A few days before Chris Cleave was shot in the head in his red Audi convertible—with his 14-year-old daughter beside him in the passenger seat—the 54-year-old British real-estate agent received an ominous message in Mexico.
“We are coming for you and the sale of your shit. Also for you Cris, with the red Audi,” read the message, or narcomantra, written in Spanish on a white cloth often used by narcos trying to extort money, according to local media reports. The message was pinned to the popular restaurant Bistro Playacar, owned by friends of Cleave. It was signed by “Comandante Cobra,” a fictional character made popular by the G.I. Joe comic series.
A few days later, Cleave, who had been living in Cancun, where he relocated from Cornwall, England, in 2013, was slumped over his steering wheel in Playa del Carmen as his daughter screamed in horror. Two men on a motorcycle pulled up beside them and shot the real-estate agent “execution-style,” police said. The daughter, who has not been officially named, suffered non-life-threatening injuries from bullets that ricocheted off the dash. No motive has yet been released.
Police immediately arrested two suspects who are believed to have been involved in the murder. A gun thought to have been used to kill Cleave was also retrieved, according to local media.
A spokesperson for the Quintana Roo State Prosecution Service confirmed the arrests on social media. “We can confirm the arrest of two men who probably participated in the incident that took place on Saturday morning in which a foreigner living in the area lost his life. The weapon that was used has been recovered.”
Authorities say they believe Cleave and his daughter left their home in Cancun for a Saturday morning drive to Playa del Carmen, a popular resort town crawling with foreign tourists in the leadup to Spring Break. The two men, said to be ages 30 and 18, then allegedly pulled up to Cleave’s red Audi convertible and opened fire.
Police immediately gave chase to the suspects, finding one hiding in the underbrush nearby and stopping the other on the motorcycle shortly after. Police have maintained a heavy presence in Mexico’s popular tourist areas after an uptick in random violence targeting foreigners in recent months, including the murder of two Canadians by a beachfront gang in January. Last month two other foreigners were killed when gunmen opened fire at the Art Beach restaurant on the Mayan Riveria about an hour from Playa del Carmen, a spot where Leonardo Di Caprio and Sting have been spotted in the past.
The British consulate in Mexico confirmed the death of a British national, but did not confirm his identity, instead issuing a statement that said, “We are supporting the family of a British man who has died in Mexico and are in touch with the Mexican police/local authorities.”
Cleave’s Facebook page, which was still online Monday, was filled with photos of his daughter and messages of love. “You are and will be the energy of the good, thank you for everything and I hope to see you,” Andres Prado wrote. “Fly high my friend.”