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[Linked Image]38 year old Marine Biologist Celso Cawich was killed this evening in Harmonyville. Police report that around 6:30, two men walked into his business place and 1 pointed his gun at Cawich and fired multiple shots at close range. Cawich was rushed to the Western Regional Hospital, but was pronounced dead shortly after.

The motive is not known at this time.

Channel 7

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Healthy Reefs For Healthy People - The Healthy Reefs Initiative team wants to recognize Celso Cawich contributions for over a decade as one of the key reef monitoring experts. His conservation work will endure and his warm personality and infectious smile will be greatly missed. We offer our deepest condolences to his family and friends.

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Marine Biologist Killed in Harmonyville

Late this evening, police formally arrested and charged John Horace Franklin, a twenty-seven-year-old vendor of Harmonyville, for the crime of murder. Franklin is believed to be one of several persons involved in the cold-blooded attack on well-known marine biologist Celso Cawich, who was shot dead on Saturday night inside his shop at his home in Harmonyville. News Five's Duane Moody reports.

Duane Moody, Reporting

Thirty-eight-year-old Celso Cawich was here at his shop on the ground floor of a two-storey wooden structure he called home for the past two years. Around 6:30 p.m., two men reportedly approached and multiple shots were fired at Cawich at close range. The men then escaped and got into a waiting vehicle. Enma Gomez who lives next door says that she heard the shots.

Enma Gomez, Neighbour [Translated]

"We only heard the gunshots. We didn't see anyone because it is very dark. Around 6:30 it is really dark and we couldn't see anything. We didn't see who it was. When we heard from the wife, she told us that he died en route to the hospital."

Cawich was hit multiple times to the body and rushed to the Western Regional Hospital, but did not survive.

ASP Fitzroy Yearwood, Communications Director, Belize Police Department

"Police have since detained two suspects and the investigators also inform me that they are looking for three more persons believed to have been involved in this murder. We will be issuing out posters if needs be, but I am allowing investigators to check on some leads before doing so."

There is an outpour of condolences for Cawich who is described as a law-abiding citizen who loved his work in conservation. Gomez says that he was helpful in the community.

Enma Gomez [Translated]

"We are so sorry about what happened. Only God can assist us at this time because they were really good neighbours. They did not interfere with anyone. They helped everybody who came into the community. If they didn't have money, they gave them credit, which helped people out."

So who wanted Cawich dead and why?

ASP Fitzroy Yearwood

"It would want to look like the initial intent was robbery. And from what witnesses have described, they are saying that when Mister Cawich made a movement as to go towards his waist for some reason, that is when the gunmen opened fire on him. So at first they made requests and like I said, he stepped a little back and then these gunmen opened fire on him."

Channel 5

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By Tony Rath:

Celso, besides being a talented marine biologist and diver, he had a calming, no bullshit influence in any group he was with. He had a sharp wit, and true smile and laugh. These photos are mainly for his friends he leaves behind.

There are so many stories I could tell of working with Celso, but one always stands out. We were exploring a cenote on Albion Island in Northwest Belize, and the visibility was near zero. We split into teams and after rappelling down the sides of the cenote with dive gear, one team went in one direction and Celso and I went in the other. We reached the bottom and it was pitch black, our lights barely cutting through the darkness, just enough to see each other. It was spooky.

As we approached the half way point, Celso taps me and motions for the lights to go off. I had no idea what he was doing. Then he grabbed my arm and slowly swam forwards till I could just see the glow of the other teams lights. Ahh, he intended to scare the bejeezus out of them. Sure enough, we bumped into the team, lights shook, sediment flew as the team jerked back before realizing it was us. I could hear Celso laughing through his regulator.

I'm sure Kevin, Victor and Jani have many more stories, as do others that were lucky to spend much more time in the field with Celso. Life just isn't fair sometimes.

Condolences to Celso's family and the extended family of friends and colleagues all that will miss him dearly.

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