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Australian tourist shot dead in Mendoza

Officials try to comfort the two other tourists who were with the victim yesterday.

Victim tried to fend off attempted robbery by two youths on motorcycle, according to police

An Australian tourist was shot dead yesterday in Mendoza City during an alleged attempted robbery. The attack occurred around 4pm in the General San Martín park — a prime tourist area of the Andean city — near the Malvinas Argentinas stadium, police sources revealed.

The man — who at press time had been indentified by some local media as Nicholas Heyward, aged in his 30s — was walking through the park near Thays avenue with an Australian woman and a French national, when two people on a motorbike approached the group of tourists, allegedly hoping to steal the victim’s bag.

The victim was reported to have resisted the attack and, in the midst of a struggle over the bag, fell to the ground. As the attackers rode away on their motorbike, they then opened fire on the Australian, killing him with two gunshots, one in the neck and another in the thorax.

Mendoza Police Chief Juan Carlos Calleri confirmed the homicide, noting the man had received “at least two gunshots, one in the neck and another in the thorax.”

“A police operation has been initiated in the vicinity” of the attack to find the suspects, who police said are believed to be teenagers, he explained.

Calleri also said a reward of 40,000 pesos was being offered for any information that could lead to the arrest of the killer.

The case is being investigated by the province’s prosecuter for complex crimes, Santiago Garay, who yesterday told reporters the motorcycle used in the attack had possibly been identified. Garay had been in touch with the hostel where the victim was staying to obtain more details about him.

“Apparently there was some form of resistance on the part of the man, but we won’t know for sure until we formally take statements from the witnesses,” he told reporters, confirming one of the tourists walking with the victim at the time had told police she was Australian.

Australian officials in Argentina have been informed of the case, according to its foreign affairs service in Canberra.

“Consular officials are following up on reports of an Australian man killed in Argentina,” a spokesperson from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) told the Herald.

The victim had reportedly arrived in Mendoza last Saturday, according to police sources cited by local media.

Rare case

While specific statistics are unknown, cases of murder of foreign tourists in Argentina are generally considered to be rare.

Currently, the most high-profile case in the country is of two French hikers who were brutally raped, beaten and killed 12 kilometres from the northwest city of Salta in 2011.

Then 29-year-old Cassandre Bouvier and her friend, 24-year-old Houria Moumni, had been hiking in the La Quebrada de San Lorenzo reserve — also a popular tourist attraction — on July 15, 2011 when they were attacked. Their dead bodies were found two weeks later bearing gunshot wounds.

The trial against the five men who are accused of participating in the attack and murder began last month in Salta City, and is expected to conclude by May 16.

The father of one of the victims, Jean-Michel Bouvier — who has been a leading voice in the call for justice over the murders — told French radio at the time of the homicide, his daughter had considered Argentina a safe place.

“I don’t blame Argentina. I know that my daughter was well aware that the country has a lower crime rate than most. Cassandre had been to El Salvador and to Guatemala — far more dangerous countries in which she was the most sensible out of her group,” he said.

A separate attack occurred around this time last year against a French professional photographer, who was shot dead in the city’s Retiro neighbourhood, in the Plaza San Martín near the Malvinas War memorial.

Fifty-two-year-old Laurent Schwebel had been living in the southern Chubut province and was visiting the capital when he was attacked by a man wanting to steal his camera. The French national fought back and was stabbed by the assailant, who was later arrested by police.

Again last year, a 74-year-old German tourist was murdered during an attempted robbery.

Adolf Herman Peterle, who was camping in a motorhome along Route 11 near the beachtown of Mar del Plata was killed after being hit across the head at 6am on March 10, 2013, when a man entered the trailer — where the victim’s wife was also present — and attacked Peterle.

Herald with DyN, Télam

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