England

British men's deaths in Sarasota, Florida, investigated

US detectives are investigating how two British friends came to be shot dead on holiday in Florida, several miles from any recognised tourist area.

James Kouzaris, 24, from Northampton, and James Cooper, 25, of Warwick, were found shot dead 50ft from each other in a street in the city of Sarasota.

A 16-year-old boy has been charged with two counts of murder after the friends from university were found on Saturday.

Friends and family said they were role models who lived life to the full.

'Always happy'

Sarasota police said there was no known link between the suspect and the victims, who were found shot dead early on Saturday local time in the Newtown area of northern Sarasota.

Police captain Paul Sutton said the 16-year-old in custody was known to officers and had "at least one previous arrest".

The friends were murdered in a deprived part of Sarasota and local officers said it was "very unusual" to find tourists in this area.

The two friends had been staying on the island city of Longboat Key, about 12 miles from where they were found.

Mr Kouzaris' sister, Emily, posted a tribute to him on Facebook that read: "My brother was a legend and he will be missed and loved by many, many people."

Sarasota police said the former University of Sheffield students were not carrying drugs but would not confirm whether they had any money or weapons.

Andy Murray peer

Ed Ferrari, Research Fellow from the university's Department of Town and Regional Planning, said Mr Kouzaris was committed to his studies and "his positive outlook and humour were infectious".

The tutor said: "He was just the sort of student any lecturer would hope to have in their class."

Mr Kouzaris spent several months travelling in South America before his death, visiting Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Bolivia.

He was on a three-week holiday in Florida staying with Mr Cooper and his family.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionPeter Bason, who coached James Kouzaris at rugby: "He was very, very popular"

Mr Cooper worked as a tennis coach for inspire2coach, a company based at the University of Warwick and was due to become head coach when he returned from his holiday. He also played tennis for Warwickshire as a child.

James Roe, his friend and former coach, said Mr Cooper's claim to fame was that he had played Andy Murray in a junior tournament.

"He was an only child and the apple of his mum and dad's eye.

"He was a model student and a cracking tennis player," the coach added.

Mr Cooper was also a Coventry City season ticket holder, he said.

Dr Jon Burchell, Senior Lecturer from the University of Sheffield's Management School, said Mr Cooper was hard-working and "popular among his peers".

The tutor said: "He had a good sense of humour and a range of plans for what he wanted to do after graduation."

Friends and family said Mr Kouzaris, who was known as Jam, "lived every day to the fullest", in tributes on his Facebook page.

His cousin Lynn Hucker wrote: "To a beautiful cousin who I will never forget. Always happy and full of life."

The Foreign Office said consular staff were providing assistance and Sarasota police had launched an investigation and made an arrest.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionMayor of Sarasota, Kelly Kirschner: "It's a gut-check for us as a community"

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites