Page last updated at 15:25 GMT, Tuesday, 12 August 2008 16:25 UK

Death penalty after couple murder

A view from the hotel cottage in Antigua where Ben and Catherine Mullany were shot
A view from the hotel cottage in Antigua where Ben and Catherine Mullany were shot

Antigua's government will introduce the death penalty for crimes involving weapons in the wake of the murders of a British honeymoon couple.

The new sentencing legislation will be introduced for anyone who uses a gun or knife in a crime which results in death or serious injury.

The inquest into the fatal shootings of honeymoon couple Ben and Catherine Mullany has been opened and adjourned.

Three forensics staff from the UK have been sent to the Caribbean to help.

The couple from Pontardawe in the Swansea valley, were shot in their hotel cottage in Antigua on 27 July, the last day of their honeymoon, in what police think was a robbery which went wrong.

We are getting intelligence reports that there are considerable dealers in firearms
Collin Derrick, Antigua's justice minister

Catherine Mullany, who was training to become a GP, was killed instantly after being shot in the head.

Her husband, a University of the West of England physiotherapy student, died a week later after being airlifted to hospital in Swansea in a critical condition.

They were both 31.

Several people have been questioned in connection with their deaths but no arrests have been made.

The coroner for Swansea, Philip Rogers, released the bodies for burial at the opening of the inquest into their deaths.

Post mortem examinations on the couple found both had died from gunshot wounds to the head.

The couple's families did not attend the five-minute hearing at Swansea's County Hall, which was adjourned pending the outcome of inquiries by the police in Antigua.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said it had sent three civilian forensics staff to Antigua last week to work on the case.

The island's police force is reported to have just one forensics officer.

Catherine and Ben Mullany
Catherine was killed and Ben Mullany died later in hospital in Swansea

The deployment brings the number of British officers on the island to eight.

Antigua's justice minister Collin Derrick said the new legislation, to be introduced at the next session of parliament, would set a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison. Judges could also impose a sentence of life in prison.

Gun traffickers, who are blamed for a recent spike in violence in the tourism-dependent Caribbean nation, could also be sentenced to death under the proposal, Mr Derrick said.

"We are getting intelligence reports that there are considerable dealers in firearms," he said.

"At present, we're seeking ways to address that issue... which is causing tremendous injury and grief to families and this country."

Antigua currently has the death penalty but only for murder.

The current law establishes a maximum of 25 years in prison for an assault with a weapon that does not result in death.

The island nation has had 12 homicides so far this year.





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