Police investigation into the double murder of Dr. Gary Swank and islander Mario Graniel stalls; main suspect believed dead

Thursday, February 6th, 2020

The last murders registered on Ambergris Caye occurred on June 23, 2019, involving local tour guide Mario Graniel and an American National Dr. Gary Paul Swank, while on a fly-fishing trip off the north-west coast of the island. The shocking double murder threatened the tourism industry, prompting the Belize Police Department to establish a special security unit on the island. Initial investigations led to the custody of several suspects, but no one was ever charged. Seven months after, the latest update provided by police indicates that the investigation has come to a halt after the main suspect is believed to have been killed in Guatemala.

Commissioner of Police (ComPol), Chester Williams was in San Pedro Town on Thursday, February 6th and spoke with The San Pedro Sun on the matter. According to him, they had recovered the murder weapon from a house in San Pedro and had compiled enough evidence to make an arrest and charge. “We had narrowed down the investigation to one person,” said Williams. “But when we were about to move in on that person, he was reported missing from Benque Viejo del Carmen Town and from what we were made aware of, he was taken across to Guatemala. He was apparently killed in an area we have not yet confirmed.” Williams said that although there might have been other conspirators, it will be difficult to tie them to the crime without the main suspect, thus, the investigation is at standstill.

ComPol added that they reached out to their Guatemalan counterparts for confirmation. “We did several things with a view to ascertain if, in fact, the murder did occur, but we cannot confirm or deny,” he said.  Williams added that if the suspect is alive, he will be found and dealt with.

The double slaying caused major concerns in the travel community and made a dent in the tourism sector countrywide. Many establishments, such as hotels claimed to have experienced cancellations following the incident. Tour Operators also reported cancellations in tours and restaurants hosting banquets were also affected.

Dr. Gary Paul Swank & Mario Graniel

The official police report stated that Graniel and Dr. Swank were shot several times from a passing boat. A post-mortem conducted on both bodies certified their cause of death as Traumatic Asphyxiation. Although the investigation has come to a halt, the case remains open for further investigations.

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