Latin America

Mexican nightmare: Australian surfers murdered in Sinaloa

Drug dealers disguised as police officers hold up and kill two tourists in the violent state

Adam Coleman, on the right, in Acapulco.
Adam Coleman, on the right, in Acapulco.Facebook

The last day Dean Lucas and Adam Coleman spent alive in Mexico was filled with terror.

The two 33-year-old Australian surfers had driven down from Canada in a white-and-blue van with another friend, whom they left in Las Vegas before continuing their journey.

When they reached La Paz, in the north of Mexico, they took a ferry to the port city of Topolobampo in the violent state of Sinaloa.

On November 21, a burnt truck with two bodies inside was found. Local media speculated it was the Australians

The men had planned on meeting up with the girlfriend of one of them in Guadalajara, Jalisco. But when they didn’t show up on November 21, the young woman reported them missing on social media.

That same day, authorities in the city of Navolato, in Sinaloa’s central coastal area, announced that they had found a burnt truck with two bodies inside. Local media speculated that it was the Australians.

But it was not until during a news conference on Saturday that Sinaloa prosecutor Marco Antonio Higuera confirmed that the corpses indeed belonged to the two surfers.

Three people suspected of their murders had been taken into custody, he said. They were all members of a small-time drug gang that also attacked travelers on the road leading to Navolato.

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According to the suspects’ testimonies, they held up the Australians in the early morning of November 21 when they were driving along a major highway.

The alleged murderers were dressed in police uniforms and also had a siren similar to those used by patrol vehicles. After pursuing them for about two kilometers, the suspects forced the men to pull over.

Coleman was shot in the face when a scuffle broke out. He was placed inside the van alongside Lucas, and taken to a deserted area where the suspects allegedly set fire to the vehicle.

The area surrounding the crime scene is a dangerous one, according to Navolato Mayor Miguel Enrique Calderón. The zone between Navolato and the neighboring towns of Mocorito and Angostura is like “a Bermuda triangle where criminal acts occur fairly frequently,” he said.

Sinaloa is one of the most violent states in Mexico. It is also home to Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán, who has been on the run since escaping from a maximum security prison in July. The Sinaloa cartel leader is considered the most wanted drug trafficker in the world.

The suspects took Coleman and Lucas to a deserted area where they allegedly set the vehicle on fire

This isn’t the first time that Mexican criminal gangs have targeted foreigners. In May 2013, two Spaniards, José Montoya, 58, and Fernando Carmona, 57, were tortured and killed after they left their hotel in Culiacán, the state capital of Sinaloa. The two men, who sold clothing, were found inside a vehicle that had been dumped in a nearby river.

Sinaloa prosecutor Higuera said more forensic proof was needed to back up the evidence identifying the two burnt bodies as the Australian surfers. He added that a total of five people were involved in the crime – two others are still at large.

In March, Adam Coleman had traveled to the Pacific resort city of Acapulco in Guerrero, another state known for its violence.

On his Facebook page, he posted a photograph of himself with other friends on the beach and asked everyone not to believe all the negative things said about the tourist destination.

English version by Martin Delfín.

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