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UK Firefighter Gunned Down While On Vacation

UK Firefighter Gunned Down While On Vacation

Thomas Ossel, who was fatally shot, left, pictured with his brother Jack on a Myspace profile

The Daily Mail via YellowBrix

July 20, 2011

VENEZUELA – A British tourist has been killed by gunmen in Venezuela in a botched robbery attempt.

Thomas Ossel, 28, was shot in the armpit after four armed men burst into the guest house where he was staying with his brother Jack, 21, police confirmed.

The keen travellers were staying on the popular holiday island of Isla Margarita when the gunmen held a number of guests hostage.

The pair attempted to resist the robbers, but in the struggle Mr Ossel, who worked for the London Fire Brigade, was shot and his brother Jack was stabbed.

The younger brother was taken to hospital but was later discharged with minor injuries and is now with the local British consulate.

Hotel owner Peter Eggersdorfer explained how he unwittingly let in the robbers who shot dead Mr Ossel.

He said: ’Four men rang on the bell saying they wanted a room and asking if they could see it.

’I let them in and left the door open.

’Next minute one of them pistol-whipped me over the head with a gun and another three women, including one armed with a knife, had rushed in behind them.

’I was bundled into the kitchen and held hostage along with a couple of guests who were doing some cooking.

’They started going through the rooms looking to take things and came across the two British brothers who put up resistance.

’All I could hear was the robbers shouting in Spanish “Dollars, dollars” and the sound of punching and slapping as they put up resistance.

’Five shots were fired. Four went into the wall and one killed the British holidaymaker.

‘It all happened so quickly. The robbers raced out as soon as the shots were fired.’

He added: ’I’ve identified two of the attackers from photos the police have shown me.

‘One is apparently a Colombian man who is extremely dangerous and has already committed several murders.’

Police chief Luis Garavin said: ’An investigation is under way and we hope to be able to resolve this case in the next few days.

‘The criminals attacked the guest house to commit robbery and panicked when the British tourists put up resistance.’

Last night tributes poured in for Mr Ossel, who is from Cople, Bedfordshire, but lived in London.

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: ‘We were shocked and saddened to learn of Tom’s untimely death. I know he will be sorely missed by his fellow firefighters.

‘Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this sad and difficult time.’

On a Facebook tribute site one friend Andy Kinkead said: ‘I still can’t believe that this has happened. I always imagined Tom growing old on a beach somewhere. I will never forget the good old days that we all had. You will be missed.’

Another friend, Amy Nicholas, said: ’It’s not fair that you had your life cut short. You can tell by how many people have posted messages on your wall how popular and well loved you were and how many lives you touched with your infectious personality.’

Mr Ossel’s father is on his way to Venezuela.

Jacqueline Baxter, a friend of the family, said: ’At the moment their father has travelled to Venezuela and obviously their mum is not able to make a statement.

‘The younger son is still out there, so he is still at considerable risk.’

Mr Ossel, on his Myspace page, described himself as a keen traveller. He wrote: ’Love to travel…have been to nearly 40 countries now..would love to make it 100 one day.

’Love watching and playing football…huge Liverpool fan, but constantly pissed off with them as they are so frustrating.

‘Like cooking…always trying new foods…did a cookery course in Thailand so forever making Thai food.’

Venezuela’s murder rate, per capita, is one of the highest in the world with two people murdered every hour.

There were 54 murders per 100,000 citizens in 2009.

Most of the deaths occur in crowded slums but richer residential areas are far from safe, cars jump red lights on deserted streets and few people are willing to risk walking outside.

Travel advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office warns that street crime in Venezuela is high, and that armed muggings and ‘express kidnappings’ – opportunistic abductions to extort money from someone – are regular occurrences.

Isla Margarita is one of Venezuela’s most popular tourist destinations. More than 150,000 of its 2.5million tourists last year were northern Europeans.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office 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.’