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Former Miss Venezuela shot dead

Monica Spear and her partner are gunned down in front of their five-year-old daughter in a suspected highway robbery.

PT0M37S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-30fyn 620 349

A former Miss Venezuela and her British-born partner were shot dead while their five-year-old daughter was wounded during a suspected roadside robbery that shocked the nation, local authorities say.

Monica Spear, a 29-year-old soap opera star, and Thomas Henry Berry, 39, were killed after their car broke down on a highway in northwestern Venezuela late on Monday, prosecutors said.

This violence is a sickness that we have. 

Their daughter, Maya Berry Spear, was wounded in the right leg but stable after receiving medical treatment in an assault that put a spotlight on the country's soaring murder rate.

Monica Spear and her partner were killed in front of their 5-year-old daughter.

Monica Spear and her partner were killed in front of their 5-year-old daughter.

Five people have been detained and are being interrogated in connection with the crime, Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez said after a televised meeting with President Nicolas Maduro.

"We presume it was a robbery ... but we are in the middle of an investigation," Mr Rodriguez said.

The family was attacked by five assailants just as a tow truck had finished lifting the car, which had broken down on the highway between Puerto Cabello and Valencia in the state of Carabobo.

Spear competing for Miss Universe in 2005.

Spear competing for Miss Universe in 2005.

The terrified mother, father and child locked themselves in the car but "the criminals fired multiple shots at the vehicle".

Authorities are interrogating the tow truck's two operators. Investigators impounded the couple's car for further analysis.

Spear, who was a quarter-finalist in the 2005 Miss Universe contest, appeared in the Miami-based Telemundo series Pasion Prohibida (Forbidden Passion) and Flor Salvaje (Savage Flower).

The dark-haired actress, who lived in the United States, was holidaying in her native Venezuela at the time of her death. She had posted videos of the countryside and herself horse riding on Instagram in the last couple of days.

Her husband was born in Britain but has Venezuelan citizenship.

"This is a massacre," said Maduro, who vowed to curb the country's runaway violence during his presidential campaign last year.

"This violence is a sickness that we have," he said from the Miraflores presidential palace.

Venezuela has one of the world's highest murder rates, with 79 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2013, according to the non-profit Venezuelan Observatory of Violence.

The interior ministry, however, gave a lower murder rate of 39 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

The beauty queen's killing shocked fellow artists in the South American country that is passionate about soap operas and the Miss Universe contenders it regularly produces.

"I am speechless. I will miss you my friend @MonicaSpear," Jencarlos Canela, her American co-star in Pasion Prohibida, wrote on Twitter.

Venezuelan telenovela director Leonardo Padron said he was "absolutely saddened, horrified, speechless, over the murder of my dear Monica Spear! My God!"

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who refused to concede defeat to Maduro in presidential elections last year, called on the socialist leader to put aside "deep differences and unite against the lack of security, as one bloc".

AFP