Tributes Paid To Man Killed in Venezuela

Gunmen in Venezuela have killed one British man, and injured another while they were on holiday.

A young British man with a love for adventure was shot dead when a gang of robbers burst into his South American hotel room.

Tom Ossel, 28, a London fireman, was with his younger brother Jack, 21, and another friend watching a video when three men and two women burst into their room.

The gang were intent on robbing the three British holidaymakers but Tom, a seasoned traveller, put up a fight and paid with his life when he was shot dead. His brother Jack was stabbed in the back by the gang, who fled with their belongings.

Yesterday the brothers' mother Annabel Ossel was distraught with grief at the family home in the village of Cople, Bedfordshire. Her husband Ben was flying to Venuzuela to be with their son Jack and to find out more about what had happened.

It should have been a dream holiday for the brothers when they set off for South America on June 30. Their plan was to travel before coming back to the UK on August 9.

Today, a family friend told how Jack had telephoned his parents in the early hours of Tuesday to break the terrible news to them that Tom had been shot dead during the robbery.

Jacqueline Baxter, who lives in Cople, said she had just arrived for work at the Open  University in Milton Keynes on Tuesday morning when her friend Annabel telephoned her with the news.

Mrs Baxter, a Project Officer at the OU said:  "It was around 9 o'clock when Annabel phoned me and I had just arrived in work. She and Ben had not long been back from a holiday in Belgium and during the night Jack had phoned them. Annabel was in a state of shock on the phone and she said 'Tom's been shot' and I said 'What do you mean? thinking he might have been injured, and then she said 'He's been shot dead'."

The brothers had earlier checked into a hotel on the Venuzuelan island of Santa Marguerita.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, the two brothers and their friend who was accompanying them on the trip, were all together in a room at the Posada Casa Rosa Hotel watching a video.

Mrs Baxter said that at the same time the robbers turned up at the hotel where they attacked the receptionist, striking the man over the head.  He was then forced to take the gang to the room where the Britons were staying and open up the door.

The gang, three men and two women, burst in armed with a handgun and a knife.

Tom, who lived in Bedford and who was a fireman in London, put up a fight.

Mrs Baxter said "Tom was a lovely young man, a seasoned traveller who loved going to different places and who loved adventure. I suppose he was a bit of a daredevil.  He was certainly a fit, strong young man who could take care of himself and he was the sort of chap who would probably put up a fight. He was six foot plus and extremely fit and strong."

Mrs Baxter said she understood that at first the brothers had thought the gun that had been produced by the gang might be a toy. But as Tom fought back, he was shot and died soon afterwards.

Mrs Baxter said she understood Jack had been stabbed once in the back by the gang and had needed stitches in the wound at the local hospital.

"Being a fireman was a perfect job for Tom and he was over the moon when he joined the fire service. He loved danger, I suppose, and he was not the sort of chap that would take something like this lying down.  He was not going to take too kindly to being robbed" said Mrs Baxter.

She described Tom, who was raised in the village of Cople, as a seasoned and confident traveller, who loved visiting different countries. Younger brother Jack is a student in London.

She described the Ossels as a "very tight knit loving family."

Mrs Baxton went on: "Tom loved adventure, he loved danger, and he believed in living life to the full.  He had so many friends."

In a last email the parents had received from their sons, they told how they were planning to leave the island the next day.

Mrs Baxter said that Tom had a girlfriend. She said the brothers had been planning to travel around South America and had been excited about the trip.

Another friend Sharon Dodson has paid tribute to Thomas. She’s been telling Heart: "He lived life to have fun and also for his family and friends. He was a fun loving man who joked around but was always there when you needed him. My heart goes out to all who had the pleasure of knowing him. I'm one of the lucky ones....I was able to call him my friend."

On Thomas's MySpace page, he referred to his love of travel.

Describing his interests, he wrote: "Have been to nearly 40 countries now...would love to make it 100 one day! Enjoy riding my motorbike fast, can't wait to get a new GSX-R in the summer!''

He also described himself as a Liverpool FC fan and a keen cook and photographer.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed the death of Mr Ossel.

A spokesman said: "We can confirm the death of a British National on Margarita Island in Venezuela on July 18. We are providing consular assistance for the family.''

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