Countless theories try to explain the puzzling deaths of two travelers now known as the “Lost Girls of Panama.” The investigation into the case is riddled by inconsistencies.
Friends From the Netherlands Plan to Celebrate Graduation
In September 2013, 22-year-old Lisanne Froon graduated university with a degree in Applied Science. Originally from Amersfoort, the Netherlands, she and her 21-year-old friend Kris Kremers wanted to celebrate graduation with an extensive trip to the Americas.
Over the next few months, the young women saved money until they had enough to fly to Panama in Central America on March 15, 2014. They were very excited to go there, with the goal to volunteer and study Spanish during their six weeks trip.
They spent the first two weeks discovering the country, and travelled to Boquete at the end of the month. There, they resided at a host family’s place to do their volunteering.
As the volunteer work started a week later than expected, they decided to explore the nature surrounding Boquete in their additional free time. The small mountain town of Boquete is known for its temperate climate and lush green landscape.
Six Hour Hike Ends in Hike for an Eternity
On April 1, Lisanne and Kris decided to go hiking on the El Pianista trail. Its trailhead is easy to reach via public transport and AllTrails classifies the 4.9 miles “a moderately challenging route.” It takes 3:30 hours to reach the summit.
Reviews on AllTrails criticize that El Pianista is very muddy, especially around the summit. Some also write that there are “aggressive dogs” wandering around.
Hikers are warned to never walk alone or without an experienced guide. It’s also important to take enough food and water along and wear good clothing, as “[r]ain storms develop suddenly.”
Now, it appears that Lisanne and Kris didn’t consider all these risks appropriately. They decided to hike by themselves and didn’t have much food supplies and water with them. At around 11AM, they took a taxi to the tailhead, along with a dog named Blue. A majority of the sources write that Blue was the host family’s dog.
Two hours after starting their walk, the friends reached the summit. By then, they should have returned back via the same route, but decided to go further. The terrain beyond the trail is dangerous to walk, especially during the rainy season from April to October. It wasn’t the best decision of the young women to venture further without a guide and sufficient supplies.
Dog Returns Home Alone, Host Family Worried
On the evening of April 1, Blue returned to the host family’s place all alone. By this point, they didn’t have much concern. But that changed the next morning.
On April 2, Lisanne and Kris had a guided tour planned for the jungles around Boquete. The guide came to the host family to ask where the friends were because they didn’t arrive on time for the tour.
However, the two never even returned from their initial April 1 hike. The next day, they were reported missing.
Smaller Searches Unfold Without Any Results
In the beginning, a small search was launched to look for Lisanne and Kris in the near surroundings, but they were never found. Three days after their disappearance was reported, their families travelled to Panama with Dutch detectives.
The crucial piece of evidence that makes this whole case so mysterious didn’t appear until ten weeks have passed.
A woman from a community named Alta Romero, about 10 miles from Boquete, came forward with a blue backpack that she found in a rice paddy by Caldera River. It’s a mystery how it got there, because the community is very isolated and isn’t even on online maps.
The woman said the backpack couldn’t have been there previously, as it was raining heavily, yet the backpack was in a splendid condition and dry.
The backpack turned out to belong to the friends, and it contained two pairs of sunglasses, $87 in cash, two bras, a water bottle, two phones, Lisanne’s passport, and a camera. Now, the phones and the camera were the most interesting pieces.
90 Photos Create a Mystery
On the camera, a Canon Powershot SX270, investigators found a total of 133 images the young women took during their hike. A minority of these were typical photos and selfies in the daylight. But then there were also 90 photos that aren’t only mysterious, but also scary.
The photos of their happy trip were taken on April 1. The others were taken in the depths of the night between 1:29AM and 4:10AM on April 8. A lot of the photos show mere darkness, others appear to show the friends’ belongings spread out behind a rock with candy wrappers and a plastic bag, as Mirror writes.
The photos also show piles of dirt and a mirror. There are also a bunch of photos of what appears to be Kris’ head. Some claim to see an injury on her temple.
What remains unknown is who took the photos. It might have been one of the two, or someone else. Equally mysterious is the intention of taking the photos.
Perhaps the biggest mystery about the camera is the missing photo 509. It comes right between the daytime and nighttime photos. It was permanently deleted, meaning there’s no way to retrieve it. Due to the significance in its placing in the sequence, the missing image could give us a lot of answers.
Several Attempts to Contact Police
Aside from the mysterious photos are also the phone calls. The first time Lisanne and Kris tried to contact emergency services was at 4:39PM on April 1. In the following days, 77 attempts were made to call authorities, but bad reception made it practically impossible, except for a single call that lasted two seconds.
On April 6, Lisanne’s Samsung turned off for the last time. Kris’ iPhone was turned on and off over several more days, maybe to save battery and check connection to contact police.
However, between April 7 and April 10, dozens of unsuccessful attempts were made to access the iPhone. The person always entered the wrong PIN, which would make little sense if it was Kris trying to get access, as it was her phone.
This phone ran out of battery on April 11. It is the last sign of life from either of the young women.
Clothing and Bones Retrieved
When police searched the area where the rice farmer found the backpack, they found some more evidence in relation to the disappearance of the young women. Kris’ clothes were found along the river.
It’s a common misconception that the clothes were neatly folded. New information shows that the opposite was the case.
More than two months after the disappearance, the first remains were found. A human foot inside a shoe was found, as well as a pelvic bone. Both were found in the same area as the material evidence. In August, more bones were discovered, although incomplete.
The bones could be attributed to Lisanne and Kris through DNA. The shoe with the bones was Lisanne’s left foot. Forensic examination showed that there were no signs of cutting, teeth or claw imprints, and no blood was left anymore. What remained was some skin and tissue.
However, the fact that it was found separately doesn’t induce that foul play was involved. It’s disarticulation and weathering that transported the foot.
There are still some odd clues about the remains. It appears that the bodies were in different stages of decomposition. In Kris’ case, her bones were bleached. It’s a mystery why that is so, but it might be that the remains have been exposed to sunlight.
On August 29, a ball of skin from Lisanne’s shin was found. According to a forensic pathologist, the skin was at an early stage of decomposition and even had insect activity. It might have been altered.
Whatever happened to them couldn’t be determined by the cause of death.
Government Claims It’s an Accident
The Panamanian government stated that the deaths were the result of an accident. But there are many more theories that deny the government’s claim.
Why Did Lisanne Froon and Kris Kremers Die?
- An Accident: The government is convinced that the young women were swept away by the river after attempting to cross it via a monkey bridge. But what else explains this theory? For one, the attempted calls to emergency services show that they definitely needed help. If the photo of Kris’ head actually shows an injury, Lisanne may have tried to go and seek help. That would explain why Kris’ phone had been under repeated attempts to unlock without success. Due to their limited resources, the friends could have easily ended in a dangerous situation. Their fear could have only been worsened by the magnitude 6 earthquake that occurred on April 2 in the area. The question is what happened to them between April 1 and April 8. How could they survive for so long with scarce supplies?
- Foul Play: Some are convinced that Lisanne and Kris fell victim to a murder. They base this off of clues they claim to see on the photos. In a photo showing a steep cliff, there is the allegation that a person is in the shadows. It’s especially puzzling how the backpack appeared suddenly after many weeks without showing any signs of weathering or other damage. The theory would explain the claims that the Panamanian government didn’t properly investigate their disappearances, which may have simply been because the country relies on tourism and they didn’t want to have a bad image that could damage the economy.
- Accident + Foul Play: A Redditer on the dedicated subreddit on the friends’ case theorizes that they may have been lost at first and stumbled upon foul play later on during their course of survival. Again, this combines the two theories above. Because the girls seemed to have survived for so long, they may have ventured off too far and stumbled upon violence.
How Did They Find Death?
As the cause of death could never be established, the question remains how the friends actually died. Which possibilities are open?
- Falling: A prevalent theory is that one or both have fallen down a steep cliff. As mentioned, the terrain beyond the trail El Pianista can become dangerous with many slopes and rocks.
- Murder: If the manner of death is murder, that would extremely narrow down the window of Lisanne and Kris died. They might have been shot, stabbed, or bludgeoned. However, the remains give no details on whether this is accurate.
- Hypothermia: Though Boquete isn’t a place that shows much difference in the seasons due to its proximity to the equator, the nights can be relatively cool. As the young women disappeared right at the beginning of the wet season, rain could have easily accelerated death by hypothermia. Additionally, photos taken in the nighttime on April 8 show that it was raining.
There’s a lot to speculate about in the deaths of Lisanne Froon and Kris Kremers. A lot remains unknown, and though there’s a lot of forensic evidence and photos, they don’t give a clue as to what actually happened between the time they went missing and the last phone ran out of battery on April 11.