Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Families Attack Claims That Britons Were Shot Dead Looking for Drugs

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Families Attack Claims That Britons Were Shot Dead Looking for Drugs

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Harper , TBenedict Moore-Bridger

FAMILY and friends of the British tourists murdered in Florida today denied the pair would ever take drugs.

Locals claimed that James Kouzaris and his friend James Cooper could have visited the notorious area of Sarasota "looking for a bit of weed".

But Liz Clare, who dated Mr Kouzaris for three years at university, said the 24-year-old was too cautious to take part in anything illegal.

James Cooper's grandfather Desmond Walton also said: "He never did drugs. He did not even smoke -- he hated people who smoked. He was a professional tennis coach. Taking drugs would be the last thing on his mind."

Mr Kouzaris and Mr Cooper, 25, were discovered in the early hours of Saturday morning riddled with bullets outside a housing estate in crime hotspot Newtown, in the Gulf city of Sarasota. The pair were staying in a [pounds sterling]1,200-aweek condominium 12 miles away in Longboat Key, an island city famous for its resorts and beaches.

Locals have claimed the two graduates would never have gone to the rundown housing project unless it was to buy drugs after a late-night bar-crawl.

Ex-Sarasota resident and blogger known as "Laklak" wrote: "The Courts public housing project is a cesspit. There are drug dealers and hookers openly plying their trades at all hours. Most likely they were looking for a bit of weed ... I wouldn't go into this area for any reason at all, even armed to the teeth."

But today Ms Clare, who met Mr Kouzaris when they were students, said: "I just can't understand why they were there. They're not stupid. I was with [ James] for three years and he was so cautious. We used to call him grandad because he was so cautious. "My biggest fear is what people might think about why they were in a dodgy area. Some people are saying there might be a link to drugs but everyone who knows them both knows it would never be that. …

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