This is a brief analysis of the backpack and the backpack’s contents, which were discovered by search teams after Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon disappeared in Panama in 2014. The discovery of these items were an important part of the investigation into their disappearance.

If you’re new to the case, please consider reading the main introductory article: Unsolved: Kris Kremers And Lisanne Froon In Panama (FULL STORY)

Unfortunately, the case was never investigated thoroughly, nor was the public informed about very much about the case… until recently. More information has been disclosed about the case in the last 6 months than in the past 7 years combined.

This article was written by Matt, whom previously wrote about the night photos, the Mirador photos, and a forensic analysis of the phone usage data. Matt has worked closely with myself and Romain in order to find new information and move the case forward. Romain also published an article with his own analysis of the backpack contents: LE CONTENU DU SAC À DOS (French)

Here are Matt’s findings.

Backpack Contents

This article is based on official data that was made available to me by an anonymous source. Here I’ll discuss the backpack that is seen in the day photos, from the time it was found until it was forensically examined.

Please note that some information is being withheld by the author to protect the privacy of people involved. Where this is done it is marked with “(withheld)”. Also, the name of the person who found the backpack is changed to protect their privacy.

The backpack was found on June 11, 2014 by the Culebra river in the district of Valle Risco, community of Alto Romero, roughly 10-15 km north of the Mirador. It was found by Jane Doe (name withheld for privacy reasons) who went to the river to take a bath. She noticed the backpack within some driftwood at the shore of the river near huge boulders and decided to investigate it. Upon opening she discovered that the backpack contained cell phones, a camera, and other items.

It was the first time in a long time she had gone to the river to wash as she usually uses a creek closer to her residence. Therefore, it is not known for how long the backpack could have been in this location. Upon notifying her husband about her discovery, they called the authorities who came to inspect the findings the next day.

The backpack is described as a Burton brand backpack with light blue straps, black accents, and a blue and purple pattern.

The following items were found inside the backpack:

  • One black and dark gray Samsung camera with battery (Note by Author: this is an error and means “Canon” as the author confirmed on pictures that the camera shown matches the Canon SX270HS)
  • One 16 GB memory card
  • One black camera case
  • One white Samsung cell phone with battery but no SIM card and no memory card and a light blue cover, some money was kept under the case, IMEI# (withheld) (Note by Author: the cover is also reported as green)
  • One black iPhone with red cover, IMEI# (withheld)
  • One black bra
  • One flower pattern bra
  • One pair of pink rectangular sunglasses, not worn or damaged
  • One pair of black round sunglasses, not worn or damaged
  • One key with a blue key chain
  • One small personal item (withheld)
  • A card stating name L. Froon, date xx/xx/xx (withheld), customer number xxxxxx (withheld)
  • A total of $88.30 USD
  • One snail
  • One small (sea) shell

Note that pictures of the content of the backpack show a water bottle, a water bottle is however not listed as official content.

In other official data it is reported that there was also a small combination padlock in the backpack. It is noteworthy that no SIM card was reported to be in the Samsung phone as later on there is a SIM card related to this phone. It is possible that this is an oversight of the person taking the inventory just as the brand of the Camera seems to have been recorded incorrectly.

Canon SX270 HS
It is not known if the camera was still functional after it was found. However, on photos of the camera that the author has seen, it does not appear damaged. The SD card was accessible which is not uncommon since digital flash media can survive in water, especially fresh water for long periods of time.

Apple iPhone4
It is not known if the phone was still functional, however it was possible to take an image of its permanent memory. On photos of the phone that the author has seen, it does not appear damaged.

Samsung Galaxy S3
It is not known if the phone was still functional, however it was possible to take an image of its permanent memory. On photos of the phone that the author has seen, it does not appear damaged.

Backpack Forensic Analysis

Analysis for physical damage

The backpack was found in good general condition, but is dirty and contains several damages, which are listed below.

  1. The attachment of one of the straps is partly loose.
  2. The plastic closures contain deep scratches
  3. The textile parts show signs of discoloration in various places.
  4. A rectangular piece of the fabric (approx. 30×15 mm) at the top right corner is missing. The edges of this damage are straight; they contain frayed fabric ends.
  5. A straight tear immediately adjacent to damage 4.
    This damage is approximately 10 mm long and contains straight fabric ends on one side and on the
    other side the fabric ends are frayed. The fabric is discolored near this damage (as described in damage
    3).

Interpretation and conclusion

Damage 1 involves a loosened seam. The simplest explanation for this damage is loosening of the seam. The nature of this loosening cannot be determined, and it may not have been caused by a great force. Possibly the seam was weak due to a manufacturing defect and the damage occurred due to normal use.

Damages 2 and 3 both indicate physical wear. The scratches in the plastic seem to be caused by the fasteners being rubbed along something. The white discoloration of the fabric can be explained by abrasion. The color of the backpack is applied as a print and only the surface of the fabric is colored.

The underlying fabric is white and physical wear can remove the superficial color layer and then decolorize portions of the backpack. The fabric ends in damage 4 are frayed. The fabric ends on one side of on one side of damage 5 are straight while the fabric ends on the other side are frayed.

Tearing of textiles often leads to frayed fabric ends; cutting or piercing often leads to straight fabric ends. However, it is possible that straight fabric ends, created by stitching or cutting, become frayed through subsequent wear. In doing so it becomes difficult to recognize a damage caused by a sharp edge.

It is concluded that damage 5 was caused by a sharp edge. Damage 5 is located near and parallel to a seam. The straight fabric ends are located on the side of the seam and may have been shielded from external influence by the seam and thus remained intact. The fabric ends on the other side of the damage are frayed, probably because they were less protected by the seam.

The straight fabric ends found in damage 5 show that it was created by a sharp edge. It is not possible to derive additional information regarding this sharp edge from the characteristics of the damage. In this damage, material based on polyester urethane was found. This material is frequently found as foam or elastomer. The origin of this material is unknown.

Damage 4 is located near damage 5. This gives the impression that both damages are related to each other. However, damage 5 shows that straight edges can become frayed. Therefore, the possibility that damage 4 was also caused by a sharp edge cannot be excluded.

In damage 4 a piece of the textile is missing. This too can be explained by tearing or by the effect of a sharp edge. Damage 4 can be explained by both tears and by the effect of a sharp edge. Although the damage on the backpack (scratches and abrasion) is consistent with travelling in a river and rocks, however the damage is very light and probably not consistent with a travel of many kilometers in a wild river.

Backpack DNA Analysis

A total of 13 DNA samples were taken of the straps, zippers, and edges of the backpack. Out of the 13 samples, DNA was only found in three of the samples:

Sample 01
DNA main profile: Female A
DNA side characteristics: At least one unknown person, at least one of whom is male

Sample 03
DNA profile: Female B

Sample 05
DNA Mix Profile: At least two unknown persons, at least one of whom is male

The fact that the backpack was outside for an unknown amount of time time and in the water made obtaining meaningful DNA evidence difficult. No DNA match for the samples could be obtained from criminal DNA databases. The DNA samples did also not match the DNA of Kris and Lisanne.

The DNA from Kris and Lisanne would have been on the backpack at some point but was no longer present when the DNA samples were taken after the backpack was found. It is likely that their DNA was washed off in the water. If their DNA washed off, then also the DNA of anybody who potentially handled the backpack before it went in the water would have been washed off.

There was confirmed DNA of two females and one male and possible more DNA profiles on the backpack. It should be expected that the DNA of Jane Doe and her husband was on the backpack, which explains one female and one male DNA. However, there is still the DNA of one additional female and potentially the DNA of more people. This is not a concern as the backpack was further touched by the (male) police officer who collected it and other persons in the chain of custody before being tested.

The DNA analysis should not be overvalued as the DNA found is most likely from the persons who found and handled the backpack after its discovery.

Biological Traces
The following biological specimen were found in or on the backpack:

  • Brown leaf fragments (inside)
  • Green fragments of plants (inside)

Soil Traces
The following soil specimen were found in or on the backpack:

  • Loose sand (inside)
  • Yellowish brown clay at ends of webbing straps (outside)

Other Traces:
The following specimen were found in or on the backpack:

  • One white fragment of a (sea) shell (inside)
  • Translucent plastic fragments (inside)

There is nothing out of the ordinary. Leaves and pieces of plants, as well as sand and clay, should be expected to be on the backpack since the backpack spent time outside, in the water and on the river bed. The shell fragment has likely still been there from a previous unrelated visit to a beach and the plastic fragments could be packaging or other residue from foods or snacks that were in the backpack before.

One question that should be considered is how the backpack could travel from its last known location on the Mirador to the location where it was found.

For this there are two possibilities:

1. By Land

For this it is not considered that Kris and Lisanne could have walked to Alto Romeo and lost the backpack there. This would only leave a 3 rd party who would have had to have backpack in their possession and dropped it onto the shore of the river.

This requires a motive, which could be:

  • Someone found the backpack somewhere and wanted to get rid of it without becoming involved in a police investigation. This would seem unlikely as it would be easy enough to just let it disappear.
  • Someone wanted it to be found without raising suspicion and placed it in this location. This would be an odd choice as the likelihood of it being found by chance were small.

2. By Water

For the backpack to travel to the location where it was found from the Mirador would first require it to be in the water and then then travel 10 – 15 km by river to the location where it was found. It cannot be excluded that Kris and Lisanne travelled further north on foot and the backpack had to travel less far in the water to arrive at the location where it was found.

Either way a prerequisite for it to travel by water would be that it enters the water first, which could happen in several ways:

  • It was inadvertently dropped in the water, this could have happened if Kris and Lisanne crossed a monkey bridge or river on foot and either stumbled or lost hold on the backpack. This is not very likely as it would be reasonable to assume the backpack was carried on either of their backs and then could not just fall off.
  • Whoever carried it fell into the water and the backpack floated free. This is possible if someone walked in a river or crossed a river and fell into the water and didn’t wear the backpack strapped on their back and the backpack floated away.
  • It was intentionally thrown into the river. It is not likely that Kris or Lisanne did this as it contained their cell phones which they needed to call for help. It could be that a 3rd party found the backpack and threw it in the river to dispose of it as trash. However, this is not likely as such person might at least have taken the money from it.
  • It was left unattended at the shore of the river because it was lost or abandoned and when the water levels in the river raised, it was carried away. Of all options this is probably the most likely one.

One question that remains is if a backpack can travel in a river that is said to disintegrate what falls into it and arrive with almost no damage to itself or its content several kilometer down stream. If it had travelled so far in the water, one would think that the electronics inside would have been damaged. The backpack also potentially travelled surprisingly far, while items that float on a river are likely wash up on the shore.

Backpack Summary

I send a big “thank you” to Matt for his excellent research and analysis into this retrieving this information and making it available to the public. This is excellent work.

If you have any questions about his work, you can contact Matt directly by emailing researchtt2@gmail.com.

Thank you to all of our readers!