Nicholas Heyward
Nicholas Heyward NZH

New Zealand tourist killed in Argentina during bag-snatch

A NEW Zealand tourist shot during a daylight bag snatch in Argentina died trying to hang on to his backpack.

As two teenagers on a motorbike tried to take his bag, Nicholas Heyward fought back. He was shot four times and died at the scene.

Mr Heyward, 31, a trained physiotherapist, is understood to have been on holiday, travelling in Chile, Argentina and Peru, where he had hoped to go rock-climbing.

He had lived in Australia for a number of years but had been teaching English while travelling.

The shooting happened just before 4pm local time in a park near the World Cup stadium, in the city of Mendoza, where Mr Heyward was staying. He was walking with an Australian woman and a French man when he was attacked, said Security Ministry sources in Mendoza.

The Australian and French friends of Nicholas Heyward were distraught after the killing.
The Australian and French friends of Nicholas Heyward were distraught after the killing. NZH

Emergency services found the man dead at the scene, he said.

The Security Ministry immediately offered a 40,000 pesos (NZ$5800) reward for information leading to the arrest of the offenders.

Motochorros, or motorcycle bandits, are a growing problem in the country. They are known to travel in pairs - one to attack a victim, while the other handles the motorcycle.

A fortnight ago in Buenos Aires, governor Daniel Scioli introduced a new regulation to force all motorcycle passengers to wear a helmet and reflective jacket showing the motorbike's number plate.

The move came in a direct bid to crack down on crime.

Mr Heyward and his companions had been staying at the Itaka Hostel in Mendoza. Receptionist Emelio Montalbini said they had been staying at the hostel for about three days. The shooting happened about 2km from the hostel.

The Australian woman and French man were at the hostel last night and were distraught. It was a "strange" thing to happen as the area was normally safe, Mr Montalbini said.

The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade advised on its Safe Travel page that "distraction thefts and violent crime are an issue in Argentina".

"No resistance should be given if you are the victim of a robbery, as this could lead to an escalation in violence," the site advised.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade statement said the ministry was aware of the "sad occurrence".

"The New Zealand Embassy in Buenos Aires is liaising with the local authorities to obtain details of the incident."

A desert region at the foot of the Andes, Mendoza is about 1050km west of Buenos Aires and is a wine tourism destination. It has a population of about 120,000.

It has long been one of the safer tourism destinations in Argentina, according to Lonely Planet, but economic difficulties had resulted "in an increased number of street crimes".

While tourists were not often the targets of such crime, "bag snatching and pickpocketing ... is on the rise".

In 2012, two New Zealand rugby officials were mugged near their Buenos Aires hotel shortly after the All Blacks had beaten Argentina at the inaugural Rugby Championship.

Mike Eagle, then chairman of the NZ Rugby Union, and director Gerard van Tilborg were set upon by two men who got away with Mr van Tilborg's Rolex watch. The thieves then fled on motorbikes.

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