Permission being sought to bring in French investigative help

French Embassy officials have put in paperwork requesting the Costa Rican foreign ministry to allow French investigators to come to the country in the case of a missing French couple.

Claude Dubois and her husband, Gérard, vanished on March 31 south of Quepos. The retired French couple had arrived in the town the day before and decided to take their rental car down to
Dominical for a day trip. That was the last time they were reported being seen.

Fabrice Delloye, French ambassador to Costa Rica, said the embassy staff has officially asked for a comision rogatoria internacional via the foreign ministry here. The ministry will then pass the request to prosecutors and the Judicial Investigative Organization. This is a common international protocol communicating the judiciary of one country with another.

The Judicial Investigative Organization is handling the case. The agency has been reluctant to accept foreign help in the case of other missing tourists.

There are no suspects in the case so far, said Delloye. Investigators did encounter some persons for questioning, but the allegation was for credit card fraud. The couple’s credit cards were used for various purchases after their disappearance. Investigators linked these suspects to the illegal credit card use. But agents had no evidence to link the suspects directly to the missing couple, so they were released, said Delloye. Costa Rican law doesn’t allow for suspects to be questioned about a crime other than the one in which they are being questioned, he explained.

Investigators also lost an opportunity to find possible suspects in the disappearance when the Dubois rental car was returned to the rental agency without agents dusting for fingerprints or to look for other evidence.

“By the time we found out about the case, it was too late to get the car, as it had been washed and used by different people,” said Delloye. The vehicle had been found abandoned near the Río Naranjo south of Quepos.

Their rental car was found by chance by police on routine patrol, said the ambassador. He added that the police stopped because the car was parked close to the river. That led them to the hotel where the couple had stayed for one night. According to Delloye, the couple had paid to stay in the room for three days and left their suitcases in the room. Hotel employees expressed concern that the Duboises hadn’t returned, but they assumed the couple decided to stay in Dominical, said the ambassador. This is common for tourists to do, he noted.

This is a difficult and confidential investigation, said Delloye.

If there are leads or suspects in the case, it will remain with the investigators unless they decide to publicize it through the Judicial Investigative Organization communications department, said a spokesperson for the organization.

Agents are investigating the case under the missing persons protocol. Foul play hasn’t been ruled out. The French ambassador said their was no reason for the couple to go missing. He said they were a happy family with a daughter and a grandchild, and there was no reason for them to disappear like that. The couple was very cautious, Delloye said.

The wife always wore a fanny pack underneath her clothes with money and documents, he said.

The couple was from the city of Meaux, France, in the department of Seine-et-Marne. Celine Roussel, the daughter, Alain Roussel, brother of Claude, and Nathalie Valade, a lawyer for the family, will come to Costa Rica in March in an effort to advance the investigation with international support. March will mark one year since the disappearance of the Dubois couple.

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