Shot Britons 'pleaded to go home'

James Cooper and James Kouzaris were shot dead in Sarasota, Florida, last April

Shawn Tyson is facing two first-degree murder charges (AP)

First published in National News © by

Two British holidaymakers in Florida allegedly gunned down by a teenager trying to rob them had begged to be let go and return home, a court has heard.

James Kouzaris, 24, and James Cooper, 25, were shot in the Newtown area of Sarasota in the early hours of April 16 last year.

The men, who were holidaying with Mr Cooper's family, had been out after having dinner in central Sarasota, but drunkenly walked into the rundown public housing project known as The Courts.

They were found shirtless and with their trousers round their thighs after being shot several times.

Shawn Tyson, 17, denies two counts of first-degree murder and, if convicted, faces life in jail without parole.

Opening the prosecution case at his trial in Sarasota, prosecutor Ed Brodsky said the case was "about two different sets of boys, men, who seized opportunities".

The gun used to shoot Mr Cooper, from Hampton Lucy, near Warwick, and his friend Mr Kouzaris, from Northampton, has not been found, but the prosecution claims witnesses have linked bullet casings matching those that killed the men to Tyson.

Witnesses will also tell the trial the teenager was often seen carrying a gun matching the one believed to have been used.

Mr Brodsky also said Tyson's DNA was found on Mr Cooper's jeans. But Tyson's public defender, Carolyn Schlemmer, said the teenager did not commit the murders.

"You will hear about several witnesses and you are going to hear a lot, you will hear about their deals, their benefits, what they got from this case, promises made to them," she said. "You will hear pressures and threats used against these witnesses by the Sarasota Police Department and the State's Attorney's Office."

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