Photo by Chema Photo on Unsplash
This is simply a compilation of facts from many reputable sources and is not meant to be defamatory nor inappropriate to the case. Two innocent women were murdered and I am simply sharing the story of the case; no disrespect is meant for anyone mentioned.
Trigger Warning: this is a true crime story and therefore may feature some themes which could potentially be triggering. There will be some mentions of murder and some sexual aspects. Take care of yourself first.?
Kris Kremer and Lisanne Froon were 2 Dutch girls travelling in Panama. They were both incredibly well-liked and either graduated or attending university. They both grew up in Amersfoort and dreamt of travelling the world as so many of us do, and for 6 months they worked hard at the coffee shop ?In Den Kleinen Hap? to save up for the journey of a lifetime. They were going to spend 6 weeks in South American paradise helping out the locals and learning Spanish whilst doing so. They were incredibly excited and when March 15th 2014 rolled around they could hardly contain their excitement.
They began touring the country for 2 weeks, spending time in all the most popular tourist locations before arriving at Boquete in the West of the country. This area is renowned for the astounding nature, most notably the rainforest, and the rich culture. Most tourists return awestruck and fundamentally changed- I can assume it was hardly any different for Kris and Lisanne. Upon their arrival on March 29th, they would be staying with a local family, who would be hosting them. They were to spend their time in the region helping local children and exploring the vibrant nature.
On April 1st, a few days after their arrival, they set out at 11am (after a late brunch which is largely discussed in the case) with their host?s dog Azul. Before leaving, at this infamous brunch, they were reported to have been with two other Dutch men, however this was not consistently reported throughout articles and I can?t say for sure the truth of this. However, they set off and as per their Facebook they were planning to walk around the area, specifically the gorgeous trails. One specific one which they were believed to have taken was known as Pianista Trail. The trail is not considered difficult or specifically unsafe however it is recommended to return after reaching the summit and certain areas can become muddy or difficult to traverse- especially in the rainy seasons. The trail is a good 4km away from civilisations and often takes around 3?4 hours to complete, so the host family were not concerned when the girls did not return. However when Azul made his way back, unaccompanied by either girl, alarm bells began to ring. The girls had not packed for a night out in the jungle, nor had they alerted anyone of plans to stay out over night.
Fears crossed continents, when the family of the girls became fearful after their daily updates via messages ceased to be sent. After a missed appointment with local guide on April 2nd to tour the area, the family alerted police and by the next day a full aerial and ground search of the area was being conducted. Residents, police and national services were being sent out to help find the missing hikers- but to no avail.
April 6th marked the arrival of the parents and international forces, as the Dutch police and detectives entered the investigation. They brought with them cadaver dogs, who could detect traces of scent for up to 9 days, rain or shine. The stakes were high and a $300,000 (USD) reward was put in place to encourage the search for the truth. The dogs were initially a success, detecting various locations where the sent of the two missing girls was clearly concentrated however no other traces of them were found in these areas and the majority of them had been previously reviewed by the search party. This is when a Dutch criminal investigator, specialised in foreign disappearances, released a weighty statement setting a precedent for the results of the search: ?the women could not have simply disappeared from the trail? implying some external force, perhaps involving foul play had led to their mysterious vanishing.
Their poster was spread far and wide across the nation and even the fire-brigade became involved desperately trying to find success amongst the crevices of the jungle.
10 arduous weeks brought no success, until 2 members of the Gnabe-Bugle Tribe were working hard planting rice (as is common for the area). In the tail end of summer, the work was hard and they decided to dip in the river for a swim. This is when they found something extraordinary hidden amongst the reeds. 15 hours away from Boquete, and even further from the bustling town the girls had stayed in, was Lisanne Froon?s backpack. According to the local woman, who immediately handed it in to police, it had not been there the day before and police shouted ?miracle? with what they found inside.
In pristine condition, neither damaged by exposure to the weather or the water they had been submerged in was $83 (USD), two pairs of sunglasses, Froon?s passport and camera, a water bottle, two bras and both women?s phones. Nobody expected the secrets these items could revealed, not after weeks of bobbing in the torrents of the river. However both phones and the camera were working more than fine and told the story of the last few hours before the 2 girls disappeared.
The phones showed various attempts to call emergency services both national (911, for Panama) and international (112). The first distress calls were made at 16:39 on April 1st by Kris and just 12 minutes later by Lisanne. Neither of these two calls were successful due to the poor reception within the forest. What was considered shocking and eerie about these calls is that it would?ve still be daylight when they were made (with the sun setting at around 7pm this time of year). And of course it is entirely possible the girls got lost or injured during the day, but the trail is apparently clearly marked out and going off the path is relatively difficult without machetes due to the thick shrubs and trees. Only one call made that day was successful however it broke up seconds in to the call and no help was asked for nor dispatched. 4 days later Froon?s phone ran out of battery and although Kremer?s phone was intermittently turned on it remained off for the majority of the time. Police had no idea what path or route the girls could?ve taken and the mystery of where they (or their bodies) were continued. The secrets within the phone didn?t end there- on April 6th multiple unsuccessful attempts to unlock the phone were made which caught the publics eye. Many theorists believe this disproves they got lost or were unable to leave the jungle. They believe that being stuck together for such an extended period of time, desperate for help, they would?ve learnt each others passwords just in case. These girls were both incredibly intelligent and resourceful, leading many to doubt they would?ve had such a huge oversight. Finally from the phone police discovered a further 77 emergency calls made between April 7?10, furthering raising the fears that foul play had occurred or that the outcomes of this investigation would be anything but good.
The camera found in the bag also revealed much about the girls? final steps and although no conclusive evidence could be found, it shows that for a while at least they remained in the forest. With a quick google search these can be found online however out of respect for both girls I will not be sharing them here. There were of course a multitude of normal pictures, expected of two friends on a long trip abroad. There were even pictures of the day they disappeared showing them hiking through the forest. The next pictures were taken on April 8, 90 photos were taken with flash and believed to have been between 1?4 am. Nobody is sure what the pictures are of, however they appear to be either at the top of the bottom of a ravine. The public interested in the case have since spotted a shadowy figure which could potentially be another person, however this has neither been confirmed or denied by officials. Other pictures found showed mundane items such as sweet wrappers and plastic bags, another showed a mirror and toilet paper and one even shows the back of Kris? head. Some sources online have reported there were 500 pictures which appeared to have been deleted and even police were unable to access them despite their advanced technology leading more to believe the instances of foul play. However this did not feature in all sources and I have so far been unable to find any reports of this in official documents.
After the discovery of the backpacks, searches began in this area and they immediately raked in more successes. Kris? shorts were found neatly folded on a rock, again untouched by the harsh conditions they would?ve faced exposed for over a month. Many sources report that in reality the shorts were found in the river, however this is largely disputed.
2 months after their disappearance, close to the location of the backpack a pelvis and a boot (containing the remains of a human foot) were found. Around this area 22 other bones were found, scattered and many broken. DNA tests conclusively proved that these were the remains of Kris Kremer and Lisanne Froon. Whilst Lisanne?s bones appeared to have remnants of flesh (as is expected with decomposition), Kremer?s bones appeared to have been bleached clean and some say had traces of phosphorous on them, however no signs of damage were found on them discarding that an animal picked them clean. As no major bones were found and the bodies were, of course, severely decomposed, no conclusive cause of death could be determined and officials have since said they believe the death of the girls was caused by an accident hiking. This answer has left many unconvinced and 3 months after the original bodies were discovered, a ball of Lisanne?s skin was reportedly found, not matching the 5 months of decomposition expected.
The deaths of these girls are tragic, they had so much life left to live and amazing things left unachieved. They were taken from their families and this world too soon, and many were left truly unsettled with the conclusions drawn. The trail, although far from easy, should not have lead to the deaths of two girls and as with any case rumours and reports have since been released. I found some articles which mentioned a potential taxi driver, who was found floating in the river a few weeks after, however this doesn?t fit with the narrative of them setting off with the host?s dog to the forest. Of course the girls could?ve had a change of plan and jumped into the taxi, desperate for a chance to explore, but they do not seem the type to abandon somebody else?s dog on the side of the road. Other sources mention 2 local boys who were seen with the girls, who also appeared dead, however there is no other evidence (as far as I have been able to find) which conclusively places 2 other people with them. And the final theories involve the gang killings and activities in Panama which are famed for their murders, especially with phosphorous. Although I cannot speak for certain on the crime levels within Panama, which truly only the locals can tell us for sure, there does not appear to be an exceptionally high rate of crime in this area of Panama. I am aware of potential gang killings which had previously occurred in the area, but very few reports mentioned these deaths as potentially linked.
This story is truly saddening, to see girls who had the intentions of only helping and exploring outside of their bubbles, and to think justice will never be brought to them is a fearful thought. Their deaths can never be forgotten and if anything can be taken from this, to ensure their deaths were not in vain, it is to always stay safe and take the necessary precautions when travelling, especially in a foreign country. Alert people, both in country and abroad, of where you are and where you will be going and as the girls did, begin taking pictures and leaving evidence of your presence if you feel things may begin to go wrong. This case is relatable and this travesty could?ve happened to any one of us. Please make sure you stay safe- the world is a scary place.
Any updates on the case can be left in the comments below and hopefully one day, justice can be found.