FLORIDA police investigating the killings of two Sheffield University student pals today released holiday photos and CCTV footage of the men shortly before they were gunned down, writes Digital Editor Graham Walker.
Meanwhile, the devastated parents of one of the victims described their son as a gentle, kind and compassionate man whose “humour filled every space”.
James Cooper, 25, and James Kouzaris, 24, were shot dead in the early hours of Saturday in a crime-ridden part of the Gulf Coast state described by police as a “no-go” area for tourists.
Mr Cooper’s parents Stanley and Sandra had been on holiday with the two young men, staying in an upmarket area of Sarasota.
“As his parents, our lives have been shattered, but through us and his friends and family he will live on,’’ they said in a police statement.
“God bless you, son, heaven has another angel, but this world is a colder and poorer place without you in it.”
Mr and Mrs Cooper, from Hampton Lucy, near Warwick, spoke of their pride in their only son, who worked as a tennis coach in Warwickshire and once played Andy Murray in a junior tournament.
They added: “We loved our son and he loved us so strongly. We are blessed and so very proud to have him as our boy.
“A day never passed without telling each other ‘I love you’. He was gentle, kind, compassionate, clever and an athlete; but beyond all his achievements he was full of love.
“Always the man to keep his friends from childhood to university to work, together.
“His laugh, his voice, his humour filled every space. In his short life he lived it to the full and helped everyone lucky enough to know him to do the same.”
The statement comes after detectives in Florida released video footage of the two friends in a downtown Sarasota bar hours before they were murdered.
Stills from the CCTV images were released by police in the hope that they will bring to light fresh evidence surrounding the shootings.
Officers from Sarasota Police Department are also following up a number of leads gleaned from photographs which were recovered from one of the dead men’s cameras.
The 11 CCTV stills, which were taken in Smokin’ Joes bar and cover a time period from 12.13am to 1.23am, clearly show the university friends talking to two women for at least 37 minutes.
Police stressed that the revellers were not suspects, but said they wanted to contact them to “learn more details about the victims’ activities”, and see if they may have been in contact with other people before they were murdered on Saturday April 16.
Mr Kouzaris, wearing a grey crew-neck T-shirt, and Mr Cooper, dressed in a black V-neck T-shirt, stand directly in front of a camera in the bar in conversation with the two women.
The four are together in the footage from 12.13am and appear to go out of shot together at 12.50am.
The next still is from 1.02am and their place has been taken by two other women.
The two Britons reappear at 1.21am towards the middle of the bar, with their backs to the camera and talking to a blonde woman.
In the final still two minutes later, they are still talking to her.
Ninety minutes later they were lying dead in a rundown street 20 blocks away.
It is still unclear what the former Sheffield University students were doing in the Newtown housing project, described by locals as a very dangerous area.
The murder scene - about 12 miles from the upmarket island city of Longboat Key where the friends were staying - is reportedly rife with drug dealing and prostitution.
Captain Paul Sutton said detectives were “examining all theories” and “keeping an open mind” as to how and why the duo ended up in the “no-go” area.
He said the Britons may have befriended someone who gave them a lift, could have got a cab which detectives have not yet traced, or may have walked to the area.
“Anything you could imagine is a possibility,” he said.
Capt Sutton said the force had a “few leads as a result of the photographs” recovered from one of the victim’s cameras and released through the media.
Those pictures show Mr Cooper, a tennis coach, sun burnt and beaming at the camera.
The other is a close up of Mr Kouzaris, who worked for Northamptonshire County Council.
“We are trying to determine how they got from downtown Sarasota to Carver Court,” added Capt Sutton.
“We are in a phase where we are in the trenches with long drawn-out stuff.”
Shawn Tyson, 16, who lives close to the murder scene, is being held on suspicion of double murder.
Police said the teenager would be charged as an adult over the two murders, which means he could face the death penalty if convicted.
Tyson was previously arrested on April 7 for aggravated assault with a handgun - reportedly blasting gunfire into a car.
Mr Kouzaris, from Northampton, was on a three-week holiday in Florida with Mr Cooper and his family, from Warwick. Mr Cooper turned 25 three days before the killings.
Capt Sutton quashed reports the men were murdered with a machine gun but it is believed they were each shot a number of times.
Residents in the Newtown area speculated the victims could have been lured into an ambush by a gang of masked gunmen.
Sonja Seymour, 31, who lives on the street where the men’s bodies were found, said in reports: “I heard that when they arrived here there were already some people waiting for them. They were wearing masks.
“The men ran away and they were shot. I saw one of them lying in the street on his back with his arms outstretched.
“The other man was across the road lying on his back. They were not moving.
“The ambulance arrived and tried to work on the two men but they couldn’t do anything.”