Bodies found in Mexico, likely those of missing surfers: authorities

The physical characteristics of three bodies found in the Mexican state of Baja California resemble those of two Australian brothers and their American friend who went missing during a surfing trip, local authorities said Saturday.

Public prosecutor Maria Elena Andrade said the bodies, dumped Friday in a shaft atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, were in an “advanced state of decomposition,” making identification difficult.

“But,” she added, “given their clothing and certain characteristics, such as long hair and specific physical descriptions, there is a good chance that the bodies are in fact those of the three missing men.

AFP journalists watched as authorities used a pulley system to hoist what appeared to be lifeless bodies covered in mud from the shaft onto a cliff high above the Pacific Ocean.

While another body was found at the location, investigators determined it had been there for some time and was not related to the latest disappearances.

Brothers Callum and Jake Robinson had been on a surfing holiday with their American friend Jack Carter when they disappeared a week ago near the city of Ensenada.

The bodies were found near the town of Santo Tomas, about 45 kilometers southeast of Ensenada, in a spot difficult to reach but popular with surfers.

Mexican authorities, who arrested three suspects, conducted the investigation in collaboration with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Australian Consulate.

Andrade said one line of inquiry is whether the deaths resulted from an attempt to steal the tourists’ pickup. The vehicle, which was burned out, was found nearby.

The Robinson brothers and Carter had not been seen since April 27. The Australians’ mother, Debra Robinson, said they never arrived at their intended accommodation.

“I am contacting anyone who has seen my two sons. They have not contacted us,” she wrote on a Facebook page for Baja California tourists before Friday’s discovery.

A spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs previously said it is in regular contact with the Robinson family and that it “recognizes that this is a deeply troubling time.”

Baja California is known for its inviting beaches and its resorts are popular with American tourists, partly due to its proximity to the border.

It is also one of the most violent states in Mexico due to organized crime groups, although foreign tourists are generally not bothered by cartel activity.

The latest case echoes that of two Australian surfers who were murdered and their bodies burned while traveling in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa in November 2015.

In March 2023, suspected Gulf Cartel members kidnapped four Americans in the northeastern city of Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, Texas. Two of them were killed.

Rising criminal violence in Mexico has claimed 450,000 lives and led to more than 100,000 disappearances since late 2006, when the federal government launched a controversial anti-drug strategy involving military forces.