhunt widens as victim in coma flies back to UK

Scotland Yard and FBI drawn in after local police struggle for clues to brutal gun attack on British couple. By Stephen Foley in St John's, Antigua
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The Independent US

The shots that killed Catherine Mullany and left her husband Benjamin fighting for his life rang out further than just the hillside where the newlyweds had been enjoying their honeymoon. It has shocked Britain, but has also overwhelmed the tiny twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda.

Almost every local inhabitant who bumps into a tourist will begin by expressing their sorrow over the attack. For all the exclusivity and the expense of holidays in paradise, visitors cannot expect Western standards of healthcare should they find themselves in need, or of policing, should they find themselves in trouble.

The Barclays Bank Intensive Care Unit of Antigua's Holberton Hospital is a tin-roofed place on a hillside overlooking the capital, St John's. When Marilyn and Cynlais Mullany visited their son's bedside on Tuesday, their first instinct was to arrange for him to be airlifted away. Antiguan doctors had already lost hope.

"If that was my child, I would be doing exactly the same thing," said Gary Nelson, the island's police commissioner. The complex airlift was accomplished on Friday, although it is unclear whether Mr Mullany, with a bullet in his brain, has any chance of regaining consciousness in the UK.

The chances of the police catching his attacker are also difficult to gauge. Their lack of resources is palpable. They had questioned 31 people, taken formal statements from 10 and still had four people in custody by Friday, but Mr Nelson said he was fighting a culture of silence and distrust of the police. "We're still shaking the tree," he admitted. Some of the arrests had yielded guns but not, he believed, the murder weapon.

The security guards at the Cocos hotel, who had failed to respond to the commotion in the Mullanys' cottage early on Sunday morning, now have "plausible stories". A "drifter", who worked on the beach and was fingered by locals, did not figure highly in the police's investigations.

A £67,000 reward offered by hoteliers has led to some tips but not, apparently, a breakthrough. Much hope here is pinned on the help of foreign forensics teams. Baldwin Spencer, the Prime Minister, said he would seek Scotland Yard's assistance, and Mr Nelson has also contacted the FBI.

Mr Spencer, addressing his highly religious people, ended a television address on the attack saying: "I urge all citizens and residents... to join this national initiative as we seek the assistance of a higher power to aid our earthly efforts."

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