Venezuelan ex-beauty queen Monica Spear murdered

Catharina Moh reports on the investigation

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Former Venezuelan beauty queen Monica Spear, 29, and her British husband Thomas Berry, 39, have been shot dead in their car in Venezuela.

Their five-year-old daughter, who was injured in the incident, is said to be in a stable condition in hospital.

Police have launched a investigation into the killing, which happened on the highway leading from Valencia to Puerto Cabello.

Ms Spear became Miss Venezuela in 2004, and also acted in soap operas.

Police believe they were the victims of a failed robbery attempt.

Ms Spear and Mr Berry were travelling at night from the city of Merida to the capital, Caracas, when they hit a sharp object "placed on the road", according to Venezuela's investigative police chief Jose Gregorio Sierralta.

At least two of the four tyres were punctured, he said.

The couple and their daughter waited for about 45 minutes for breakdown assistance, reported El Universal newspaper.

The car was about to be towed away when a group of five people approached and ordered them to stop.

The couple and their daughter reportedly ran back and hid inside the car but were shot at by the gang.

Ms Spear and Mr Berry died instantly. Their daughter, Maya, was shot in the leg.

'Iron fist'

Initial reports said Mr Berry was Irish. But the British Foreign Office has now confirmed he was a British national, who reportedly moved to Venezuela as a child.

Ms Spear at the Miss Universe contest, Bangkok, 2005 Monica Spear also ran for Miss Universe in 2005

The couple lived in the United States and were in Venezuela on holiday.

Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Armed robberies and kidnappings are not unusual, but the death of Ms Spear has had huge impact in the country.

President Nicolas Maduro has promised to respond with "an iron fist" to those who continue to attack the Venezuelan people.

He expressed his condolences and said: "We were evaluating the cruelty with which the suspects acted. Violence is an evil that we have."

He added: "There will be no tolerance to those who carry out acts like that, killing decent men and women, who have a right to live."

The opposition leader and defeated presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles, posted a message on his Twitter account calling for a nationwide drive against violence.

"Nicolas Maduro, I suggest we put aside our deep differences and get together to fight the lack of security, as one bloc," he wrote.

Hours later, Mr Maduro invited Mr Capriles to join all state governors and the mayors of the 79 municipalities for an emergency meeting later today.

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