Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon hit international headlines in 2015 as search teams organized and canvased the jungles of Panama for these two missing Dutch girls. People around the world have been analyzing the details of their disappearance. To this day the story of Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon remains an unsolved mystery.
It’s a scary and eye-opening story. It’s important for everyone to be aware of what happened. We should learn from this and prevent it from ever happening again.
The Full Story of Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon, the Two Girls in Panama That Disappeared
There was so much information for me to research and digest about this story that I decided to organize this page into sections. It’s best to read it in order, however, here are the sections for easier navigation:
- Their arrival in Panama
- Their risky unguided adventure
- The hosts dog returns without the girls
- Officials are notified of their disappearance
- Search teams organize
- The parents offer a $30,000 reward
- The blue backpack mysteriously appears weeks later
- A local found some of their clothing
- Searchers find the bodily remains
- Some of the bones show signs that they were unnaturally bleached
- Investigators analyze both phone’s records
- The photos found on the camera
After I go through the details of the story, I will provide the following:
- I discuss local indigenous tribes (which were later found guilty of the sacrificial murders of other people).
- An overview of political involvement and how it points to almost certain foul play.
- I constructed a map of the area and identify where investigators found the items. This map gave me a very interesting perspective.
- I discuss the environment and nature of the dense rainforest in the region of Western Panama where the girls went missing.
- I provide a list of large predators that are known to the rainforests of Panama and Costa Rica. Researching that list made me doubt that an animal was the root cause.
- I speculate on the possibilities of what happened to these two girls in Panama. There are countless possibilities.
- I discuss the culture and way of thinking of people in small towns of Central America and how specific factors could have affected their disappearance.
- I provide my final conclusion about what I think happened.
- Other minor notes
- I provide some very helpful links about the case.
Note: My intentions of this article are not to create fear, nor to sensationalize this tragedy. My intention is only to search for the truth and help other people understand what happened.
Organizing all of this information has taken me a tremendous amount of time. I’m very interested in this story, especially because I live in Central America. I am fairly well versed on the geography and cultures of these latin countries and I have a decent understanding of how the cultures affect how the local people think.
Nobody, including myself, should make assumptions about this case. The cultures and legal processes of Central America are very different than other places and those things influence the way that the people in Central America comprehend and resolve problems. In fact, the culture sometimes varies between countries, which can affect many factors in cases like this.
The Full Story of The Disappearance of Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon
Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon were two Dutch women, both in their early twenties. They were visiting the country of Panama for a 6 week vacation together. They were visiting Panama from the Netherlands after having worked for 6 months at a cafe to save money for their trip. Their intentions were to explore Panama, to learn Spanish and to help charitable organizations in the places that they visited.
Both women were considered to be intelligent, responsible and conscientious. They were both college educated.
Initial Arrival in Panama
On March 15, 2014, Kris and Lisanne arrived in Panama to begin their 6 week experience together. Panama is a small tropical country located immediately north of Colombia. The two women toured Panama for two weeks and spent time in Bocas Del Toro together before arriving in Boquete, Panama. Boquete is a very small town located approximately 30 minutes north of the city of David, which is off the well-known Pan American Highway. They were staying at a hostel that’s still in operation today, named “Spanish By The River”.
The Unguided Hike That Resulted in Their Disappearance
On April 1st, the two girls went hiking together, without a guide, near Baru Volcano. Baru Volcano is a very large volcano that’s surrounded by rainforest and unnamed towns and indigenous areas, due to their small size. Baru Volcano is approximately 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the Costa Rica border. Although the details haven’t been completely verified, it’s generally thought that the goal of the two girls was to hike on Il Pianista Trail, a popular trail that leads to El Mirador or “The Overlook” in the area to see 360 degree views of the mountainous rainforest.
On the hike the two girls possibly brought with them a dog named “Azul”, which belonged to the owners of Il Pianista, the restaurant at the head of the trail. This fact hasn’t been verified because it was only stated by a couple of locals – hardly fact, which you’ll see is prevalent in the disappearance case altogether – there’s very little factual information. If Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon had decide to bring Azul with them, it was a smart decision on their part because the dog was later important in alerting people that something had happened. Later that night, the dog returned home without the two girls, which was said to have alerted the family of the girls unknown whereabouts. More speculation on the dog later.
The dog returned without the girls, suggesting to the owners of Il Pianista that something was wrong. Additionally, their parents stopped receiving text messages, which they always received on a daily basis from their daughters in Panama. The following morning of April 2nd the girls missed an appointment with a local travel guide.
On April 2nd, authorities were officially notified that the girls had disappeared the day before, by a well known guide in the area. Authorities immediately organized search crews. The following day, April 3rd, they began aerial searches for the two girls. Also, search groups organized to search the rainforest where the girls were thought to be hiking.
Four days later, on April 6th, the parents of both of the girls arrived in Panama.
Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon could not be located, even with a $30,000 reward offered by the parents.
There are many perplexing parts of this story. One of the perplexing parts is that the Reward wasn’t enough incentive to locate the women. By Panama’s standards, $30,000 is a lot of money. It’s equivalent to $500,000 in a developed country. With $30,000, a local person can buy land, build a house and start a small business in Panama.
Imagine someone offers you a free house, land and business for finding a missing person in the woods near your house. Would you search for missing person? Yes, you would. These people earn $10 per day, often less. $30,000 is no different than winning the lottery to them. These people aren’t afraid of snakes and spiders. They know the jungle well because they’ve lived there for their entire life. The only reason that they might not search the woods is if they’re afraid of powerful people involved. More on that later.
Additionally, the small communities are very inter-connected. People in these regions talk a lot, except in certain situations (which I will discuss in a moment). News travels fast through the grapevine in these small towns and villages.
Locals and foreigners united together into teams to located the missing girls, but nobody could find anything. There was not a single remnant, a footprint, nothing to show the girls had even been in the area, up to this point in the story.
Later it was discovered that the girls had made distress calls within 3 hours of setting off on their hike (more on that in a moment). Furthermore, they found the backpack numerous miles north from where the women said that they would be.
Ten Weeks Pass After Their Unexplained Disappearance, Lisanne’s Blue Backpack Mysteriously Appears
After going missing and searchers finding nothing, three months later Lisanne’s blue backpack is found on the edge of river bank near the unmapped village of Alto Romero, approximately 5 miles away from where the girls were thought to be hiking. Five miles is a far distance in the jungle. People don’t just veer off course and hike 5 miles deeper into the rainforest without realizing it. Alto Romero doesn’t even exist on maps.
This is very unusual. In order for Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon to get to where the backpack was found, the girls would have had to climb through at least five miles of dense rainforest. Nobody would do that. I’ve been to that region of Panama and I can say with certainly that nobody would willingly hike through the dense rainforest. There’s cliffs, ravines, rivers, not to mention dangerous creatures (more about the wildlife later).
When the blue backpack was found, everything was organized and in perfect order inside. The woman that found it claims that the blue backpack was not there before. Therefore, that implies that someone put the backpack there shortly before it was discovered.
Investigators found numerous items inside the blue backpack:
- Two pairs of sunglasses,
- $83 in cash (USD),
- Froon’s passport,
- A water bottle,
- Froon’s camera,
- Two bras,
- Both of the women’s phones (slightly unusual)
As you can see, unusual parts of the story are slowly materializing. Here’s a brief recap of what we’ve learned up to this point in the story.
- The volcano and nearby wooded areas north of Il Pianista Trail were searched thoroughly
- No evidence of the two girls existence is found
- The backpack mysteriously shows up out of nowhere, completely unharmed and dry
- Everything in the backpack is organized too perfectly
- Both phones were discovered in the backpack
- The girl’s $83 cash was discovered in the backpack
These things are unusual and tell us a lot of things. I’ll speculate about these things later. For now, I’m going to focus on the developments of the story.
The Clothing of the Women Was Found
When the blue backpack of the missing girls was discovered on the river’s edge, investigators now had additional important information. The backpack was discovered far from the initial site where search crews were searching. So, another search group was organized.
After the new waves of the search began, they found articles of the girls clothing an a river a few miles from where the backpack was found. The clothes were found neatly folded at the edge of the river, although there is discrepancy if the clothes were found floating in the river or folded at the side of the river.
Either way, whether the clothes were in the river or folded neatly at the edge of the river, you can see how poorly the evidence was handled. The clothes should have been left in place for investigators to record. There should be no discrepancies in investigations. However, the situation was mishandled (like most crime scenes in latin America). You can imagine, all it could take to ruin this evidence was for a locally elderly woman to think that she was helping by folding the clothes, when in fact she’s unknowingly destroying critical circumstantial evidence to the case.
Searchers Finally Found Minor Bodily Remains Of The Two Women
Searches continued as teams of foreigners and locals continued efforts to canvas the entire northwest area of Panama. Finally, two months after the backpack was found, parts of the two girls’ bodily remains were found. DNA testing confirmed that the remains were those of the two women.
The bodily remains that were found:
- A piece of a pelvis bone
- A boot with a foot inside
- 33 scattered bone fragments were discovered spread over a large area
- Of the bones found, DNA identified that the bones belonged to at least 5 different people
- Froon’s bones still had some skin attached to them and was discovered relatively “fresh”
- Kremers’s bones had been altered by a chemical, such as lime
- A forensic scientist noted that the bones had no scratches
Kris Kremers bones had chemical remnants found on them, which was later proposed to possibly be lime, although no final answer was determined. Lime comes from limestone, a natural chemical which can be found in nature, but there are no lime deposits anywhere near the areas in which the bones were found.
These were not the first people murdered
When forensics teams tested the DNA of the the bones, they identified that some of the bones belonged to the two girls. In an unexpected twist, the forensics team also found DNA of 3 more unknown people. This chilling detail essentially means that the two girls weren’t the first to end up in the river.
The camera and the cell phones of the missing Dutch women were searched thoroughly by investigators
Things get more bizarre as investigators get their phone data.
The phone records.
The cell phones were discovered to have numerous distress calls, even within only a few hours from the initial time that the girls left the home of the host family where they were staying. These early distress calls means that something happened relatively soon after Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon left for their hike.
The second day, Lisanne Froon’s Samsung phone had actually connected to a cell tower for a brief moment, but had disconnected for a reason we don’t know. Only 36 seconds later, she turned of her phone.
Four days after disappearing, on April 5th, Froon’s phone battery died and the phone was not used again after 5:00. Kremers’s iPhone had no records of additional calls after the same time period, but the phone records show that her phone was intermittently turned on, likely to search for cellular reception and check the time.
Again, the facts remain a mystery. We don’t know whom was actually using Kris and Lisanne’s phone. It could have been them, but it equally could have been someone else.
Something interesting found in Kremers iPhone
After April 6, there were multiple failed attempts to login to Kremers’s iPhone. Someone, possibly Lisanne, used a false PIN code to try to gain access to the iPhone. After that day, April 6th, the phone never received the correct code again. This tells me that Kris Kremers probably died first, because Kris wouldn’t have used the incorrect code. However, an unknown third-person could have been trying to get into the phone too.
Between April 7th and April 10th, even though the person couldn’t login to the phone, there were 77 emergency call attempts with the iPhone. However, the phone had no signal and calls would not go through. On April 11, the phone was turned off permanently.
Lisanne’s camera photos (from the blue backpack)
Inside of the blue backpack was Lisanne Froon’s camera. On April 8, two days before the attempted final distress calls of the iPhone, ninety (90) flash photos were taken between 01:00AM and 04:00AM, in complete darkness. The photos were taken of a number of different things:
- A few photos identify their possible location at the time – that they were possibly near a river or a ravine.
- Some photos show a twig with plastic bags and candy wrappers on top of a rock,
Another photo shows what looks like toilet paper and a mirror on another rock,
- Another shows the back of Kremers’s head, possibly because she was injured and bleeding, or possibly this was an accidental picture taken by someone messing with her camera.
- Photo #509 was deleted from the phone.
There’s a lot of speculation on why the photos were taken. One person pointed out that the girls are in none of the photos, therefore it’s possible that the photos were taken by their killer. Some people believe that the camera’s flash was used as a light source, which is a viable explanation. Others believe that it was a final attempt to document their location before succumbing to inevitable death.
Example picture from their phone:
Photo #509 – The Permanently Deleted Camera Image
There’s a lot of discussion online about photo 509. Some people claim it’s a cover-up. Maybe the killer or law enforcement tampered with the camera. Also, some people speculate if the photo was deleted by the authorities in Panama. Personally, I wouldn’t doubt any of these possibilities. Shady stuff like this happens down here in Central America, even with law enforcement.
Initially I thought that photo number 509 was just a dead end. As a programmer, I can tell you that if a reputable forensics team had handled the camera, they likely would have been able to retrieve the photo. Deleted files on hard-disks and flash drives are able to be reconstructed by experts using professional software. It’s fairly easy with the correct software.
However, the image was wiped clean. Someone that’s knowledgable of hardware space allocation connected the camera’s card to a computer and manually deleted any trace of the photo. This is more indisputable evidence that tampering was involved. Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon could not have permanently deleted the photo from the device without connecting the device to a computer.
Could it have been a very rare and timely camera glitch? Well, anything is possible.
The Map Of The Story of Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon
The map of where the two girls went missing in Panama and where their remains were found. This helps to put things into perspective:
Notice that the backpack was found at a considerable distance from where the girls started their trip. If one of them was injured, there’s no way they would have made that trip together.
Additionally, why would they have gone so far off the path? People speculate that they got lost. They didn’t think to look at the direction the water was flowing? Their destination was only a 1 kilometer hike from their home. Why would they walk for so much time in a random direction? I believe that they were too intelligent for that to happen. These girls were experienced travelers.
Political Involvement & The High Likelihood of Foul Play
I found this fantastic in depth write-up that discusses the details of the politics happening behind the scenes.
When more evidence couldn’t be found for the case, Attorney General of Panama, Betzaida Pitti claimed that the girls had died from a hiking accident. Shortly after, the case was closed. But not all the evidence was investigated. Leads and suspects were never interviewed. Investigators knew that the official story was impossible.
“The official version of the story makes no sense,” said Enrique Arrocha, the attorney who represented the Kremers family in the case. Arrocha’s communication was also unusual at the meeting. He implied in his voice and body language that he was being threatened, but never identified by whom. He was accompanied by a body guard.
“It’s almost impossible for the bones to be in this condition,” said Arrocha, and he pointed out that the lead forensic examiner had publicly speculated that lime might have been used to hasten decomposition.
Wow. That’s eye opening. When I first read about the politics of this case, I realized that this story has further reach in Panama than meets the eye.
Understanding the Environmental Conditions of Where the Two Girls Went Missing
When I was in Panama, I hiked through the thick jungle of Bocas Del Toro. Our host gave us thick rubber boots and warned us to be careful. I was only about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from where the girl’s remains were found. I can say that they were undoubtedly taking a risk in their ambitious hike if the official story is what happened. They didn’t have enough water, enough clothing, enough food, nor enough daylight.
Rainforests look pretty and innocent in pictures but they are overwhelmingly harsh conditions. In truth, veering off the path isn’t an option – it’s chest-high vegetation with sharp plants and unstable terrain. The water is unsafe to drink, the brush is thick, the ravines have unforgiving rocks and boulders, the insects are brutal, and there’s numerous threatening species of snakes and spiders. You are constantly climbing, tripping and getting bumps and bruises. Even with all of the moisture and potential water sources, dehydration is a big concern if anything goes wrong.
That said, there’s surprisingly little sunlight in the region. These mountains are known as being clouded and misty. The high elevation, the cool temperatures and the rainy conditions essentially coat everything in a film of water.
List of Animal Life & Possible Predators In The Region
There’s a lot of natural predators in the rain forests of Panama. However, the vast majority of them don’t mess with humans unless they feel immediately threatened. Additionally, recall that the bones of Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon did not have scratch marks. Therefore it’s very unlikely that the girls were killed by hungry animals. I looked into the largest possible threats in Northern Panama and organized this list:
Jaguars – The biggest predators in the Panama rainforest are Jaguars.
Jaguarundi – Not much bigger than a house cat, the Jaguarundi is similar to a Puma.
Pit Viper Snakes – this family of snakes is not one you want to mess with. Just listen to the names: Tropical Rattlesnake, Jumping Snake, The Bushmaster.
Tarantula Spiders – Yes, Panama is home to many species of poisonous tarantulas. The Psalmopoeus Pulcher is common in Panama.
Scorpions – Multiple deaths have been reported in Panama due to scorpion stings.
I’m not going to rule out animal predators as being the initial contributor of a possible accident that could have contributed to their eventual demised, but I can’t speculate too much this. In truth, I doubt that wildlife was an issue for them. Most wildlife in the rainforest is are afraid of humans.
While anything is possible, there is zero evidence to suggest that animals were involved in the story in any way. There’s more evidence to suggest that humans were the true predators.
Potential Involvement With Indigenous Tribes of Panama (Updated)
Update – January 17, 2020 – A mass grave has been found in a nearby region in Panama, that contains the body of a pregnant woman and six children. Nine indigenous people of the have been arrested.
Police rescued a further 15 people whom they believe were next in line for a similar murder, according to a statement from the public prosecutor’s office. One of those arrested was the grandfather of some of the murdered children. Police were originally alerted by three villagers who escaped the site. The area is so remote that helicopters had to be used to ferry the injured out to hospitals for treatment.
After reading that news story, it certainly affect’s my perspective on what could have happened to Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon. The impoverished people in these countries are prone to feel frustration about the changes in their nation: more construction and development, more tourism, more gringos (white people), and more change. The indigenous people are no exception to feeling frustration. Now we know that at least one indigenous group in Panama is willing to perform ritualistic murders in the name of making victims “repent for their sins”, as told by the survivors.
Could this indigenous tribe have considered the girls to be “sinners”?
Religious extremists have a bizarre way of justifying their actions. They very easily could have assumed that these foreign girls were “sent by god” as sacrifices to offer. After all, these girls had white skin and didn’t speak Spanish well, if at all.
There are many indigenous tribes
It’s important to mention that there are many indigenous tribes, potentially hundreds located through-out the area. According to the 2000 census, there are more than 285,000 indigenous people located throughout Panama and Costa Rica.
The small group of indigenous people mentioned above used machetes to dismember their victims. Perhaps this is why the large bones of Lisanne Froon and Kris Kremers were never found – maybe the large bones had obvious cut marks from machetes on them and therefore were buried in a different place.
Any intent of a murderer is impossible to prove at this point, but I think there’s a high degree of unlikeliness that cannibalism was the reason for intent.
I had to think about this one a lot. Even considering it seemed ridiculous. I researched online a bit, too. During all of my travels of Central America, I’ve never once came across historical evidence of cannibalism. Although it’s universally accepted among scholars that cannibalism once existed in pre-Columbian America, there is no basis or evidence to suggest that it still exist today. Inversely, there’s no evidence that it doesn’t still exist, too. Scientists aren’t exactly jumping at the opportunity to trek through the unknown areas of the rainforest to find cannibals. Overall, I believe that the people online suggesting that cannibalism was involved is just sensationalism.
I can say with certainty though, that as I read more on this story, it seems more and more likely that the women were held against their will. Also, their remains were found widely scattered across a river bank in a place 8-10 miles from where they went missing with the bones of three other unidentified humans. There are other intents that are more likely the cause, such as rape, morbid curiosity of locals, or human sacrifice in the name of religion.
Tourism is 6% of the Panama’s GDP (2006)
Panama has a big tourism industry to defend:
In 2006 international tourist arrivals in Panama reached 2.4 million – a number equivalent to 70 percent of the country’s population. The expenditures by foreign tourists during this period totaled around $960 million, equivalent to 6 percent of Panama’s 2006 GDPAccording to World Bank Statistics
I have no doubt that Panama leaders would do everything possible to keep this story under wraps. They don’t want to scare their tourist population. This is a critical source of money for this developing nation.
The Unusual Return Of The Dog “Azul”
A lot of people have speculated about the dog’s return, stating that the dogs condition could have been an indicator into what happened.
For example, if the dogs body was wet, it could have indicated that the dog went into the water to attempt to help the girls. Or, if the dog was in a higher state of alert, perhaps the dog had witnessed something.
Some people mention that it’s unlikely that the dog would leave the side of the girls for any reason, especially if the girls had needed help, except in a situation where the dog could physically not be with the girls. For example, if the girls were taken into a building or if the girls had gotten into a car then the dog would have just returned home.
Similarly, if Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon were in the presence of another person that Azul knew and trusted, then it’s possible that Azul would have left. These things depend a lot on the character of the dog. An analysis of the dog and the dogs state could have been helpful in the case. However, no investigation was performed with regards to the dog.
Personally, I don’t speculate much about the dog – there is zero evidence the dog was even with them. I do not believe that the dog was with them.
A List of the Most Bizarre Parts of This Story
There’s a lot of disturbing parts of this story. I’ve organized a list of the most disturbing and bizarre parts because they deserve a lot of consideration.
- The skulls of the women were never found. If the women decomposed naturally, more bones would have been found, including the largest bones, such as the skull.
- There were no scratches on the bone fragments that were discovered. The only way that bones can be pulverized into fragments is by significant force. If animals had chewed the bones into fragments scratches would have been discovered.
- The backpack appeared mysteriously. This just doesn’t happen. If a backpack or anything is left unchecked in public in Central America, people will tamper with it and they will most likely take the money. $83 is a lot of money in Central America, especially to people in the rural areas of the country.
- The backpack’s items were in perfect order. If these two girls were dying of dehydration, they would not have been concerned if everything was well organized in their backpack. Similarly, if they had fallen into the river, some articles in the backpack would display signs of moisture damage and possibly mold. There was no signs of moisture on the backpack at all.
- The items and bodily remains were found miles away from where they were suspected to have been, both upstream and downstream (different rivers supposedly meet). They never would have made it that far in the dense jungle if they were injured. And if they weren’t injured, why did any of this happen?
- One set of bones had been bleached in some fashion. This could mean that someone tried to dispose of the bodies by using lime, a natural chemical that’s fairly easy to access, especially at farms.
- Lisanne’s flesh was in it’s initial stages of decomposition. It was still fresh. The coroner’s office even suggested that it must have been in a cool place.
- During the 11 days they used their electronics, they never attempted to make phone calls outside of business hours. This possibly suggests that they were being held captive and attempted to use the phone when their captor was at work.
- Bone fragments from additional people was discovered in the same area. These bones have not been investigated more deeply because the government closed the case.
- A strange photo showed up on a dead local’s phone. A photo of two foreigners, a brunette and a redhead, possibly Kris and Lisanne, showed up on the phone of a drowned gang member only 4 days after the two girls disappeared.
- The tour guide involved was the last person to see them and also the first person to find their remains. This tour guide from Boquete has family members likely involved in gang activity in the region. He expressed fear at times during the interview process.
Theories Of What Could Have Happened
As with any unsolved mystery, there are potentially hundreds of theories. I’m not going to get too far into the details of these possibilities, because I’ve already established my belief on what happened.
Here are some of the primary opinions that people believe (in no specific order):
- Both were injured and starved
- They got lost by taking a wrong turn
- After injury, they both drowned
- They were kidnapped and held
- Local cannibals captured them
- A large predator animal attacked them
- A local tour guide killed them
- Local gang members killed them
- Another foreigner followed them and attacked them
Involvement Of Locals That Live In The Region
I live in El Salvador, not Panama where Kris Kremers And Lisanne Froon went missing. Cultures can differ quite a bit across countries in Central America, so I can’t claim to know how any one person or group of people think, especially those of a different country. However, I have a better understanding of these things than most people in developed countries, except for perhaps rare experts that have sociological knowledge on the highly specific regions of Latin America.
I could write an entire volume of encyclopedias on this topic. In the interest of saving time, I’ve organized my general understandings into a very crude list. Forgive me for the brevity.
In general, local’s in Central America tend to abide by these unspoken rules:
- They protect their own people
- Locals have a deep sense of family commitment, and often protect their families before anything else
- They will often vouch for their family members, even family members that commit crimes (the “blood runs thicker than water” concept)
- Integrity often comes in short supply
- They fear governments and organized crime
- When in doubt, they are silent
- Getting direct and clear answers is nearly impossible
- Police are often unable to gather information
- The have a general lack of trust for outsiders
- They are often secretive
- When they want something to go away, they make it go away
- They do not like to receive a lot of publicity
- Formal educational resources are not widely available to them
- They are predominantly poor
- The are god-fearing and usually Catholic
- Machismo culture is alive and well
Please note. These are my observations based on my travels and living in Latin America. I have no judgements against any person or culture. Everything is circumstantial and relative. Travelers should know: visiting the beaches for vacation vs living among locals for long spans of time gives you two entirely different perspectives.
I have no doubt that a local person could have murdered these two girls. And I also believe that his/her family would have remained silent on the issue. Finally, I have no doubt that Panama’s authority would cover-up the truth. Governments in Central/South America and well known for shady practices. They should not be trusted, especially when the success of an entire tourism industry is being threatened, elections are approaching and big government contracts are on the line.
My Final Conclusion About What I Believe Happened
Although unsettling, I have little doubt that the two girls were murdered. Panamanian authorities were hardly transparent on the case and they handled everything very poorly, probably intentionally. The only question for me is “Who did it?”
There is no doubt to me that foul play was involved. During all of the publicity, Panama was facing the possibility of its entire tourism industry being crushed. Plus, the authorities were probably embarrassed at how little control they had over the case. They accidentally exposed that “the emperor has no clothes”.
Gangs in Latin America control the areas they live. Cases often go unsolved because the police and military know the dangers of confronting gangs. Police and military often will not investigate a case properly because they know their family members will end up dead.
I believe that the killer was most likely a local, probably involved in gang activity, that lived in the immediate area – someone that had qualms with independent foreign women, was relatively young, lacked self-control and has a sense of overbearing pride (machismo).
I believe that the two girls enjoyed their hike and then returned to town after their hike. Then, they continued their day exploring, perhaps visiting bat caves, the caldera hot springs, or other notable sights in the area.
The initial injuries
I think that Kris Kremers was injured intentionally by another person. Lisanne Froon didn’t want to leave her behind. Perhaps Kris Kremers was sexually assaulted and the women rejected a man’s advance or laughed at someone’s attraction to them. Then, someone, probably more than one person, disabled them. In reality, the girls were highly vulnerable and didn’t know their surroundings at all.
I think the women were taken somewhere behind closed doors after they were immobilized.
The dog Azul
I don’t believe that the dog’s involvement was credible. Pet’s in Latin America have a great deal of independence and freedom. They’re often permitted to roam outside, and go anywhere they want to go. Dogs are all over the place in Latin America. Nobody tracks the dogs. People are too busy tending to their lives and families.
I believe the dog’s owner didn’t know where the dog went, nor precisely when the dog returned. People usually don’t keep track of their dogs here, except at the end of the day when the dog comes inside to sleep. There are exceptions to this – but if a dog is permitted to roam outside, then the owner is equally unconcerned about what the dog is doing.
My explanation of the photos
At first, I thought that the women took the camera photos at night because they heard sounds in the woods of people. However, I now believe that the women were already injured or dead at the point that the photos were taken. The photos were taken by a third person. The reason is, the girls are never featured in the photos. There is nothing to suggest that the girls are still alive. There was no goodbye messages or photos. The only photo that shows anything of the girls is one photo that shows Kris’s red hair. She could have been dead in that photo. I believe she was dead.
Perhaps photo #509 was the smoking gun and that’s why it was permanently deleted.
They were taken and prepared for disposal
I think that Kris Kremers And Lisanne Froon were taken to a different place, possibly still alive. When it came time to eliminate the evidence, the perpetrators had limited options because the search crews and media crews were so actively searching in the area.
So, they brought the bodies to a farm, or to a wooded area, and used tools and chemicals (lime) to dispose of the bodies as well as they possibly could. They kept the big bones that may have had scratches from the tools.
The backpack was a problem
I have two possible theories regarding the backpack: either the backpack was placed downstream in an effort to attempt to retrieve the $30,000 reward, or it was used as a marker to hint at where the bones would be found (or both). Keep in mind, the backpack was not waterproof, but it was found completely dry, had no mold from being damp (a virtual impossibility in Central America) and the electronic devices worked perfectly.
Originally I thought that the police themselves found the backpack and placed it downstream. I thought this because very sophisticated computer changes were made to the camera – which requires advanced knowledge, skills that most locals don’t have. However, now I believe that the criminals placed the backpack there. Teens are often capable of figuring these things out, especially with the help of YouTube and “How To” articles.
The backpack and it’s contents were the few pieces of evidence that were essentially non-disposable to some degree. Sure, they could have burned the items, submerged the items in the water or buried them – but evidence would still exist to some degree. Phones are risky items to criminals because they can track GPS coordinates if an unexpected cellular connection just happens to connect at an inopportune time.
I believe that the phones were continuously “tested” in order to see if the battery was still holding a charge. Criminals know that phones can track it’s location. If they attempted to move the phones while it still had signal, it could have given up their position. Criminals don’t like phones. In Latin America, simply having a phone on you is a form of security and gangs know this.
Placing the backpack downstream not only got rid of the evidence, but it also could have earned them the $30,000 reward, plus it hinted to searchers where the bones would be.
The camera was tampered with
Once the backpack and the items were located by the Panama authorities, the authorities hired someone with computer knowledge, perhaps someone they already had on staff, to review the contents of the camera. However, either accidentally or intentionally, they disrupted the contents of the Camera’s memory card. Either the criminals removed photo #509 because the photo was incriminating in some way, or the police accidentally deleted it.
Given that photo #509 was the last photo in an important sequence of photos, it’s most likely that the deletion was intentional. It would have been the smoking gun.
The money in the backpack
The criminals decided to leave an arbitrary amount of money in the wallet in order to reduce suspicion that the women were attacked for robbery. I wrote about this a lot in my article about the $83 in the backpack.
Just because the backpack had cash, doesn’t actually reduce the likelihood that they were victim of crime. It only means that the motive for crime wasn’t money. There are numerous other potential motives, namely of sexual nature.
Also, at least 30 different people’s fingerprints were discovered on the backpack, but no fingerprint samples were gathered or checked. That is criminal within itself. The investigators that were trying to solve this case were perplexed as to why the local authorities wouldn’t permit them to do their jobs to their fullest extent.
The final body remains
Finally, after months passed and the criminals had the situation secretly under control, someone quietly brought the partially destroyed remains to an area beyond the area where search crews were searching. They dumped the remains on the sandbar of the river and placed the backpack in plain sight in order to end the investigations.
The closing of the case
The case was closed too fast after the remains were found. The Attorney General of Panama was happy to close the case because he didn’t want any more media attention. The publicity was hurting tourism, possibly the upcoming elections, and possibly government contracts in the region.
Numerous government contractors that work in this exact area were known to have paid bribes to government officials between 2013 and 2015. This very easily could have been a hostage situation or simply gang activity. If it were a hostage situation, I could imagine that the girls were used as collateral to force a government contract. Perhaps that’s why the government never investigated the numerous fingerprints on the backpack and it’s items.
Very little evidence suggests that this was just an “accident”. No way.
Why is this my conclusion?
- Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon’s human remains were found much further away than anyone in their right mind would have hiked without the necessary clothing, gear and supplies. These girls would never hike that far into the middle of the rainforest for an afternoon stroll without more gear. If they did, they would have been walking back in pitch black and dangerous settings.
- The photo from the dead gang member’s phone had two girls that look strikingly similar to Kris and Lisanne. Given the fact that he was found “drowned” only 3 days after their disappearance, it’s likely that he was involved.
- The hiking trails in the regions are walked daily by numerous locals. If Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon had been injured from an accident, someone would have found then.
- There are no deep ravines or “cliffs” for many hours of hiking north. For example, the dangerous “Monkey Bridge” which some locals use to cross the river is approximately an 8 hour hike north. They would not have hiked that far.
- Kris Kremers bones were found in very unusual condition, have decomposed far beyond what they should have decomposed. It was unnatural. I discuss Kris Kremers bleached bones in great detail on my other article.
- Bones from other humans were discovered in the exact same area where the remains of the girls were found.
- In the end, there’s just too much bizarre scenarios going on. If they died by natural causes there wouldn’t be so many unanswered questions.
Yes, accidents such as slipping and falling do happen. It’s possible that they could have both fallen at the same time and injured themselves. But there is too much additional contradictory evidence to support that as the cause of death. If they were injured, how were the remains discovered so far away? Why wasn’t there animal bites or any scratching on the small bones? Why weren’t the large bones discovered?
The first emergency calls were made within the first three hours of their trip. Did they really both fall at the same time only 3 hours after the trip began. Two hours isn’t much time. Even with injuries, their muscles would have still been strong enough to crawl to get help.
If they had fallen, why were the bones of one person bleached? Why was Lisanne’s skin so “fresh”? Why did the backpack mysteriously appear months later further down the river in perfect order (with electronics still working?).
Personally, I think they were victims, machismo youth was involved and the government tried to cover it up. The bones of Kris were bleached using a chemical like lime, which as I mentioned, lime is not natural to that area. Additionally, very few bones were found, whereas with other lost hikers in the past, their entire body was found in tact in similar conditions. There are too many suspicious parts to this story for foul-play to not be involved.
A Final Word On The Disappearance
Nobody knows what truly happened to Kris Kremers And Lisanne Froon. There are so many missing pieces to the story because the investigation was closed to early and the authorities botched the process. The investigations were poorly handled, photos were missing, forensics evidence was poorly captured and tested, and the list continues. Ugg.
For me, it was a little bizarre for me to read their story. While I was traveling in Panama and without realizing it, I was no more than 50 kilometers from where they died. I was driving down the narrow roads after the town of David towards Bocas Del Toro, driving through the rainforest with Lilly, which had the exact same terrain conditions in which those two girls died. Canyons, ravines, rivers, dense forests, unruly trails, etc.
This sobering story showed me how a little bit of fun can easily turn into a nightmare. I feel terrible to imagine what they went through.
The Importance of Safety While Traveling
There are very real differences in life in Central America and most people don’t realize the importance of safety.
I can say three things for certain:
- The rainforest and nature in general in Central America doesn’t care about your wellbeing.
- Crime is often unreported, people going missing is not uncommon and police are often unavailable for serious help.
- Irresponsible behavior is common among small town natives.
- Secrecy is part of the lifestyle in these small communities.
Panama, like most Latin countries, is not developed. Yes, there is a big urban area in the capital city, Panama City, but once you head into the rural areas, you’re looking at small dirt roads, dense rainforests, occasional farms, and an occasional small village. Three steps into nature and you are immediately engulfed by large dinosaur-era-like plants and vegitation.
These are unforgiving conditions. Injury? It’s probably best to go back to your home country ASAP. Cell phone battery dead? You better hope you have a backup battery supply and a phone charger (especially if you rely on it for maps or language translation). Lost in the woods? Good luck. Victim of crime? Document everything, take photos of everything, and be careful of who you trust. Heavy rain? Don’t expect the rain to end anytime soon.
Forensics? DNA? Camera footage? Nope.
Crime scene investigation and forensics don’t really exist in these lesser-developed countries. Hospitals, if they exist at all in a particular area, often lack even basic supplies. Do you really think they’re going to run fingerprint DNA analysis? No. The only reason that it happened for Kris Kremers And Lisanne Froon is because it blew up on international news.
Most public places don’t even have security cameras, and good luck getting the footage if they do…that’ll take two weeks at minimum. The police are more worried about gang-violence and cartel activity. The point is…avoid situations of vulnerability in the first place.
You’ll probably be ok if you use common sense
There are a lot of incredible people, locals, indigenous people and travelers to meet when you are backpacking Central America. Most people are wonderful with interesting stories, helpful advice and a few laughs over a beer or two. The problem is, 1 out of every 100 people that you come across might be an opportunist. Wages in these countries are low. Money is scarce. A cell phone might be worth a month of wages to a potential thief. Therefore, opportunists exist. Crime is common.
It’s a lot easier to prevent something bad from happening than to recover from a bad event. Once a person is the victim of theft, assault, or anything, they will have a very difficult time recovering from it. The police can be helpful, but they probably won’t recover your things for you and sometimes the police are untrustworthy. Other travelers might help you, but definitely not with financial needs. If you need medical services, you’ll have trouble finding fast service and it will be lower quality service than a developed nation.
I don’t want to sound like a downer. Traveling offers so many incredible experiences. I will have travel adventures for the rest of my life. But problems can spiral out of control quickly and seriously if you aren’t cautious. You must be sharp and aware of your surroundings. Always have a backup plan for your backup plan.
They Made Some Big Mistakes
In the story of Kris Kremers And Lisanne Froon, they obviously made some big mistakes. They went on a dangerous hike without a guide, with poor communication with friends/locals/family about their plans, they went off the path, they didn’t have enough water, they weren’t careful on their hike and they didn’t document the events well. Granted, they were probably injured, possibly held captive, dehydrated and starving (possibly with hysteria setting in), but if you look at the photos they took before things went downhill…they didn’t take their situation seriously enough. It’s also odd that they didn’t think to take any photos of their injuries, leave a trail or markings of their whereabouts, they left no goodbye messages to their families, and didn’t take photos of anyone else (possible third parties) involved in the events that unfolded.
In nature, it only takes one wrong decision, one mis-step on the trail, one small injury, drinking the wrong water, or one poorly planned moment to create a life threatening circumstance. You learn how valuable life is when it’s on the line. Be careful!
Later update to this story: I have moved to the country of El Salvador. I now know significantly more about the potential dangers in nature and in public. Please feel free to read my story through blogs, which I’ve laid out in chronological order according to my travels.
Il Pianista – the restaurant at the head of the trail.
Dog that accompanied girls – “Azul” belonged to the owners of il Pianista.
Spanish by the River – The hostel in Alto Boquete where the girls were staying, which is nowhere near the trail.
Other Helpful Online Resources About The Case
If you want to read more about the story, here are some great links:
- The Unexplained Disappearance Of Kris Kremers And Lisanne Froon
- Wikipedia – Deaths of Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon
- De Bovenkamer Article – This German group did an incredible exhaustive analysis of all the details (Translate to English in Google Chrome)
- A lot of valid points were mentioned in “Death In Panama“