An English businessman was shot dead in front of his 14-year-old daughter in Playa del Carmen on Saturday morning while driving in an area surrounded by luxury hotels.
Chris Cleave, 54, from Cornwall, southwest England, was found on Xcalacoco Avenue around 10 a.m. in a red Audi sports car after he was shot multiple times by two men on a motorcycle. His daughter Chloe, who sustained non-life threatening injuries, was taken to hospital suffering from shock.
Cleave had been a resident in Mexico since 2013 and sold and rented real estate mainly in Playacar, a gated residential complex south of the city center, and appeared in public advertisements for the properties. He had been celebrating his daughter’s 14th birthday in the Quintana Roo tourist destination on Wednesday.
The attack comes after a local gang threatened Cleave by leaving a narcomanta, or narco-banner, in Playacar. The banner, which appeared in March of last year, said that Cleave would end up in a body bag if he didn’t “shut his mouth.”
The Quintana Roo Attorney General’s Office confirmed the arrests of Lenin “N,” 18, and José “N,” 30, and the seizure of a firearm only three hours after Cleave’s body was found.
“There are already two subjects detained who probably participated in the events recorded this morning in which a foreign resident lost his life,” it said in a statement.
Friends and family paid tribute to Cleave on social media.
“I’m devastated by the news and crying since yesterday. He was an amazing gentleman and father. When there was something needed, he was the one I called first. Always very reliable, honest and with a heart of gold,” wrote Barbara Choux.
“You were the most generous and helpful person I know, always making time for everyone. You made my life happier, easier and more joyful every day I knew you … I will miss our cups of tea, glasses of wine, British jokes, and endless fun conversations. Playa is mourning the loss of a truly great man today, who didn’t deserve to be taken so soon,” wrote Sara Jones.
Some 12 million tourists visit Quintana Roo every year, but violence threatens the reputation of the state long seen as a safe destination. In late January, two Canadians with criminal histories were shot dead in Xcaret Hotel near Playa del Carmen. The U.S. government then issued a security alert for Quintana Roo, shortly before a beach club manager was shot dead in Playa del Carmen.
In October, gunfire left two tourists dead in Tulum and another incident saw two drug dealers shot and killed on a beach in Puerto Morelos in November. A range of international criminal groups are known to be present in the state.
Business people in the area have denounced threats of extortion for months, the newspaper El País reported. The state Attorney General’s Office has acknowledged that the wave of violence in the region is related to drug trafficking.
The increase in violence triggered the deployment in December of a new tourism security battalion of the National Guard.
The U.S. government launched an FBI investigation into criminal activity in Quintana Roo in February.
Since the start of 2021, Quintana Roo has been the 10th worst state in the country for homicides. In 2021 there were 36.96 homicides per 100,000 people. The state’s murder rate is only below that of Baja California, Colima, Chihuahua, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Michoacán, Morelos, Sonora and Zacatecas.