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Bodies found in Mexico likely those of missing surfers: authorities

Rescue workers, forensics investigators and prosecutors preparing to enter a shaft where human remains were found near La Bocana Beach in Ensenada, Baja California state on May 3, 2024
Rescue workers, forensics investigators and prosecutors preparing to enter a shaft where human remains were found near La Bocana Beach in Ensenada, Baja California state on May 3, 2024 - Copyright AFP Guillermo Arias
Rescue workers, forensics investigators and prosecutors preparing to enter a shaft where human remains were found near La Bocana Beach in Ensenada, Baja California state on May 3, 2024 - Copyright AFP Guillermo Arias

The physical characteristics of three bodies found in Mexico’s Baja California state resemble those of two Australian brothers and their American friend who went missing while on a surfing trip, local authorities said Saturday.

State prosecutor Maria Elena Andrade said that the bodies, found Friday dumped in a shaft atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, were in an “advanced state of decomposition,” complicating identification.

“However,” she added, “given their clothing and certain characteristics such as long hair and specific physical descriptions, we have high probability” that the bodies are in fact those of the three missing men.

AFP journalists watched authorities use a pulley system to hoist what appeared to be lifeless bodies covered in mud from the shaft on a cliff high above the Pacific.

While another body was found at the site, investigators determined that it had been there for some time and had no connection to the latest disappearances.

Brothers Callum and Jake Robinson had been on a surfing vacation with their American friend Jack Carter when they disappeared a week ago near the city of Ensenada.

The bodies were found near the town of Santo Tomas, about 30 miles (45 kilometers) southeast of Ensenada, in a spot that is difficult to reach but popular with surfers. 

Mexican authorities, who have arrested three suspects, were carrying out the investigation in collaboration with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)and the Australian consulate.

Andrade said one line of inquiry is whether the deaths resulted from an attempt to steal the tourists’ pickup truck. The vehicle — which had been burned — was found nearby.

The Robinson brothers and Carter had not been seen since April 27. The Australians’ mother, Debra Robinson, said they never arrived at their planned accommodation.

“Reaching out to anyone who has seen my two sons. They have not contacted us,” she wrote on a Facebook page for Baja California tourists before Friday’s discovery. 

A spokesperson for Australia’s foreign ministry said earlier that it was in regular contact with the Robinson family and that it “recognizes this is a very distressing time.”

Baja California is known for its inviting beaches and its resorts are popular with US tourists, partly because of their proximity to the border. 

It is also one of Mexico’s most violent states because of organized crime groups, although cartel activity doesn’t commonly affect foreign tourists.

The latest case echoes that of two Australian surfers who were murdered and their bodies burned while traveling in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa in November 2015.

In March 2023, alleged members of the Gulf Cartel kidnapped four Americans in the northeastern city of Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, Texas. Two of them were killed.

Spiraling criminal violence in Mexico has claimed 450,000 lives and led to more than 100,000 disappearances since the end of 2006, when the federal government launched a controversial anti-drug strategy involving the use of military units.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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