Youth’s trial over killings of former Yorkshire students opens today

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The trial of a teenager accused of murdering two Britons in Florida is set to hear opening statements today.

Shawn Tyson’s trial started on Monday – his 17th birthday – with jury selection continuing yesterday.

The teenager is accused of shooting dead 25-year-old James Cooper and James Kouzaris, 24.

Mr Kouzaris, from Northampton, was holidaying with Mr Cooper and his family, from Hampton Lucy, near Warwick, when they were killed last April.

The area, on the Gulf of Mexico, is renowned for the fine, white sand of its beaches and nearby islands.

The former University of Sheffield students were staying in Longboat Key, 12 miles from the murder scene, and had been out drinking in central Sarasota, but were found dead in the town's rundown Newtown area, 20 blocks away, in the early hours of April 16. It remains unclear how they came to be in the area and why they walked there instead of taking a taxi as planned.

Tyson has been charged as an adult with two counts of first-degree murder and, if found guilty, faces life in prison.

The teenager, who lives near where the men’s bodies were found, was arrested a day after the killings.

Police searches of his bedroom are said to have found two .22 calibre bullets, the same size police said were used to kill Kouzaris and Cooper.

Following several anonymous tips, a new search of the teenager’s home found a black ski mask and another .22 round.

The double murder was thought to have been a botched robbery – although the victims still had cash in their wallets, and a mobile phone and digital camera.