Jungles can be dangerous places. Some contain wild animals, others unfriendly local tribes. But one thing they all have in common is that it is easy to get lost and not find your way out. This includes the jungles of Panama in Central America. The particular mystery here is more than perplexing as the intended hike should only have taken a couple of hours and was not meant to be hazardous. So, was this an error of navigation or was there a more sinister reason to the disappearance?
The hitch-hikers in this case were two Dutch female students, Lisanne Froon aged 22 and Kris Kremers aged 21. They were on a six-week working holiday and had arrived in the village of Boquete near the border with Costa Rica. On the morning of April 1st 2014, they decided to walk to the Talamanca highlands which rose over 2,000 metres above the village. The hike was following a trail for about three miles and then returning by the same route. They left late morning and should have returned by mid-afternoon. They didn’t.
The search for them began the next day, first by the local Fire Service and then a day later by members of the Red Cross of both Panama and Costa Rica. They could find no sign of them in the jungle and so a couple of days later, the search was intensified by the arrival of the National Police and the National Civil Protection services. Unfortunately, all of these combined forces found no trace of them.
It would not be until the 14th June that a new clue would emerge. A local native to the area found the backpack belonging to Lisanne caught in some riverside foliage. Inside were clothes, two cell phones, a passport and $83 in cash. Perhaps not what you would expect if robbery had been the cause of the disappearance. Another strange factor was that it was found a distance away which would take 15 hours to walk. Or maybe it floated down the river, we don’t know. However, this area was described by locals as being home to wild cats and venomous snakes.
The searches now concentrated on the river. They found Kris’s shorts on a rock and then a collection of bones. They then discovered a boot…with a foot inside it. These fragments were DNA tested and found to come from the missing pair of girls. Further investigations of the contents of the backpack and in particular the cell phones.
It showed they had tried to call for help on the day they went missing, 1st April, but there was no signal in the jungle. They would continue to call for help until the 11th April. Lisanne’s camera was checked. It contained normal happy pictures at the start but on the 8th April, the authorities found 90 pictures taken by flash at night which shows them to be close to a river. So, we are still left with the question of what actually happened to them.
Foul play has not been ruled out even though there was money and valuables in the backpack. There is no evidence of a sexual crime although a local tour guide has come under suspicion over the years. A doctor who examined the bones said that the foot had injuries consistent with a fall from a great height. If this was the case, then animals might have eaten the bodies. However, no large bones were ever found including the skulls and locals have said that no animals in the region would have taken or tried to eat the skulls.
Unless new evidence should arise, we will never know for sure why two young hitch-hikers lost their lives on what should have been a straightforward jungle hike.