Valerie Steve Winwood
18 April 2011, 11:23
A 16 year old boy's been charged with murder after two British men in their 20s were shot dead on holiday in Florida.
Detectives are investigating how university friends James Cooper, 25, from Warwick and James Kouzaris, 24, from Northampton, came to be shot dead in a rundown neighbourhood in Sarasota early on Saturday 16 April 2011.
Local officers said it was "very unusual'' to find tourists in this area, which is about 12 miles away from the upmarket island city of Longboat Key where the pair were staying.
Sarasota police said the Britons were not carrying any drugs but would not confirm whether they had any money or weapons.
A 16-year-old boy has been arrested and charged with two counts of murder.
Mr Kouzaris was on a three-week holiday in Florida staying with Mr Cooper and his family.
The former Sheffield University students were found shot dead 50ft from each other in a street in the Newtown area of northern Sarasota at about 3am on Saturday.
Captain Paul Sutton, of Sarasota police, said there was no known link between the suspect and the victims.
"We are still investigating why they would have been in this area,'' he said.
"It is very unusual to find tourists or visitors in this area. It is a residential neighbourhood with no shops and no bars. We do not know what brought them here at 3am.''
Friends and family said Mr Kouzaris, who was known as Jam, "lived every day to the fullest'' in heartfelt tributes on his Facebook page.
His cousin Lynn Hucker wrote: "To a beautiful cousin who I will never forget. Always happy and full of life. You will be so sadly missed James.''
A friend called Ben Stacey added: "RIP Jam, absolute legend. It was an honour mate, I was so looking forward to seeing you again in Miami. The month travelling with you was some of the best times I've had and was so thankful I met you. Rated you very highly XO.''
Mr Kouzaris spent several months travelling in South America before his death, visiting Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia.
In a message on his Facebook page he spoke of looking forward to returning to Britain on March 27, writing: "Back to normality soon.''
Mr Cooper, who worked as a tennis coach for University of Warwick-based company inspire2coach, replied: "U have got to be kiddin, ur back a week and then we go off to america.''
Florida retains the death penalty for offences including felony murder - when a killing is committed in the course of another crime - and first-degree murder, according to a 2009 US Department of Justice study.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We can confirm the deaths of two British nationals on holiday in Sarasota on April 16.
"Next of kin have been informed and consular staff are providing assistance.
"Sarasota police have launched an investigation and have made an arrest. We cannot comment further on the investigation.''
Ed Ferrari, Research Fellow from the University of Sheffield's Department of Town and Regional Planning, said:
"It is with immense sadness that I learned today that one of our former students, James Kouzaris, was tragically killed in Florida.
"I was James' personal tutor in 2008 at a time when he was completing his four year degree course in Town Planning. James was committed to his studies and was a skilled Planner but, more than that, he was a friend to many in our department. His positive outlook and humour were infectious and he involved himself totally in the life of our department and University. He was just the sort of student any lecturer would hope to have in their class."