Venezuela 'to be tough' on beauty queen Spear's killers

Catharina Moh reports on the investigation

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has announced he will act "with an iron fist" after former beauty queen and actress Monica Spear was murdered.

Ms Spear, 29, was shot dead along with her British-born ex-husband Thomas Berry, 39, in their car on Monday.

Their five-year-old daughter, who was shot in the leg, is reportedly in a stable condition.

The attack, thought to have been a botched robbery, has highlighted Venezuela's skyrocketing murder rate.

President Maduro said the couple had been "slain with fury".

He told a delegation of actors who had come to his office to demand those behind the crime be brought to justice that "violence is an evil we have [in Venezuela]".

He assured them the full weight of the law would be brought to bear on the perpetrators.

'Vile killing'

At a news conference, Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez said five people had been arrested on suspicion of committing the "vile killing".

Monica Spear competes at the Miss Universe competition in Bangkok, Thailand on 31 May, 2005 Monica Spear was a popular actress who had starred in a number of soap operas

Mr Rodriguez said he had called an emergency meeting of the governors of Venezuela's 23 states and of the 79 towns with the highest levels of violence in Venezuela.

"The fight against violence has to involve all the authorities so the criminals know they'll face the full rigour of the law, because we've had enough already," he said.

He promised to "use everything we have, the police, the army, against those who will not go down the path of peace,"

Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Armed robberies and kidnappings are not unusual, but the death of Ms Spear, who was a popular actress after being crowned Miss Venezuela in 2004, has had huge impact in the country.

Fans of Ms Spear, actors and other people in the entertainment business have said they will rally in Caracas on Wednesday to demand more be done to improve Venezuela's security.

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.

Ambush?

Ms Spear, Mr Berry and their daughter 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.

Venezuelan Monica Spear poses after being elected Miss Venezuela, in Caracas, on 23 September, 2004 Ms Spear was crowned Miss Venezuela in 2004

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

According to Mr Sierralta, five people attacked the family after their car had been lifted onto a tow-truck.

The three locked themselves in their car, and according to Mr Sierralta, the attackers opened fire when they could not reach the family inside the vehicle.

He said the drivers of the tow-truck were being questioned.

Ms Spear was a popular actress who had scored a number of roles in soap operas after winning the Miss Venezuela pageant in 2004.

She starred in Flor Salvaje (Wild Flower) and Pasion Prohibida (Forbidden Passion) for the US-based Telemundo network.

Local media said that even though she had separated from Mr Berry the two still went on holidays together for the sake of their daughter.

They lived in the United States but often travelled to Venezuela, where both of them had grown up.

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