Tim Vallee was nearing the end of his 10-day vacation last Tuesday (Oct. 16) on the Honduran island of Roatan and was drinking in a bar in West End – an area frequented by tourists – with three local women.
The bar closed at midnight, as per the law during the week, and the group wanted to find an after-hours spot. The bartender, whom Vallee had befriended during his holiday, joined them.
A cab driver told the group about La Cueva, The Cave, a bar off the beaten track in a neighbourhood outside of Coxen Hole.
The decision to go proved fatal for Vallee.
The 34-year-old Abbotsford man was shot and killed in a supposed robbery that occurred not long after, when he and the group left La Cueva.
Robert Armstrong, publisher and editor of the Bay Islands Voice, a monthly news publication in Roatan, has pieced together Vallee’s last hours through talking to witnesses and authorities in the area.
Vallee, a conservation officer with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, had planned to return to Abbotsford last Thursday from his first visit to Honduras.
He had apparently been visiting a Canadian co-worker who had a vacation home on Roatan. That friend reportedly parted ways with Vallee at about 9:30 on the night he was killed, Armstrong said.
Shortly after the group arrived at La Cueva, Vallee did not like the place, and they decided to leave. He asked for change for cab fare, and the group left with plans to return to West End.
While the bartender was arguing over cab fare with the driver, Vallee and the three women walked ahead.
Two men who had been inside La Cueva apparently followed them out, drove to where Vallee and the women were standing, demanded Vallee’s iPhone and cash, and then shot him in the head.
Armstrong said the bartender and the women placed Vallee in the back of a truck belonging to another bar patron and drove him to the hospital, where he died about two hours later.
One man has been arrested in connection with the shooting, while another remains at large.
Armstrong said the shooting has troubled locals on the island, known for its prime scuba diving and resorts. It is also a busy stop for cruise ships.
“We get thousands of people visiting here every month … This is the first incident I know of, of a foreigner tourist being killed,” he said.
Armstrong said the after-hours bar that Vallee visited is in an area not frequented by tourists.
He said even he had difficulty finding it as he investigated for his news articles.
“I even had a local person tell me, ‘You don’t want to go there,’ ” he said.
Armstrong eventually found La Cueva at the end of a mud road about 200 metres from the main road in an area with clapboard and corrugated steel shacks.
He said the incident can serve as a reminder to tourists visiting any part of the world.
“There are risks (when you travel), but you have some control over those risks … (although) it doesn’t detract that what happened to him was inexcusable and tragic.”
The Canadian embassy warns that in Roatan, robbers have targeted homes and long-term leased residences.
“Travellers visiting the Bay Islands (of which Roatan is the largest and most developed) should exercise particular caution around uninhabited coastal areas and avoid walking on isolated beaches, especially at night,” the advisory states on the website for Foreign Affairs and International Travel Canada.