Philippine police hunting killers of New Zealand tourist

This photo provided by the Public Information Office, National Capital Region Police Office shows investigators at the site where New Zealander Nicholas Peter Stacey was shot by suspected robbers in Makati, Philippines on Sunday Feb. 19, 2023. A massive Philippine police search was underway on Wednesday for two motorcycle-riding men who shot and killed the New Zealand man in a brazen street robbery that officials fear could scare foreign tourists away. (Public Information Office, National Capital Region Police Office via AP)

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A Philippine police search was underway on Wednesday for two motorcycle-riding men who shot and killed a New Zealand man in a brazen street robbery that officials fear could scare foreign tourists away.

The 34-year-old tourist, Nicholas Peter Stacey, was fatally shot once in the chest while trying to wrest a pistol from one of the two robbers who held him up and his Filipina girlfriend on Sunday in a suburban street in Manila’s Makati financial district, police Maj. Gen. Jonnel Estomo said.

“We regret to report this incident and extend our sympathy to the bereaved family,” Estomo said in a statement, adding he has ordered the police to “leave no stones unturned until the culprits are brought to jail and are prosecuted.”

While he described the deadly street robbery as an “isolated incident,” Estomo acknowledged it has the potential to frighten foreign tourists. Police patrols would be beefed up to prevent a recurrence, said Estomo, who heads the Metropolitan Manila police.

“We know that this incident could spark fear among tourists, who plan to visit our country so we will make sure the slain victim will get justice and demonstrate that the police are always ready to provide service,” Estomo said in a statement.

The slain victim’s girlfriend, Pamela Gaye Villanoza, told investigators that she and Stacey had just arrived in the capital region from a holiday trip in the western island province of Palawan and were walking to a laundry shop in the early hours after midnight when the suspects approached on a motorcycle.

One of them alighted and pointed a pistol at the couple while his companion parked the motorcycle a few meters away. Stacey grappled with the armed man and was shot and killed, she said.

Before fleeing, the gunman, who was wearing a black shirt and red athletic shorts, took the cellphone and wallet of Stacey’s girlfriend, police said.

Investigators would try to match a slug found in the area and compare it with slugs recovered from other recent crime scenes in the heavily populated metropolis to try to identify the suspects and assess how they operate, police said.

Stacey’s killing occurred amid high-profile gun attacks on two local politicians that underscore how criminal violence even against officials has persisted despite the government’s pledge to combat such violence.

Gunmen wounded Governor Mamintal Alonto Adiong Jr. of southern Lanao del Sur province and killed four of his bodyguards in an attack on their convoy Friday. Police said Wednesday they had killed one of the suspects in a clash.

Separately, unidentified men reportedly wearing police uniforms fired guns at the van of northern Aparri town Vice Mayor Rommel Alameda on Sunday, killing him and five companions in northern Nueva Vizcaya province. The suspects remain at large.

Crimes, decades-long Muslim and communist rebellions, and other security concerns have long hampered tourism in the Philippines, a Southeast Asian archipelago that offers white sand tropical beaches, diving and surfing resorts, heritage towns, rainforests and warm hospitality.

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