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“Wrong turn” could have led to tourist murders in Florida

The two British tourists shot dead in a Florida ghetto could have taken a wrong turn whilst trying to find a 24-hour diner, according to police.

Detectives are trying to find out why James Cooper and James Kouzaris could have ended up on the notorious Newton projects area after a night out in the upmarket resort of Sarasota.

The Gator Bar, the last venue the pair are believed to have visited early on Saturday morning, is just 1.5miles away from a branch of IHOP, a popular 24-hour diner chain and one of the few places in the city to get food at that time.

Captain Sutton described it as “very possible” that the tourists, under the influence of alcohol, could quite easily have “lost their bearings”, taken and ended up in streets of Newtown, a low-income housing project.

The IHOP is on 12th street while the men turned off on 21st street.


Captain Sutton admitted that detectives had previously overlooked “lifestyle differences” between Britons and Americans, with the latter never trying to get around on foot.

He said they were now “more open to the idea they walked”, after learning from the victims’ families that the two tourists used to go hiking together whilst at university.

The contents of their pockets were on the streets and it is thought they died as a result of a robbery that went wrong.

Officers revealed yesterday that the murders could have been caught on CCTV.

They also released a transcript of the 911 emergency call from a Newtown resident in which she told a dispatcher:

“We just see a white dude laid out. There is blood everywhere. He is just laid out. Don’t know if he’s dead.”

Shawn Tyson, a 16-year-old from a special needs school, has been charged with killing the pair.

He lives on the same street as the crime scene and had been released from youth custody for allegedly firing a gun at a car only 12 hours before the killings.

Captain Sutton described the suspect as “no criminal mastermind” and said he would also have been unlikely to organise a robbery close to his home, suggesting the crime was opportunistic.

Chief homicide prosecutor Karen Fraivillig said she was confident they can charge Tyson with first degree murder but said she will not be seeking the death penalty as he is still considered a juvenile under Florida law.