The murder rate for British tourists abroad runs at about one a week, making it one of the most significant causes of death – though well behind road accidents and drownings. Many of the victims of homicide abroad are longer-term residents or on visits to relatives. The statistics show that only a handful of tourists are killed by criminals (or, more rarely, terrorists) in the average year.
Each such tragedy makes the headlines, but some resonate especially strongly with the public. The attack on Catherine and Benjamin Mullany in Antigua will be one of those. It was a dream honeymoon that turned into the worst nightmare: a bride and groom at the start of their bright lives together, divided by death within weeks of their marriage. The damage caused will go way beyond the couple's grieving loved ones. The average friendly, welcoming citizen of this beautiful island either works in tourism, or depends upon fellow Antiguans who do. This is not a backpacker destination: the island's fragile economy relies on a steady stream of high-spending visitors, and the Mullanys were typical tourists staying at the opulent Cocos Hotel in the south-west of the island – which promises an "Escape to paradise". You and I may soon forget the name of the property and its slogan, but our subconscious association between "Antigua" and "Honeymoon Murder" could endure for years.
With Barbados and St Lucia offering a broadly similar range of attractions, Antigua is likely to see a swift, sharp decline in visitor numbers. But with other Caribbean islands – especially Jamaica – enduring shocking murder rates, concerns about safety could echo across the region.
From the point of view of the islands' image and prospects, the identity – and fate – of the perpetrator who fired the shot that killed Catherine Mullany is largely irrelevant. That catastrophic bullet will reverberate for years.