April 28, 2017 8:38 pm
Updated: April 30, 2017 7:46 pm

Canadian woman and her American boyfriend still missing in Belize

Francesca Matus / Facebook
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An Ontario woman and her American boyfriend are still missing in Belize five days after their disappearance, friends of the couple told Global News.

Francesca Matus, 52, and U.S. national Drew De Voursney, 36, were last seen driving home from a bar in the town of Corozal around 11 p.m. Tuesday night, according to their friend Nancy Rifenbark, who lives in Corozal.

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Matus was having a drink with friends and saying goodbye as she was due to catch a WestJet flight to Toronto the next day, Rifenbark said. But when her friend Joe Milholen showed up at her house the next morning to give her a ride to the airport, he found her gate locked and her vehicle missing.

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Milholen told Global News that after trying unsuccessfully to reach Matus on her cellphone, he called friends of the couple and checked with the local police station and hospital, to no avail.

Belizean authorities and volunteers have since conducted air and ground searches of the area, but no clues have been unearthed so far.

“The possibilities (of what happened) are endless,” Milholen said. “But I don’t have an idea that I want to share publicly. I have a law enforcement background, so I know you have to keep an open mind.”

“She’s a great, great person”

Matus is described as 5′ 1″ tall with shoulder-length brown hair and a slim build, and was last seen wearing white, denim short pants and a white long-sleeve blouse, according to local media reports.

Her LinkedIn page says she is a real estate investor and property manager from the Toronto area. Friends say she has homes in both Canada and Belize, and lives in the Central American country five to six months a year.

“She’s a great, great person,” Milholen said. “She’s very outgoing.”

De Voursney is 6′ 6″ tall, has a chain tattooed on his right arm and was last seen wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs shirt and camouflage pants. A GoFundMe page set up to raise funds for the search effort describes him as a former U.S. Marine who served two tours in Iraq.

WestJet blamed for delaying search

Milholen says the search for Matus and De Voursney was delayed by hours because WestJet mistakenly told Matus’ brother that she checked in for her flight.

But when WestJet flight WS2605 landed in Toronto just before 1 p.m. Wednesday, Matus was not among the passengers who disembarked. This is because she had only checked in online but didn’t actually show up for her flight — something Milholen said would have been useful to know a few hours earlier.

“This was information [WestJet] knew when they told us hours before that she checked in. This delayed by several daylight hours the search which as you know is always important,” Milholen said, adding that WestJet’s explanation was to invoke customer privacy.

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WestJet’s privacy policy states that information about passengers boarding or not boarding flights can only be disclosed to family members if the passenger gives their express consent, or if the family member provides the passenger’s full name and booking reference when calling in.

Matus’ brother did not have a booking reference handy when he called the airline.

WestJet said it’s unable to comment on the specifics of the case “as this situation is in the hands of authorities.”

“In certain circumstances where we believe unlawful or criminal activity is being committed, or the health and safety of our guests or people are being threatened, we work with appropriate authorities or  entities in order to allow them to properly investigate the matter,” a WestJet spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“We wish all the best to Francesca’s family for her safe and speedy return.”

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Global Affairs Canada said it’s aware that a Canadian citizen is missing in Belize, but wouldn’t confirm the individual’s identity. “Consular officials are providing consular assistance to the family and remain in regular contact with local authorities to gather additional information,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Canadians traveling to Belize are warned by Travel Canada to exercise a “high degree of caution,” due to the high incidence of armed robbery, sexual assault and violent crime targeting tourists.

In 2013, a Vancouver woman living in Belize was found murdered in her home.

— With files from the Canadian Press

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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