CCTV released of holidaymakers' last hours

20 April 2011, 07:23 | Updated: 20 April 2011, 07:28

CCTV's been released of two British holidaymakers drinking in a Florida bar, less than two hours before they were shot dead.

James Cooper, 25, and James Kouzaris, 24, were captured on a CCTV camera drinking and chatting to other customers in a downtown Sarasota bar, shortly before their dead bodies were found in a crime-riddled area of the Gulf coast city early on Saturday 16 April 2011.

Officers from Sarasota Police Department are also following up a number of leads gleaned from photographs which were recovered from one of the dead men's cameras.

The 11 CCTV stills, which were taken in Smokin' Joes bar and cover a time period from 12.13am to 1.23am, clearly show the university friends talking to two women for at least 37 minutes.

See the CCTV images

Police stressed the revellers were not suspects, but said they wanted to contact them to "learn more details about the victims' activities'', and see if they may have been in contact with other people before they were murdered on Saturday April 16.

Mr Kouzaris, wearing a grey crew-neck T-shirt, and Mr Cooper, dressed in a black V-neck T-shirt, stand directly in front of a camera in the bar in conversation with the two women.

The four are together in the footage from 12.13am and appear to go out of shot together at 12.50am.

The next still is from 1.02am and their place has been taken by two other women.

The two Britons reappear at 1.21am towards the middle of the bar, with their backs to the camera and talking to a blonde woman.

In the final still two minutes later, they are still talking to her.

Ninety minutes later they were lying dead in a rundown street 20 blocks away.

It is still unclear what the former Sheffield University students were doing in the Newtown housing project locals routinely described as very dangerous.

The murder scene - about 12 miles from the upmarket island city of Longboat Key where the friends were staying - is reportedly rife with drug dealing and prostitution.

It was "very unusual'' that tourists should be there, police said.

Captain Paul Sutton said detectives were "examining all theories'' and "keeping an open mind'' as to how and why the duo ended up in the "no-go'' area.

He said the Britons may have befriended someone who gave them a lift, could have got a cab which detectives have not yet traced, or may have walked to the area.

"Anything you could imagine is a possibility,'' he said.

Capt Sutton said the force had a "few leads as a result of the photographs'' recovered from one of the victim's cameras and released through the media.

Those pictures show Mr Cooper, a tennis coach, sun burnt and beaming at the camera.

The other is a close up of Mr Kouzaris, who worked for Northamptonshire County Council.

"We are trying to determine how they got from downtown Sarasota to Carver Court,'' added Capt Sutton.

"We are in a phase where we are in the trenches with long drawn-out stuff.''

Shawn Tyson, 16, who lives close to the murder scene, is being held on suspicion of double murder.

Police said the teenager would be charged as an adult over the two murders, which means he could face the death penalty if convicted.

Tyson was previously arrested on April 7 for aggravated assault with a handgun - reportedly blasting gunfire into a car.

Mr Kouzaris, from Northampton, was on a three-week holiday in Florida with Mr Cooper and his family, from Warwick. Mr Cooper turned 25 three days before the killings.

Capt Sutton quashed reports the men were murdered with a machine gun but it is believed they were each shot a number of times.

Residents in the Newtown area speculated the victims could have been lured into an ambush by a gang of masked gunmen.

Sonja Seymour, 31, who lives on the street where the men's bodies were found, said in reports: ``I heard that when they arrived here there were already some people waiting for them. They were wearing masks.

"The men ran away and they were shot. I saw one of them lying in the street on his back with his arms outstretched.

"The other man was across the road lying on his back. They were not moving.

"The ambulance arrived and tried to work on the two men but they couldn't do anything.''