Saturday, April 18, 2009

British Businessman Murdered in Bohol (Philippines)

Charles Maxwell, 61, a British national, was shot twice in the chest at close range this week when two masked gunmen burst into the house in Ubay, on the island of Bohol (Phillippines). Maxwell as enticed into opening the front door of his residence by a third person who was posing as a customer who wanted to buy a pre-pay mobile phone card. Maxwell, a divorced father of two from Frome, Somerset (UK), was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital.

Maxwell, a divorced father of two from Frome, Somerset (UK), had moved to Bohol in October 2008, after meeting his 21-year-old girlfriend, Charita del Rosario, via an online chatroom when he was still living in the UK. The victim had been having dinner with his girlfriend and two other Filipinas, including the girlfriend's sister, and were learing up dishes when someone came to the door asking to buy cellphone minutes, which the girlfriend sold. One of the women went to answer the door, but Maxwell said he would get it. When he opened the door, two masked gunmen shot him at close range. One of the women was able to escape through a back door and went to get help from neighbors, but the other two women were held at gunpoint and forced back inside the house, taken into the bedroom and forced to hand over money and other valuables. The suspects then escaped on a motorscooter.

Maxwell had established on an auto sales business on the island and also traded in fertiliz ers and other goods. Bohol, which is marketed by the local tourist board as "God's Little Paradise," is famous for the Chocolate Hills, a formation of more than 1,000 cone-shaped limestone mounds, and is one of the world's most popular spots for divers. Located in the center of the Philippines (south of Manila and east of Cebu), it became an important trading partner of the Spanish in the 16th century, when the conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi made a blood pact with the native king which is still celebrated during an annual festival.

COMMENT: Crimes such as this are common in the Philiipines, particularly in rural, isolated areas where police and emergency services are sparse and slow to respond. Western expatriates are often top targets of local criminals in such areas, once they become locally known, largely because they are generally people of means. Proactive expats living in rural areas usually have firearms, security deterrents and even exterior guards, but presumably Maxwell had none of these defenses. Although there is no indication that Maxwell's girlfriend was linked to this murder, her home business no doubt increased Maxwell's risk of being robbed or burglarized.

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