Before I begin my post I would like to say how happy I am to again be an active participant in this wonderful blog. Beginning in late Spring and extending over the summer into September, I first underwent manic preparation of a manuscript for Thrillerfest, followed by a lingering family illness, followed by an all-consuming interest in the subject of this post. Those things combined led me to take a hiatus from the blog, which is now, happily, concluded.
Regarding the post, I experienced for the second time in my life what it is like to be drawn into a real-life mystery. (I mention the first below as well.) And, for the second time, as with the first, it left a deep mark on me, one that I know will be expressed in my writing.
I also have bent the rules of this blog a bit and appreciate Linda’s forbearance. This story wanted to be told and it is — but in many more words than most of our posts. Also, I realize that a real life mystery is not fiction. I can only plead what Margo says in her post of October 9 — some of the best inspiration comes from paths taken off the main highway.
I hope you’ll find your time reading “Found” is well spent.
Twice before on this blog, I’ve reported on the compelling story of two young Dutch women, Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon, who recently vanished from the town of Boquete in Panama, where I live. To read the earlier installments, please see: “Jungle,” May 12, 2014, and “Missing in Panama – A Mystery Deepens,” August 18, 2014.)
To recap: the girls set out from their hostel on April 1st to take a mountain trek in what is variously referred to as a cloudforest, a rainforest, or just a plain old jungle.
They failed to meet up with their appointed guide, neglected to tell anyone exactly where they were going, and disappeared, accompanied only by a dog named “Blue.” (I am not making this up.) “Blue” had the good sense to return to the hostel. For whatever reason, the girls did not.
There were no marks on trees, arrows scratched on rocks, or trails of fabric.
There was simply nothing.
Then, on June 14, across the Continental Divide, a long, long way away, an indigenous couple, Angel Palacios and his wife, came upon a shiny blue backpack next to a river.
Inside: $83 in cash, Lisanne Froon’s passport, two pairs of cheap sunglasses, two cell phones, a camera, and two bras. Everything was very neat and in remarkable condition, having endured 72 days of tropical downpours, high humidity, and withering heat.
So was the nearby shoe that contained a human foot.
As a mystery writer, I’m often asked where my ideas originate. Although I usually hem and haw an answer, I’m no different from most creative people: my inspiration comes from a thick stew of activities, impressions, and human intercourse that’s constantly added to by daily items I read, discoveries about the universe we live in and the planet our feet rest upon. The stew is always on a low boil, stirred by whatever’s in the wind on a given day.
Additionally, as a former longtime resident of Washington, D.C., I’ve encountered some small measure of criminal activity. Like many big city residents, I’ve been mugged, burglarized (one brazen thief lifted my purse off the back of my chair in the Library of Congress), and endured a violent home invasion. In a particularly sad period in my life, a woman was gruesomely murdered less than a block away from where I lived and the investigation into it was interminable and gruesomely graphic. Poignantly, a beloved dog was kidnapped two houses down, never to be seen again.
But by far the worst crime I’ve been exposed to was the killing spree of the man/boy team of sharpshooters known as the Beltway Snipers, who terrorized the D.C. area for weeks. They murdered several people near my house, one sitting outside the post office I regularly visited, another near my daughter’s bus stop.
We spent as little time out of doors as possible. The sight of little children, mine included, scurrying, heads down, knees bent, from one school building to another will remain an indelible memory.
Still, I’ve never encountered anything before like a shoe containing a human foot. Thanks to the Panamanian inclination to make crime – or in this case, possibly crime-related – photos readily available to the public, I’ve added these awful images to my stew. As with the duck-walking and murdered man shown above, I didn’t add them willingly. But they’re now part of the mix, and where and when, and in what form they will manifest themselves in my fiction I have no idea. I only know that they will.
(Note: I’ve elected not to include the shoe and foot pictures. If you want to see them for yourself, here’s a link; they’re in the beginning of the video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Je02A0zyAQ)
Back to the story — needless to say, the discovery changed the focus of the investigation. For one thing, someone was now clearly dead, no longer merely missing. For another, where there is a foot there must surely be more remains. And, third, the items were found in a part of Panama so remote no one could grasp how the women had managed to get there.
These were only the first in a long list of peculiarities about this case.
More remains were discovered, but not, as it turned out, by the police. The site of the discovery on the banks of the Rio Culebre in the sparsely populated area of Altos Romeros was a full day’s walk from Boquete across three swollen rivers and snake infested territory.
First Superior Prosecutor Betzaida Pittí, who had been assigned the investigation, traveled from Panama City by helicopter part way and then overland for four grueling hours to collect the initial evidence discovered by the Indios and carry it back in sealed yellow bags.Unhappily, on her return to Panama City, she was immediately hospitalized for severe dehydration, a not uncommon occurrence in the jungle. (You lose so much water by perspiration that you can’t replenish it quickly enough – and often can’t carry enough with you anyway. Dicey, that.)
Afterwards the weather was deemed so bad that only one regular Panamanian search team was sent into the area, and then only for only three days. The families, who had been on tenterhooks, were dismayed.
Instead, Special Prosecutor Pitti in effect deputized the entire Indian tribe and called upon them to carry out the search.
The Indios produced. They found Kris’ shorts, neatly buttoned, laid out on a rock. They found a blue shoe.
But the remains have been pitifully small. The average human adult has 206 bones but only 28 of Lisanne’s bones have been located, including two long bones that were attached to skin (found four months after she went missing), and two belonging to Kris.
Entire cow corpses are routinely washed up in Panamanian rivers, but that was not to be the fate of the missing girls.
By this time in the story – as a writer – I could see the dictum of “pile it on” the protagonist at work. Prosecutor Pitti may not be the most sympathetic person we encounter because from now on she is the public face of the investigation. And the investigation is about to turn into a nightmare.
Enter the forensics.
The girls left their room at the hostel full of their belongings, clearly indicating they planned to return.
SINAPROC, the National Civil Protection Agency, which took control of the preliminary investigation and mounted the searches, investigated the room as well, setting off sparks by Rafael Guerrero, Chief of the Complex Case Unit of the Public Ministry. Mr. Guerrero told a newspaper “they overstepped their bounds, and they performed procedures that should have been done by criminology technicians.” (Panama America) (Panama-Guide.com) That was a great way to get the investigation going.
Then there were the bones, whose locations seemed to move around quite a bit, depending on who was doing the talking — and in what language. (Everything has been translated and cross-translated into Spanish, Dutch and English, resulting at times in a babel-like mishmash.) Some say most of the bones were found together near a sandbar, others that they were as much as several kilometers apart. The foot was certainly in one place, behind a tree, not in the river.
Truthfully speaking, everything about the bones is more than odd.
According to noted criminologist Sr. Octavio Calderón, it’s “strange” for a foot to be broken off at the ankle, remaining in its boot. It’s also peculiar that most of Lisanne’s bones had tissue attached, while none of Kris’ did. And perhaps the biggest oddity of all – Kris’ bones – but not Lisanne’s — were hyper-bleached by phosphorus, a substance missing from the local non-volcanic soil.
This gave rise to the following startling statement by Sr. Calderón: “…the match could indicate the use of fertilizers or chemicals on the remains. Desperation may have led to the attacker to use such substance to ‘disappear’ the evidence.” (GoogleTranslate)
Even Dr. Humberto Mas, Director of the Instituto de Medicina Legal (IMELF), which ran the forensics on the case, weighed in on this in an unexpected way. An aggressive reporter named Adelita Coriat who writes for La Estrella Panama quotes Dr. Mas as “discuss(ing) the possibility that the dismemberment of the bodies is a product of lime treatment.
“Mas explains that the effect of lime is corrosive and has previously had the experience of that covering the body with calcium oxide is likely to fall off the limbs. If we continue the line of this hypothesis, this would justify why no trace left foot cut.
“Much will depend on the quantity and quality of lime used, but the action can be a matter of days,” said Mas.” (Google Translate)
At some point, Prosecutor Pitti’s office issued a statement saying the bones showed no sign of cutting, gunshots, or damage by projectiles. In fact, they were remarkably free of trauma.This would become a critical point in the future, but enough of bones for the moment; we’ll come back to them later. How about the girls’ camera? While we might expect they used it to document their journey (it had a mostly full battery), the camera has become the subject of almost as much speculation as the girls’ remains.
First off, it precisely establishes that they were at El Mirador (a lookout) on the El Pianista Trail at the summit of the Continental Divide at 1 p.m. on April 1st, the day they went missing. Here are Lisanne and Kris at that moment:
Experts have determined from the sun’s angle that the photos were taken at approximately 1 p.m. Then at approximately 2 p.m., the camera recorded this picture of Kris in what’s being called “Quebrada #1:” (A quebrada is a gully or ravine. In rainy season, they can be knee deep in mud.)
To reach the place where their bones were found, the girls would have had to go through five queberas/barrancas.
They also would have had to make three river crossings.
The first one looks down from the top of a rock into bushes.
Once turned on, the camera clicked away steadily for the next three hours, 88 more pictures in all — and all but one (held by the families) described as either “black” or “dark”. The camera had an automatic shutter so we know there was no lens cap to get in the way. Independent Criminalist Dick Steffens, who, on behalf of the families, has been pressing the Dutch government to be more proactive in dealing with the case, has said he believes the photos were made in a “deep, dark place….One explanation for the dark pictures could be that women have been locked up and using the flash on the camera tried to attract attention.”(www.telegraaf.nl) More from Mr. Steffens later.
There are no pictures showing the paths taken, big cats or snakes encountered, or accidents suffered. No photos documenting trail markers, SOS signs, or missed helicopters in the sky. No photos of people. The camera is like the last 88 pictures it took – a blank.
Some have speculated the girls used the camera flash to light their way but others familiar with walking trails at night debunk that, asserting the flash causes momentary blindness and prevents one’s eyes from becoming accustomed to the dark.
Another possible explanation has been that they were trying to attract the attention of a search group that camped out in the jungle the night of the 7th and early morning of the 8th, as alluded to by Steffens. If so, it is the only attempt we know of to contact helpers outside of 911 calls.
Whatever the reason for the camera’s mystifying photos, it does document one very important time element in the case. It shows irrefutably that the girls were at the Continental Divide at 1 p.m.
Five witnesses don’t think they were. Five witnesses in Boquete claim to have seen them at times that would have prohibited them from being at the Divide at 1 p.m. A woman at the girls’ Spanish language school swears they were at the school at that same hour. A local guide says he saw them in Boquete between 2 and 2:15 and told them it was the Piedra de Alto Lino trail they were headed for, not El Pianista.
Later, he saw them coming back and thought they took a taxi. Another man saw them between 2:30 and 3. A woman describes what they were wearing when she saw them at 4:05. And so on.
It’s like an Agatha Christie novel, where everyone is telling a part of the story and almost all are getting it wrong. As a writer, I’m fascinated by the breadth of error associated with this group of people. In a book, you would have to be very skillful to incorporate five erroneous witnesses who are providing detailed information. Ultimately, you would have to explain why each of them either lied or was mixed up. That’s a big task and not everyone who attempts it gets it right.
In real life, in Kris and Lisanne’s case, there may be a very simple solution. It is possible all these people saw the girls exactly as they reported but they saw them the day before, not on the day they went missing. That’s how I’d wrap it up in a mystery. Nice and tidy. And it may very well be true.
Returning to the story — what we do know for sure from the data in the camera and the angle of the sun in the El Mirador photos is that the girls hiked El Pianista on April 1st, reached the summit at 1 p.m., took their final photo (for 7 days) at 2 p.m., and realized they were in trouble at 4:30.
That’s when their phones come into play.
Lisanne and Kris made their first emergency call to the Dutch version of 911 – 112 – at 4:30 p.m. They made another one 20 minutes later. Although they were out of range for voice transmission, the phone log shows the calls having been placed.
That’s a very important piece of evidence as the area where the remains were found is at least
12 hours away from El Mirador – and that’s for an experienced hiker.
This means that Kris and Lisanne were nowhere near the resting place of their bones and backpack when they first encountered trouble and tried to call for help.
11 attempts were made to call emergency numbers (almost assuredly the girls) and 77 were quick on and offs, perhaps to check that the phones still had power. Ominously, the National Forensics Lab in Holland, which examined the phones and camera and produced a 160 page report, indicates that after April 5, Kris’ phone was turned on several times but the sim login pin number was not successfully entered. “The NFI concludes that it certainly can not be excluded that this is due to the use of the appliance by a person other than Kris.” (Google Translate/Reuters) This does not convincingly argue that a third party was present; it’s entirely possible that something happened to Kris and Lisanne didn’t have her pass code. Still, it raises questions.
As far as being able to communicate a message of any kind, although periodically they might have been in range to send a text message explaining what had happened to them, perhaps giving some indications of their whereabouts, tragically, they didn’t record anything at all, not even final messages for their beloved parents. This, in the minds of many, is as indicative of foul play as is the lack of the sim code.
Panama has rapidly developed its cell capability and leads countries like Costa Rica, Colombia, and Brazil. But in the sparsely populated area where the girls found themselves, the ubiquitous cell phone, symbol of progress and technological evolution worldwide, was of no use at all.
In the end, what the girls’ cell phone data tells us is a grim story: at least one young woman was most likely alive until April 3, when the last attempt was made to connect to an emergency number. One or both may have been alive as late as April 11th, when Kris’ phone was opened for the last time.
So, now we have unreliable witnesses, strange photographs, odd remains, a dust-up over forensics, useless cell phones, and – what more?
Young men, of course. There are reports that the girls had either breakfast or lunch on April 1st with two men, identity not revealed, at the Nelvis restaurant in Boquete. (Note: there is a question about this; it may have been the El Sabrosan restaurant.) Then there are young men in Bocas del Toro, where the girls spent some days before coming to Boquete. Here are Kris and Lisanne in Bocas with a bunch of young people doing what young people do – having a party.
Here’s one of them in a game of cards with the girls.
Not much has been said about these young men. Presumably they were interviewed and given a clean bill of health.
Besides the men in Boquete, were there other young men who don’t appear in photographs? If I were writing this story there would be, but the authorities haven’t mentioned any.
Speaking of the authorities, by now, the investigation was in full swing, and the forensics were about to reassert themselves with a bang, courtesy of reporter Coriat, who ran a story slamming the evidence collection.
She quotes criminologist Calderón as saying: ‘“The Indians took the evidence as if it were something for a courier service…. the crime scene was wasted.’ ‘ We’ll never know the truth,’ he said. ‘It’s amazing the search teams, however amateurs, did not take photos of the exact position and location of the jeans or the backpack (reconstruction of the by the rice farmers found backpack). And not ONE bone was collected the way it should have been, by police or forensics.’”(Google Translate)
Next came Diomedes Trejos, the coroner at IMELF, with this succinct summation:
“…they can not clarify the situation because the few remains that were found do not show signs of abuse or trauma.”
And finally, Dr. Humberto Mas again, thusly:
“’…it is difficult to determine the cause of death if there is no trauma to the bones.’ He also indicated ‘there is a forensic anthropologist handling the case to determine a possible hypothesis.’”
Meanwhile Public Prosecutor Pitti was readying her verdict in the case. When it was issued, it was more of a whimper than a bang.
The forensic evidence was recited – there was no sign of human action on the bones, i.e. they had not been dissected, shot or knifed. They were without trauma and there was no blood. They did, however, show chemical treatment with phosphorus (Kris’ bones), cause not specified.
Then, oddly, Prosecutor Pitti went on to say that there were dangerous animals in the jungle, panthers, pumas, snakes, and the like.
And the rivers were dangerous, too, especially the Rio Culebre, where the girls’ bones had come to rest.
The two young Dutch women, she said, had died by being swept away in that river.
Or maybe it was those animals.
It was a verdict nobody liked. Enrique Arrocha, the lawyer representing the families, witheringly took it apart:
According to La Estrella Panama, it appears the kindest word he had for it was “incomplete.” He says “ in this hypothesis there does not exist proof whatsoever…..under the Prosecutor’s scenario there should be marks on the bones. How come the bones don’t show bruising from being dragged,’” he asks. (Google Translate)
Statements by the coroner and Pitti herself contradicted Pitti’s own finding. “Microscopic studies were made and no actual bony structures had finding of trauma,” said Coroner Trejos.
Arrocha also questions the finding that Kris’ bones were subjected to a chemical process using phosphorus but no effort was made to determine if it was the result of an action by man or nature.
When Lisanne’s bones were released to her family for burial, he criticized that as making it harder for the investigation to continue. What a wrenching decision for the Froon family to make – to bury what little there is left of their daughter or to allow the remains to stay in a laboratory half a world away on the hope that more tests will shed light on the mystery of her death.
In a sentence truly tortured past all logical meaning by GoogleTranslate, Sr. Arrocha appears to question the general lack of blood, paucity of body parts and DNA, and whether the girls were dragged nude through the river — “Do they never had clothes on?” he asks, presumably excepting the foot. And he says: “Why the clothes have no signs of blood, body tissues or DNA?”
He believes an analysis of Kris’ bones will “lead to the prosecution of a new line of research” according to La Estrella Panama.
And on everyone’s lips were the same questions. Chief among them – why didn’t the girls turn back when they realized they were going in the wrong direction? And, why didn’t they mark their trail so they could return?. Even if they’d been turned around in the beginning, common sense said, they would quickly see that they were going the wrong way. The trail changes abruptly on the Bocas side; it would be hard not to notice those changes.
To this, lawyer Arrocha has an answer. He hiked the trail himself and went all the way to where the bones were found. Unlike some others, he doesn’t believe the trail is poorly marked or that the girls got lost. Nor do Kris’ parents, who hiked up to what is being called the “paddock area.”
It would have been “impossible” for the girls to have gotten lost, they say. They believe, firmly, that a “third party” is involved and are joined by criminalist Steffens in this belief.
“When you put all the facts in perspective, it is certain this case is not a disappearance,” he says.
Others say the trail is not well marked, especially in rainy season, and it’s easy to lose one’s way. But rainy season had just begun and April 1st was a beautiful, sunny day. The quebradas were dry, the initial hike to the top easy for two athletic girls.
Interestingly, Jose Gonzalez, the guide who accompanied the Kremers, believes the girls could have become lost (local guides are divided on that) and many people know that if you decide to step off a trail for whatever reason (even good ones, like avoiding a Bushmaster), you literally take your life in your own hands.
There has been some discussion regarding the ability of the Rio Culebre to drag human bodies. Lawyer Arrocha has been particularly forthright on this point. In this he is joined by local people who point out that although the Rio Culebre originates near El Pianista, in April its flow is minimal and unable to drag a body. Also, the remains of the girls were found upstream not downstream, “as would be logical if the current had dragged them.”
Just this week there have been new developments. DNA, a man’s and a woman’s – has been found on the backpack. Probably belonging to the Ngabe-Bugle couple who found it but no confirmation yet. And now we learn of fingerprints on the camera and a possible hit in a Panamanian database.
But overlaying all of this is the language problem. Official documents must be translated from Spanish to Dutch, then we get them in English later, usually through the Panamanian media, whose reports are translated by “volunteers” on various websites, sometimes using Google Translate. The outcome is having to deal with garbled text, which sometimes obscures the meaning of a critical phrase or sentence just enough to render it incomprehensible. Google Translate, while it does meritorious work, scratches its head over this, too.
One other item has resulted from this tragedy. Fingers have been pointed at the expat community here in Boquete.
A noted herbalist has been out and out accused on the internet of having something to do with the killing of these girls. And a well known resident has suggested entering the houses of all expats, taking our fingerprints, and looking for evidence. Those who don’t comply, she intimates, can be presumed guilty – of something.
Tragedy can hurt a town in more ways than one.So where does that leave us? Basically, with a list of questions an arm long:
How is it that certain bones appear together on the banks of the river Culebre? Why so few bones and why mostly fragments? Where are the rest of them?
Why is there tissue attached to Lisanne’s bones but not to Kris’?
Why does the Prosecutor declare the girls died by dragging in the river when the pathologists say the bones show no sign of abrasion?
Why did the Prosecutor cite wild animals as a possible secondary cause when there were no signs of animal activity on the bones or clothes?
Why did Lisanne’s foot “break off” at the ankle — without trauma?
How did Kris’ bones come to have high levels of phosphorus? How were they “Chemically Treated?”
Why would the skeletons be completely smashed but cheap and fragile sunglasses remain undamaged? BOOTS
Why was Lisanne’s foot, still in her boot, found behind a tree?
Was the boot rinsed between the time it was found and the time it was laid out on plastic near the scene, thus removing a possible crystalline crust on the bottom? (In the in situ picture the boot is dry; on plastic it is wet; both photos were presumably taken on the day Prosecutor Pitti and her team arrived at Altos Los Romeros. Hat tip: websleuths.com)
How can the second boot found (blue) be reconciled with the photos of Kris and Lisanne, who are shown wearing brown boots? MESSAGES
Why is there not a single “help me” marker — initials scraped into a tree, arrows, an SOS sign, etc?
Why are there no messages of any kind? PHONES & CAMERA
Why the intervals in phone use? Why the specific pattern?
Why are there no stored text messages in the phone to their parents?
Why the 87 black photos? (Note: 90 pictures were taken the early morning of the 8th. The families have released two but there is a third that is believed to contain images. We do not know when or if this picture will be released.)
Why didn’t they document what happened to themselves in photos — i.e. there are no pictures of their route, injuries, threatening animals, etc. after 2 p.m.
What do the two nighttime pictures of stones mean, especially the red bags and sticks? CLOTHES
Why did Kris take her shorts off?
Why were both bras of the girls taken off and put in the backpack?
Why have there been no other undergarments found?
Why are Kris’ shorts neatly laid out?
OTHER PERSONAL EFFECTS
If the backpack had been in the water, why weren’t the contents decayed and why were they in such good condition?
Was the backpack planted? Prosecutor Pitti calls such insinuations “Irresponsible” and “without foundation.” (Panama News) MISCELLANEOUS (BUT IMPORTANT)
Why do the statements of all five witness contradict the photo evidence?
Why was there no contact for 11 days when the girls had to have come near habitations and other people (presuming they were not abducted)?
Why didn’t they turn back after they placed their 1st emergency call?
Since they got into trouble so early in the trip, as evidenced by their emergency calls, how could they have fallen into a river 12 hours away?
A French couple hiked the same trail the next day and were told by a guard they encountered that he had heard screams the day before. Have these people been questioned? Has the guard been?
And new in the last few days: what do the 34 fingerprints just found by the Dutch Forensic Institute mean? There are 13 on the backpack, 12 on the phones, 6 on a bra, and 3 on the camera. PanamaAmerica.com reports that no DNA samples were taken on any of these items but the backpack and now that they have been sent to the DFI, the evidence is considered contaminated. There are still more questions, incongruities, and concerns, many more than can be addressed here. Mystery writers themselves could add dozens. But these are the main ones and still, six months later, they go unanswered.And they could stay that way as Prosecutor Pitti to date has refused all requests to reopen the case. However, because of a development that occurred just two days ago, the situation may be taken out of her hands. La Estrella is now reporting that “both families contemplate going to the international courts.” The reason given: “because the prosecution of Chiriqui has not ‘been able to resolve an issue that seems to have gone out of their hands.'” (La Estrella/Google Translate) Notwithstanding Google/Translate, I think we all know what that means.
The families continue to press the Panamanian Government to resume searching for more remains in the Rio Culebre area, now with the threat of involving international agencies. And the government keeps saying it will when it is safe to do so. Rainy season doesn’t officially end until January, though December is usually a mixed bag. Still some time to go.
When I first began following this story, it was out of genuine interest since the girls had disappeared from my town. But I stayed interested because they were so bright and fresh and full of optimism and they reminded me of my own daughter who is the same age. Over the months, as things became more peculiar, it was the story that kept me involved. In mystery writing, we always hope we have enough elements to keep the reader motivated to turn the next page. In this, there are almost too many.
There’s a well known “Dutch Road” through Central America that brings dozens of young Dutch men and women each year to visit places like Boquete. They come to learn Spanish, volunteer in the community, and mingle with people in a culture so different from their own. I was standing in line at the grocery store a few weeks after Lisanne and Kris had gone missing. Behind me were two girls very much like them : tall, blond, athletic, and from Holland. What had happened to Kris and Lisanne was a shame they told me, a tragedy. They would just have to be more careful.
Kris and Lisanne’s disappearance won’t stop tourism in Boquete, unless a murderer turns up and confesses. The official verdict has been rendered and the firestorm around it will eventually die down. The giant billboard outside of town will be replaced with an ad for something else. The local detective hired by the families will hit a stonewall and eventually he’ll run dry of information. It will all be over — unless someone confesses to the murders – if there were murders.
Because this is a literary blog devoted to the mystery craft, what lessons are there for us in this tragic mystery of Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon?
First, the two women were admirable people and either would be a good role model for a character. If I were looking to portray a serious young woman in a future book, I might think particularly of Lisanne, who took a degree in Applied Psychology She wanted to teach Panamanian students; she was fun but dedicated. From the website findlisannekriss.com: “For quiet and thoughtful Lisanne, Panama seemed to be the ideal destination. She wasn’t particularly fond of large groups of people neither did she enjoy typical ‘tourist’ hotspots. It wasn’t that far-fetched to choose Panama as their designated place-to-be; a country filled with nature and pleasant variety.”
If I wanted a character with a little more spice, I might model her after Kris. Ginger-haired, always smiling, she was an artist who could explain art in a way that everyone became entranced. A gifted stage performer and public speaker, she came to Panama to work with the littlest ones among us, the toddlers. How sad that she will never light the spark of art appreciation in them.
Second, plot. I touched on this before. It’s interesting how real life can actually be less credible than fiction. Sometimes there’s just too much going on to maintain believability and interest. In this story, there’s been a lot of action but so many plot lines that one can easily get confused. And there are so many puzzles they could sustain multiple tales.
Third, the role of technology. I know in my own work that something I wrote only six months ago is now infuriatingly out of date, despite careful research. Because most authors are writing for the static page, we need to remember that incorporation of today’s technology can stamp our work as behind the times in the future. In Kris’ and Lisanne’s case, the growing use of personal GPS; accelerated cell tower construction or some technology that leapfrogs cell transmission entirely; and further integration of smart devices so that a phone or watch could transmit a radio signal from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world will make their devices seem even more inadequate than they were. Of course, even with futuristic capabilities, sometimes technology is simply no match for a jungle or for a predator who lurks there.
Finally, as I say goodbye to Kris and Lisanne, I know that somewhere out there someone – maybe Ann Rule – is already preparing to write the true crime version of this story. That’s as it should be; it has to be told that way; it’s simply too real for fiction. But it has lots to inspire the mystery writer and that in itself is enough of a takeaway.
To the parents of these special girls, heartfelt condolences on your grievous loss.
God bless, Kris and Lisanne. Rest in peace.
RTV Utrecht http://www.rtvutrecht.nl/nieuws/1210560/ and
http://www.Telemetro.com – “La ruta de las holandesas, su ultima caminata” by Chiricano Capaz
The Fatal Hike on El Pianista – La Caminata Fatal en el Sendero del Pianista – Kris & Lisanne http://youtu.be/0BlWmxr5dFQ
“Hans Kremers twijfelt over verdwalingstheorie Kris en Lisanne” — avrotros
“SENDEROS QUE RECORREN QUIENES BUSCAN a holandesas perdidas en boquete.” El Siglo. La Estrella Panama.
“Forense confirma que restos hallados son de una de las holandesa desaparecidas.” YouTube
ExpedientesNex: “El Misterio de las Holandesas Partes 1 & 2” YouTube
Gids denkt dat Kris en Lisanne rivier wilden overs – RTL NIEUWS
Holandesas desaparecen en Boquete” La Prensa
“Ouders zouden schoenen herkend hebben” RTL NIEUWS
“Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon disappearance route” by Dinamo Zagreb
“Ouders Kris and Lisanne Het Voelde gelijk al niet” – RTL LATE
“Dertig memsen blijven zoekenin jungle Panama” — RTL NIEUWS
“20140603 Lisanne en Kris Benefietverslag1” — Gerrit Veenendaal
“Hans Kremers twijfelt over verdwalingstheorie Kris en Lisanne”
Bethsaids Pitti, Prosecutor – numerous press conferences
Prensa.com: “Nuevos hallazgos en caso de holandesas desaparecidas en Panamá” – YouTube
“Rescatistas holandeses llegan a Panamá” — La Opinion Panama
Prensa.com: Continúa la búsqueda de Lisanne y Kriss, las dos holandesas desaparecidas en Boquete
NPO – Dutch Public Broadcasting