Argentina gang behind British tourist murder held welcome signs in airport arrival, say officials

The Argentinian crime gang which killed a British businessman held welcome signs in the airport arrivals hall as cover to spot wealthy tourists, officials say, as four men have been arrested in connection with the murder.

Property magnate Matthew Gibbard and his family arrived at Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires on Saturday morning, and were identified as targets because of their “high-end watches”, according to a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice and Security in Argentina.

CCTV shows that they were followed to their five star hotel across town, where Mr Gibbard, 50, and his stepson Stefan Zone, 28 were held up and shot while trying to fight off their attackers.

Mr Gibbard died shortly afterwards and Mr Zone remains in hospital with a gunshot wound to the leg, which narrowly missed his femoral artery. 

One witness, who arrived in the aftermath of the shooting told a local news crew that he saw Mr Gibbard’s wife next to her husband screaming “stay with me, stay with me.” 

He added that “the son was also screaming in pain on the floor. It was very chaotic and disturbing.”

Guards were outside the Faena hotel in Buenos Aires after the attackCredit:
AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko

In a press conference yesterday, the Chief of Security for Buenos Aires, Marcelo D’Alessandro said: "This gang works in the arrivals hall of the Ezeiza airport, where they look for tourists coming from Europe and the United States. From there they begin their pursuit."

"The modus operandi was to spot people at the airport wearing high-end watches, follow them to their destination, and rob them.

"They had a kind of placard, they would pretend to work to work for Uber," he added.

Mr Gibbard was a director at Tingdene, a retirement homes firm, which turned over £20 million last year, according to Companies House.

He is also listed as a director for a local vineyard, and a vegetation management company.

His stepson, Mr Zone is understood to be a product manager at JP Morgan, and works in London.

Yesterday, police raided 18 properties across Buenos Aires and arrested four men, including an Argentinian who is thought to be the gang leader.

They are still hunting at least six more people involved in the attack, including the shooter. It is understood that the chauffeur which drove the family to the hotel is not under suspicion.

"We were able to identify the perpetrators and we are working to arrest them," said Mr D’Alessandro, adding that one of the suspects arrived on a flight from the Caribbean only last Monday.

"Saturday’s wasn’t the first crime they’ve committed,” he said, linking the group to an attack on a Canadian businessman outside the Intercontinental hotel last month.

On Thursday, before the attack on Mr Gibbard and his stepson, an Argentinian was arrested for trying to steal a watch in a similar manner in the Palermo area of Buenos Aires. He was linked to the same gang by Mr D’Alessandro.

Today, there will be a meeting between police and security forces to try and move the investigation forward.

“It is an atrocious act and the loss of a human life is irreversible. Our job is to stop these criminals and bring them to Justice," said Diego Santilli, Argentina’s security Minister.

On Sunday, the president, Alberto Fernandez branded the incident “atrocious” adding: “We must be severe, we cannot tolerate this."

Last night the Foreign Office told The Telegraph that they keep all their travel advice “under constant review.”

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