Florida teenager found guilty of murdering two British tourists

Shawn Tyson, who was just 16 at the time of the shooting, was expressionless as the verdict was read out
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The Independent US

A teenager who shot and killed two Britons who were on a family holiday to Florida learnt last night that he will spend the rest of his life behind bars after being found guilty of their murder.

Shawn Tyson was just 16 when he discovered James Cooper and James Kouzaris walking drunkenly through his neighbourhood, in the coastal city of Sarasota, late one night last April.

He pulled a gun on his victims and ordered them to remove their trousers and hand over their wallets. After it emerged that they were only carrying a small amount of money, he shot them both, saying: "since you ain't got no money, I have something for your ass!"

The shirtless bodies of Cooper, 25, and Kouzaris, 24, from Warwickshire and Northampton respectively, were discovered with their wallets and mobile phones on the ground next to them. Tyson was arrested soon afterwards.

Witnesses had seen him climbing through the window of his nearby home shortly after the shots were fired. A former friend of Tyson who testified for the prosecution said that the killer heard one of his victims plead for mercy, but decided to shoot him anyway.

The murder weapon was never found, but another friend, Marvin Gaines, testified that he had later sold it on behalf of Tyson. Several .22 bullet casings from the attack were found in his backyard.

Tyson, who despite his age was tried as an adult, was expressionless as the verdict was read out. He was told that he will never be eligible for parole.

The families of the victims, who had met at Sheffield University, were not in court for the verdict, but said in a statement: "Ours is a life sentence, with no chance of parole from a broken heart, and a shattered soul."

During the trial, the court heard how the two men, who were embarking on careers in the City, had been drinking heavily in local bars. Jurors were shown photographs taken hours before their death.

Against the advice of their parents, who had been with them earlier, Cooper and Kouzaris then decided to walk home, and stumbled into Newtown, one of Sarasota's roughest public housing estates.

Their killing, at around 3am on 16 April , led to fierce criticism of the local court system, since hours earlier, Tyson had been mistakenly freed from custody after being arrested for a separate shooting in which no one was hurt.