Page last updated at 20:54 GMT, Tuesday, 29 July 2008 21:54 UK

Crime fear after honeymoon murder

By Nick Davis
BBC News

 Cocos Hotel. Photo by Andy Parker
Antigua has a murder rate of 23 people per 100,000.

The murder of a newly-wed doctor in a shooting that has left her husband in a critical condition has highlighted the safety of tourists in the Caribbean.

Police in Antigua believe Catherine and Benjamin Mullany were attacked in their honeymoon cottage at the Cocos Hotel on the south west coast after a robbery went wrong.

People on the twin island nation of Antigua and Barbuda are shocked by this double shooting and police say they have received a big response in a call for information.

However, many Antiguans are aware of the damaging effect of a murder of a holidaymaker in a country where the tourist pound, euro and dollar provide a livelihood for many.

The island's PR machine has swung into full damage limitation mode with them releasing details of how little tourists are affected by crime but people who live there say that their reality has changed a lot in the last few years and crime is increasing.


The criminals aren't intimidated by the police, they have no fear

Andy Liburd, of the Antigua Sun newspaper

A British woman living in Antigua - who asked to be known as Wendy to protect her identity - said she was not surprised by the attack.

She said: "It's awful that this has happened but, um, it was always going to be there, it was always going to happen.

"The crime here is spiralling out of control. The government seem either powerless or not concerned enough to do anything about it."

In the past when someone was murdered on the island it was such a rare occurrence that it would be reported for weeks and spoken about for months.

But the homicide rate in Antigua has jumped in the last few years. The years 2004 and 2005 both saw three people killed on the island. However, the figure more than quadrupled in 2006 and last year 19 people died.

Catherine and Benjamin Mullany
Catherine and Benjamin Mullany were married on 12 July

But Antigua is not alone in this growing trend in the region.

The island has a murder rate of 23 people per 100,000. Its neighbour in the eastern Caribbean, St Kitts, has 33 people murdered per 100,000 and Jamaica in the north sees 59 murders per 100,000 people. The UK has two per 100,000.

This is the first murder of a tourist in well over a decade. The last time detectives had to investigate the death of a visitor to its shores was in 1995.

Commissioner of Police for Antigua and Barbuda, Gary Nelson said: "This is the first homicide in over ten years a situation we never want to see repeated. Everything is being done to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice."

The struggle to bring crime under control has seen the island have three Commissioners of Police in the past five years. Like many countries in the region it struggles with being a developing nation with limited resources.

Map of Antigua and Barbuda
Last year over 90,000 Britons visited Antigua and Barbuda.

The appointment of Gary Nelson, who had been with the Canadian Mounted Police, was seen by many as a way of modernizing the island's force. However, according to Andy Liburd from the Antigua Sun newspaper, people want to see results and that means more officers on the street.

"They want to see a greater police presence," he said. "The criminals aren't intimidated by the police, they have no fear. People just want to see the criminals locked up. That's the greatest discouragement to crime."

The advice to tourists from the Foreign Office regarding Antigua and Barbuda remains the same as it is in many countries.

It urges visitors to "take sensible precautions and be vigilant at all times. Avoid isolated areas, including beaches after dark. Do not carry large amounts of cash or jewellery. Valuables and travel documents should be left, where possible, in safety deposit boxes and hotel safes".

Last year over 90,000 Britons visited Antigua and Barbuda, the vast majority of them were not affected by crime.




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