Yesterday evening I received a tweet from a Twitter friend in Antigua: "several cruise passengers witnessed a day light killing in the tourism area of #antigua today." Later I was told that an "attempted robbery at one of the shops led to a gunman shooting the woman in the head. She died on the spot around 1.30."
This morning the Antigua Observer covered the sad story: Mother of 5 Gunned Down in Heritage Quay.
The newspaper says that "a 38-year-old mother of five was gunned down in broad daylight yesterday – the latest in an alarming spate of shootings and robberies across the country." The victim was working as a sales person at First Gadget Electronic Store on Thames Street.
The store is located in the heart of St John’s within the cruise tourism zone Heritage Quay.
Antigua has had its share of violence and crime in areas frequented by cruise passengers. Last month an altercation between a store owner and cruise passengers escalated into a highly publicized fight between the cruisers and the police in St. John's.
More serious incidents over the last few years involved a young woman from a cruise ship being murdered ashore, cruise passengers attacked and robbed (ironically while tourism and cruise officials were meeting to discuss the issue of safety of cruise visitors in Antigua) and six cruise passengers from Brooklyn arrested after disputing a cab fare and getting into a fight with the local police.
Caribbean countries like Antigua have precarious relationships with the cruise lines. Some cruise lines temporarily stopped calling in Antigua following the murder of a passenger from the Star Clippers in 2010.
In 2009, Carnival suddenly pulled out of Antigua - Carnival Drops Antigua Like A Hot Potato.
The murder of the store employee in the tourist area comes at a time when Antigua announced that it formed a new police unit to protect tourists from crime and its tourism officials announced that they were optimistic about attracting tourists to the island notwithstanding the increase in violent crime.
The police and government officials are involved in trying to deal with the PR fall-out in the tourism sector. There is a reward offer of $50,000 for info leading to the arrest of the gunman and there is talk about asking for the death penalty (public hangings).
Tragic incidents like this will continue to make the local citizens frightened, and continue to plague the island's relationship with the big Miami based cruise lines that unload thousands of people into Heritage Quay.
Photo Credit: vibesantigua