Foul play has never been ruled out entirely in the case of Dutch Panama hikers, Kris and Lisanne. Disconcerting evidence surrounds their story, raising questions as to whether there is a possible suspect, or suspects, in the girls’ disappearance and eventual deaths. Generally, an incident like this can be explained away by the natural environmental elements and lack of wilderness survival skills, but there is much more to this than simply “lost and found.”
Lisanne Froon, 22, and Kris Kremers, 21, were spending their time together after graduating from a Dutch university. They saved up enough money to visit the country of Panama, where they planned on sightseeing, learning Spanish, and volunteering with local children.
They had made arrangements to stay with a family in the village of Boquete while they attended their Spanish program. However, that plan never came to fruition and instead of the life-changing adventure that the girls had dreamed of, their fates ended up shrouded in mystery and tragedy.
The Pianista Trail is a well-traveled area through heavily wooded, rugged terrain along the border of Costa Rica. In the early morning of April 1, 2014, Lisanne and Kris decided to take a casual hike along the trail with their host family’s dog, Azul. They packed only what they needed for a brief day’s hike including swimsuits, sunglasses, and their camera to take pictures of the breathtaking scenery.
They would never again be seen alive.
Azul soon returned to the home of the host family without the girls. Friends and family members stopped receiving calls, texts, or Facebook updates shortly after the girls had left for the Pianista trail. They were reported missing the following day. An extensive search was organized by the Panamanian authorities with the help of locals, native tribes, scent dogs, emergency aircraft, and signal flares.
There was no sign of the missing women.
The only clue authorities had to go on was the eyewitness account of the girls having breakfast with two unidentified men that morning. However, the identities of the men were never confirmed.
Photos on their camera showed that the girls had hiked beyond the lookout point where most tourists would normally turn around. At 4:39 pm they made their first attempt to call emergency services, but reception was too poor for the call to go through. Kris and Lisanne’s phone records revealed attempted calls for help several times on April 1st and more calls made throughout the following days. By April 5th, it was apparent that Lisanne’s battery was dead and there were seventy-seven failed access attempts on Kris’ iPhone.
Eventually, heartbreaking discoveries were made of the girls’ remains. Eerie clues were found among their belongings which leads authorities in several different directions. What adds a possible criminal element to this case is that certain evidence almost seems to point towards someone else being involved.
Ten weeks after Kris and Lisanne disappeared, a local turned in a blue backpack near a rice paddy. It contained the camera, sunglasses, $83, passport, water bottle, and two bras that Lisanne had brought along with her. Both cellphones were also inside the backpack. It seems strange that they would not have these items with them as they could still be useful.
Had the girls given up on ever making it out alive?
The rice paddy itself was a sign of civilization. The village of Alto Romero was not that far away. The girls would have been able to find help there.
Who abandoned the backpack where it was found and why?
On April 8th, the camera showed a series of ninety flash photos taken over the span of three hours in the dark. It is widely believed that they were using the flash on their camera to help them see where they were going. However, some speculate that they could have been in danger at this point or were possibly being followed and were attempting to take photographic evidence of their encounter.
The strangest photo in the series seemingly shows the back of Kris’ head, evident by her signature red hair. Some have even claimed to be able to see blood in the photo. Did Lisanne take it? Was Kris injured or possibly killed at this point?
Or did someone else take the photo after assaulting or murdering the girls?
Only one photo was deleted from the camera. Since the file names were numbered, investigators could see that photo Number 509 was missing. Strangely, this photo was located between the last daylight photo taken on April 1st and the first photo in the nighttime series taken on April 8th.
Number 509 has never been recovered.
Could it have held the key to what happened to the girls and proved the theory of foul play?
Two months after the discovery of the backpack, clothing, and bones were finally found. Only two bones, a partial pelvis bone, and a rib bone were ever linked to Kris Kremers. A total of 33 widely scattered human bones were recovered. A shoe was also found with Lisanne’s foot still inside. Interestingly, Lisanne’s skin was attached and in an early stage of decomposition, which makes it even more of a challenge when trying to determine her actual time of death.
The elements of Pianista alone could be responsible for what happened in this case. Parasites in the water, dysentery, toxic plants, and fruits, venomous animals or insects, as well as starvation are all plausible causes of death for the inexperienced hiker. It is plausible that during the 10 days the girls were presumed alive and lost, they just couldn’t find safe food and water to live off of, could no longer think logically, got injured, and succumbed.
If there is ever a solid conclusion to this tragic story, I don’t believe we are close enough to find it.