Two men no longer suspects in Kiwi murder
Two people who had been arrested in relation to the shooting death of a New Zealand tourist in Mendoza on Monday are no longer considered suspects in the case after witnesses failed to recognize them in a police line-up, police sources revealed yesterday.
The two men were still in custody yesterday.
A 19-year-old male had intially seemed to have matched the witness description of one of two men who shot 31-year-old Nicholas Heyward on Monday, before fleeing on a motorcycle. He was detained in the Alto Mendoza neighbourhood, where residents told police the 19-year-old had been heard bragging about having shot Heyward. However, when the teenage was placed in a line-up yesterday the two key witnesses of the incident — Frenchman Pierre D’Amico and a local teacher who had been at the General San Martín park when Heyward was shot — could not identify him as the shooter.
“Several unidentified witnesses presented themselves to investigators to say this person was responsible for shooting (Nicholas Heyward),” the prosecuter’s office revealed yesterday.
One Mendoza newspaper — El Sol — had reported the man had been released. While neither police nor the prosecuter’s office had formally confirmed this at press time, it is believed his release is imminent.
“It was a solid lead, among others, because the testimonies were similar and came from different people. That’s why we decided to carry out the raid,” one investigator told local media.
The other man on the motorcylce was wearing a helmet at the time of the attack, so witnesses were unable to help investigators establish a separate identity sketch.
The raid took place on Wednesday in the western suburbs of Mendoza during a series of police raids.
Yesterday it was revealed police had also arrested a second man in the same raid. The brother of the 19-year-old man, he was with the intial suspect at the time of the police raids, and was found carrying a .45-calibre pistol (a .22-calibre pistol had been used to shoot Heyward.)
It was believed police were contiuining to detain the second man in custody at press time yesterday, with the possibility he might be charged with possession of an unregistered weapon.
More light shed on incident
Four people were being treated as witnesses, Mendoza Police Chief Juan Carlos Caleri had told the Herald on Tuesday.
Australian woman Fiona Darling — who was walking with Heyward at the time of his murder — clarified to police during her statement that Heyward had not resisted handing over his bag as had first been reported, but had struggled to hand it over after intially seeming willing to cooperate with the thieves, the New Zealand Herald quoted Mendoza Tourist Police officer Veronica Albornoz as saying.
Another person, Daniela Bulos, had also made a statement to police. The deputy director of the provincial Sports Ministry, was reported by El Sol yesterday to have been taking her children home from school when she became one of the first people on the scene. She and two others had then tried to save Heyward’s life.
“He was breathing and had a normal pulse,” she told El Sol. “We took turns while waiting for an ambulance.”
It is believed Darling and D’Amico have been told by police to remain in Mendoza for the time being, though local media yesterday reported the pair had asked to leave the country for Santiago.
Kiwi media reaction
The news of Nicholas Heyward’s murder has been making headlines in New Zealand, a country where violent crime is extremely uncommon.
Media in the tiny Pacific country spoke to Heyward’s family.
“We’re just crying, really. Just crying. Uncles and aunts in New Zealand, cousins who he was very close to — we’re just broken up,” Heyward’s father, Ben, told TVNZ.
Heyward was a trained physiotherapist, and was reportedly part-way through a holiday across Argentina, Chile and Peru.
While he was carrying a New Zealand passport, Heyward had been living in the Australian city of Brisbane prior to travelling to South America.
The New Zealand Embassy in Buenos Aires is currently arranging for the repatriation of Heyward’s body.