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Thieves apparently killed two Australians and Americans to steal their truck, Mexican authorities say

MEXICO CITY — Thieves apparently killed two Australians and an American during a surfing trip to Mexico to steal their truck because they wanted the tires, authorities said Sunday.

Baja California prosecutors have released gruesome details about the killings but have not yet officially confirmed the identification of the bodies. They said relatives of the victims are looking at the bodies to see if they can be identified by sight.

The bodies were decomposing after the thieves dumped them in a remote pit about 50 feet deep, about four miles from where the foreigners were killed. If family members cannot identify the bodies, further tests will be conducted. The pit also contained a fourth carcass that had been there much longer.

“The probability that it is them is very high,” said chief prosecutor María Elena Andrade Ramírez, noting that the bodies still appeared recognizable by sight. “If they say they are not completely sure it is their relative, we should do genetic testing.”

The three men were camping and surfing along a stretch of coast south of the city of Ensenada, posting idyllic photos on social media of waves and secluded beaches before they went missing last weekend.

But Andrade Ramírez described what would likely have been moments of terror that ended the trip for brothers Jake and Callum Robinson of Australia and American Jack Carter Rhoad.

She theorized that the killers were driving by and saw the foreigners’ pickup and tents and wanted to steal their tires. But “when (the foreigners) came up and got them, they certainly resisted.”

She said the killers then allegedly shot the tourists.

The thieves then went to what she called “a place that is extremely difficult to reach” and allegedly dumped the bodies in a pit they were apparently familiar with. She said investigators have not ruled out the possibility that the same suspects also dumped the first, earlier body in the well as part of previous crimes.

“Maybe they were in this area looking for trucks,” Andrade Ramírez said.

The thieves are said to have covered the well with planks. “It was literally almost impossible to find it,” Andrade Ramírez said, and it took two hours to hoist the bodies out of the pit.

The site where the bodies were discovered near the municipality of Santo Tomás was close to the remote coastal area where the missing men’s tents and truck were found along the coast on Thursday. Judging from their latest photo posts, the trip looked perfect. But even experienced local expats wonder whether it is still safe to camp along the largely deserted coast.

The moderator of local internet forum Talk Baja, who has lived in the area for almost two decades, wrote in an editorial on Saturday that “the reality is that the dangers of traveling and camping in remote areas no longer outweigh the benefits.”

But in a way, adventure was the key to the victims’ lifestyle.

Callum Robinson’s Instagram account featured the following slogan: “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.”

At the press conference, Andrade Ramírez was questioned by a reporter who expressed his approval that such a massive and rapid search for the foreigners was being undertaken, but he also wondered why, when the locals in the area disappear, often little is done for weeks, months or longer. years.

“Do you have to be a foreigner in Baja California to investigate if something is happening to you?” asked the reporter, who did not identify himself by name. “Every investigation is different,” Andrade Ramírez replied.

As if to underscore that point, dozens of mourners, surfers and protesters gathered in a large plaza in Ensenada, the nearest city, to express their anger and grief over the deaths.

“Ensenada is a mass grave,” read a sign carried by demonstrators. “Australia, we are with you,” scribbled a man on one of six surfboards during the demonstration.

A woman held up a sign that read, “They just wanted to surf – we demand safe beaches.”

Gabriela Acosta, a surfer, attended the protest “to show love, solidarity and respect for the three lives lost.” Acosta said surfers in Baja are aware of the dangers.

“We are women and sometimes we like to surf alone,” Acosta said. “But we never do that, because of the situation. We must always be accompanied.”

“I think what happened to them is just an example of the lack of security in this state,” she said.

Baja California prosecutors had said they were questioning three people in the case, two of them for being caught with methamphetamine. Prosecutors said the two were being held pending drug charges, but are still suspects in the case.

A third man was arrested on charges of a crime equivalent to kidnapping, but that was before the bodies were found. It was unclear whether more charges would be filed against him.

The third suspect is said to have directly participated in the murders. In accordance with Mexican law, prosecutors identified him by his first name, Jesús Gerardo, alias “el Kekas,” a slang word meaning “quesadillas” or cheese tortillas. Andrade Ramírez said he had a criminal record and that more people may have been involved.

Last week, the mother of the missing Australians, Debra Robinson, posted a message on a local community’s Facebook page, calling for help in finding her sons. Robinson said Callum and Jake had not been heard from since April 27. They had booked accommodation in the town of Rosarito, not far from Ensenada.

Robinson said Callum had diabetes. She also said the American with them was named Jack Carter Rhoad, but the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City did not immediately confirm that. The US State Department said it was aware of reports of a US citizen missing in Baja, but did not provide further details.

In 2015, two Australian surfers, Adam Coleman and Dean Lucas, were killed in the western state of Sinaloa, across the Gulf of California – also known as the Sea of ​​Cortez – from the Baja Peninsula. Authorities said they were victims of highway bandits. Three suspects have been arrested in that case.