Hundreds turn out for funeral of murdered former Miss Venezuela and her British husband

The father of a Venezuelan beauty queen who was shot dead along with her British husband this week has called for her killing to be a catalyst for change in a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Rafael Spear, father of Mónica Spear, was joined by hundreds of Venezuelan celebrities and ordinary citizens at the funeral for the former Miss Venezuela and her husband, Thomas Henry Berry, who were killed last Monday by a local gang known for attacking motorists.

“My heart is hurting but I find strength in Mónica to plead for a change,” said Spear, who had flown in from his home in Orlando, Florida. “Things have to change. We have to find the capos that are providing the guns to the people. We have to stop killing each other. I hope her death serves to eliminate this senseless violence.”

Spear’s desperate appeal was echoed by many of his daughter’s friends and relatives. “It is painful that it took their deaths for us to talk about what is happening here with crime,” said Katy Pulido, Spears’ manager. “Both myself and her family have confronted this loss as an opportunity for reconciliation and change.”

The couple, who had split up the year before, had reconciled and were travelling through the country with their five-year-old daughter, who was shot in the leg but survived the attack. Friends of Berry, who owned a travel company specialising in adventure holidays, chose to pay their respects with an uninterrupted overnight 12-hour swim.

The deaths prompted the president, Nicolás Maduro, to call emergency meetings with local governors. He has vowed to present an action plan by 8 February. Seven people have been detained in connection with the case, including two minors.

But few at the funeral expressed faith in the government. “Their deaths were horrible and sad, but not new,” said Vicenta Flores, 62, a shop owner and victim of multiple assaults. “We are overwhelmed by murders occurring daily – more than 50 every day. It is no longer bearable.”

Many at the service had never met Spears or Berry but had come to express grief and anger at the daily death toll. “I came because I want to tell the president we have had enough,” said Omar Torres, an engineer whose cousin was kidnapped last year. “A nation cannot live in fear. These were people who served their country. How many more useful lives must we lose?”

Amanda Gutiérrez, a well-known actress, said: “I can only hope her death is not in vain. I think it is the artists’ obligation to organise street protests that demand that the government sweeps the country and cleans it of weapons.” © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds