Missing Australian, American surfers found dead in well with gunshot wounds

Click to play video: 'Missing Australian, American surfers found dead in well after ‘attempted carjacking’ in Mexico'
Missing Australian, American surfers found dead in well after ‘attempted carjacking’ in Mexico
Three surfers who went missing in Baja California, Mexico over a week ago were confirmed dead after relatives identified their bodies, Mexican officials announced Sunday. – May 6, 2024

Three surfers who went missing in Mexico over a week ago have been confirmed dead after their bodies were identified by relatives, Mexican officials announced Sunday.

It’s believed the men were victims of a violent carjacking. One person has been charged and two others are currently in police custody in connection with the men’s deaths.

Australian brothers Jake and Callum Robinson and their American friend Jack Carter Rhoad were found dead at the bottom of a 15-metre well about six kilometres away from their camping site. They had each been shot in the head, the State Attorney General’s Office of Baja California said.

The three men had been camping and surfing together along the Baja coast in the municipality of Ensenada, about an hour and a half south of the U.S.-Mexico border, when they failed to show up at the Airbnb they had booked for the April 27-28 weekend.

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Brothers Callum and Jake Robinson in photos shared to social media. The Australian Robinson brothers went missing with their American friend Jack Carter Rhoad (not pictured) in Mexico while on a surfing trip. Facebook/Debra Robinson & Instragram/callum10robinson

On Thursday, Mexican officials announced they had found the men’s campsite and were investigating “other evidence” at the location. Three people were brought in for questioning.

During a Sunday news conference, María Elena Andrade Ramírez, the state’s chief prosecutor, revealed that the surfers’ tents were found burned to the ground and gun casings, blood stains and drag marks were present at the site, which led investigators to believe the victims had been attacked and their bodies moved.

After an extensive search, investigators found a boarded-up well about six kilometres away from the campsite in an “extremely” remote area. Inside were four bodies: the three tourists who had gone missing, as well as a fourth, older body.

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The three men’s bodies had likely been in the well for five to seven days by the time they were found, according to NBC San Diego, citing a local medical examiner. The fourth body had been there much longer and may be from an unrelated homicide case, or could have been dumped there by the same people who killed the tourists.

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Ramírez hypothesized that the three men were killed by armed robbers who wanted to steal the tires and other parts from their truck. She believes the attackers drove by the tourists’ campsite, noticed their pickup truck and intended to steal parts to put on their own, older-model truck.

In this image made from video, Mexican security forces frisk men at a checkpoint in Ensenada, Mexico, Thursday, May 2, 2024. AP Photo

The men are believed to have fought back against the robbers, who then took out a firearm and shot them to death. In order to cover up the crime, the attackers disposed of the bodies in the nearby well and burned evidence.

Local media reported that parts stolen from the surfers’ truck were found in another truck belonging to one of the suspects brought in by police.

A man identified only as Jesús Gerardo “N,” who also goes by the alias “El Kekas,” a slang word for quesadillas, was charged with forced disappearance by state prosecutors before the men’s bodies were identified. It’s unclear if he will face upgraded charges now that the surfers have been confirmed dead. Mexican authorities only release the first names of people charged with crimes.

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Jesús Gerardo has a prior criminal record, prosecutors said.

Blurred-out photo of Jesús Gerardo ‘N,’ a Mexican man charged with the forced disappearance of three surfers who went missing in Baja California on April 27, 2024. ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF BAJA CALIFORNIA

Two other people, a man and a woman, remain in police custody as investigators probe their involvement in the deaths. Both were arrested with methamphetamines in their possession.

All three suspects are Mexican nationals.

Members of the local surfing community in Ensenada gathered at the beach to pay respects to the three men who died.

“Ensenada is a mass grave,” read one protester’s poster.

“They only wanted to surf — we demand safe beaches,” another sign read.

Locals march to protest the disappearance of foreign surfers in Ensenada, Mexico, Sunday, May 5, 2024. Mexican authorities said Friday that three bodies were recovered in an area of Baja California near where two Australians and an American went missing last weekend during an apparent camping and surfing trip. AP Photo/Karen Castaneda

Dozens of surfers paddled out into the ocean with flowers on their boards and formed a circle, before throwing the flowers into the waves as part of Sunday’s vigil.

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Baja California is considered one of the most dangerous states in Mexico, despite the strong tourism industry there.

The federal government advises all Canadian travellers to exercise a “high degree of caution in Mexico due to high levels of criminal activity and kidnapping.” The advisory warns that border and rural areas often see the highest amount of criminal activity.

It’s recommended that travellers stay in hotels and resorts with good security, but in the event of an armed robbery, victims are advised not to resist.

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