AN armed robber who shot dead a British millionaire tourist outside his hotel has been convicted of his murder and jailed for life.
Baby-faced Venezuelan Angel Lozano Azuaje, alias Cachete, was found guilty of killing company director Matthew Gibbard in the bungled mugging following a long-running trial in Buenos Aires.
The migrant was also convicted of injuring the 50-year-old’s JP Morgan manager stepson Stefan Zone as they prepared to check into their four-star hotel in the Argentinian capital three years ago.
Mr Gibbard, 50, of Lowick, Northamptonshire, was pronounced dead after being rushed to hospital from the £350-a-night Faena Art Hotel with his family including his wife of nearly 20 years and his elderly mum.
They were then planning to continue to the Antarctic for a “once-in-a-lifetime family holiday.”
A gang of armed robbers were accused of following them in their taxi from Buenos Aires’ Ezeiza Airport where they had just got off a flight from the UK.
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Reports suggest they had "marked" them in the arrivals lounge before mugging them in the brutal 2019 attack.
Confirming the Buenos Aires court decision, a prosecution spokesman said: “The man responsible for the murder of a British tourist in December 2019 outside the Faena Art Hotel in the Puerto Madero neighbourhood has been sentenced to life prison.
“The trial judges considered the killer was a member of an illegal gang specialising in robbing people who had entered the country via Ezeiza International Airport, who they ‘marked’ and followed until they reached their destination.
“Six other people were found guilty of belonging to that gang and have been sentenced to jail terms ranging from four years to two years and six months.”
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The prosecution spokesman described how Mr Gibbard died after being shot in the back and his stepson received a gunshot wound to his left leg, which resulted in an open leg fracture.
Reports suggest he spent several days in intensive care and it was six months before he was able to walk again
The prosecution added: “Lozano Azuaje was sentenced to life imprisonment because the court considered him responsible for an aggravated armed robbery for using a gun in a populated urban area and as a member of a gang, as well as the crimes of aggravated homicide and aggravated attempted homicide.”
'MY WORLD IMPLODED'
Mr Gibbard’s devastated widow Suzanne fought back tears soon after the trial as she spoke about the horror moment “her world imploded” hours into their family holiday.
In her first-ever public comments about the day of the crime and its impact on her and her loved ones she said: “Twenty-seven months ago I stepped out of a taxi with Matthew and in less than five minutes my world imploded.
“Our holiday-of-a-lifetime to the Antarctic that had been planned for 18 months with a stopover in Argentina stopped before it had even begun."
“The events of that day will never leave me. The incident has been imprinted on my brain and I see it vividly.
“The impact of Matthew’s death has had far-reaching ramifications that have completely and dramatically changed the rest of my life as well as the lives of our children and our family and friends.
“You took away Matthew’s hope, his life, his dream. You took away my life, my hopes, my dream of growing old with him.”
A September 2020 inquest had ruled the murdered British businessman, who employed around 200 people at the time of his death, had been unlawfully killed after being hit by a single shot which went through his arm, entered his chest and passed through both his lungs and his heart.
Lozano Azuaje was just 19 at the time of the killing.
He was allegedly held on a long-distance coach more than 1,000 miles north of Buenos Aires amid reports he had been trying to flee the country.
Footage showing the double shooting led to detectives identifying the suspects after Argentinian president Alberto Fernandez described the wealthy Brit tourist's murder as “atrocious” and urged police on to be “inflexible” in hunting down the culprits.
The convicted killer insisted he was innocent on the first day of the trial in March.
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He told the court he had fled to Salta near Argentina’s border with Bolivia because of fears he could be deported in rumoured immigration raids.
He will now spend the rest of his life behind bars.
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