Page last updated at 21:58 GMT, Monday, 28 July 2008 22:58 UK

Island reacts to shooting death

Colin James
BBC Caribbean Service, Antigua

 Cocos Hotel. Photo by Andy Parker
Business leaders fear the killing will affect the island's tourist trade

The killing of a British doctor honeymooning on Antigua is likely to lead to tightened security at the borders and hotels.

Business people and residents on the island have expressed concern about the implications of the incident on this tourism-dependent country.

The Board of Directors of The Antigua Hotels and Tourist Association were meeting late Monday to discuss the shooting dead of Catherine Mullany, 31, and the shooting of her husband, Benjamin, also 31, at the Cocos hotel

and restaurant at about 5am on Sunday.

Tourism is Antigua's main industry as it accounts for more than 60% of the country's gross domestic product and officials have expressed shock and fear the ramifications it could have on income.

"They have just created a big mess for the country," said Kirk Browne, owner of Bigs Rent-A-Car.

Arlene Marsh, the newly-appointed general manager of the resort Halcyon Cove, said: "We have already increased our security and we are reviewing our plan."

It is an intelligence-led investigation - our guys are going at this in an intensive manner
Insp Cornelius Charles, Royal Police Force of Antigua

The incident is particular of concern for businesses who depend on the tourism trade at the time considered to be the slow period for tourism (June to October).

The Antiguan government has been promoting festivals and events to boost business.

In June, it staged a music festival to coincide with its promotion of the month as the honeymoon destination.

The annual Carnival celebrations (from late July to early August) usually attract hundreds of overseas visitors from the UK and the US.

Police say they acting on intelligence in their efforts to capture the perpetrator(s).

Insp Cornelius Charles said: "It is an intensive investigation. The crime scene is protected 24 hours.

"Crime sleuths have been going back to the scene and people are being interviewed."

"It is at a very critical stage. We have persons who are of interest to the police.

Our brand is based on people being safe - we will not tolerate any action that will tarnish the reputation the country
Antigua's Tourism minister, Harold Lovell

"We continue to pursue this vigorously.

"We are concentrating in areas where we think we have people of interest. It is an intelligence-led investigation. Our guys are going at this in an intensive manner."

Dr Mullany's murder is the 10th this year. Antigua and Barbuda had 20 homicides last year, but this is the first tourist killing in 13 years.

In recent months, the country has been experiencing a surge in gun-related crimes; armed robberies, rapes at gunpoint and the shooting deaths of at least three young men aged between 17 and 24.

Tourism minister Harold Lovell, who penned a letter to all visitors at the resort, offered them the option of relocating to another property if they wished. It was not clear if any of them took up the offer.

Criminals

He said: "Our brand is based on people being safe. We will not tolerate any action that will tarnish the reputation the country.

"We have to be concerned about the impact of this incident. It will have an effect on our tourism but we have to ensure that our visitors feel safe."

He is suggesting stringent border control measures to capture would-be criminals.

"I don't think it should be a matter of someone just applying for an extension of stay and be granted. They should be asked to present a police report from their country," Lovell said.

Lovell said the government will be doing a public relations campaign, particularly in the UK and the US - Antigua's two biggest markets - to reassure people that the country is a safe destination, notwithstanding the crime problem.





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