Case of missing French couple now a criminal investigation

Gerard and Claude Dubois

The disappearance of two French tourists has turned into a criminal investigation after their passports were found Wednesday in a trash can in Jacó.

The retired couple, Gerard and Claude Dubois, vanished Thursday, and concern was raised when their rented vehicle was found under a bridge at the Río Naranjo south of Quepos. The windows were smashed and some doors were open.

Until Wednesday there was little for investigators to go on. A suitcase was left in the car.

Cruz Roja rescue workers called in divers to examine the river. The Judicial Investigating Organization issued a brief bulletin. Suspicions included that of a double water accident.

The discovery of the passports changes all that. And the effect of tourism was immediate. Shortly after A.M. Costa Rica published the first news story Tuesday, emails began arriving from would-be tourists asking about the safety of the central Pacific coast.

The couple had stayed in Tamarindo and were staying in a Quepos hotel when they left Thursday for a trip to Dominical. The car was about 10 kilometers or about six miles south of Quepos.

The discovery in Jacó to the north reinforces the theory that the pair were victims of a car hijacking-robbery or bajanazo. The couple were supposed to return home Monday.

If they are not found, the couple will join a list of missing tourists headed by Leo Widicker of the U.S. state of North Dakota. The elderly man walked away from his tourist bus in the parking lot of Tabacon Lodge in La Fortuna, near the Arenal volcano Nov. 18, 2001, and has not been seen since.

Also on the list is David Gimelfarb, the then 28-year-old Chicago area doctoral student who vanished in or near the Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja north and east of Liberia. That was Aug. 11, 2009.

Another missing tourist is Michael Dixon, a British journalist who worked in Belgium. He was 33 years old when he vanished after leaving his hotel in Tamarindo for a swim Oct. 19, 2009.

Australian student Brendan Dobbins vanished in Tamarindo, too, shortly after walking away from friends on the beach.

That was March 4, 2005. Bones believed to be his were discovered later but a cause of death never was established.

A Universidad de Costa Rica student vanished Jan. 6 in the vicinity of Parque Nacional Chirripó. He is Nelson Alvarado Montoya. An extensive search of the rugged park failed to turn up any clues.

Judicial agents initially dismissed broken windows in the vehicle used by the French couple as damage done by passersby. They inspected the vehicle but said they did not find any indication that a crime had taken place.

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