April 1st (Anniversary) 2014 - The Dutch Girls

 
1,060Views 0Comments Posted 02/04/2024

On April 1st 2014, two Dutch hikers set out to hike the El Pianista trail located in the dense Talamanca mountain range between the provinces of Chiriquí and Bocas Del Toro.  Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon had arrived in Panama in March of that year with the intention of learning Spanish and working a few days as volunteers with children in the area. Without imagining it, that morning, the two young women would meet their deaths in circumstances that even today 10 years later, remain unresolved. What happened? Why did they leave without a guide? Was there a criminal hand in their deaths? These are questions that resonate throughout Panama. 

Weeks before leaving for Panama, Froon had moved with Kremers to the town of Amersfoort in Utrecht and they worked together in a cafe/restaurant.  The two saved money for six months and planned to go to Central America together on a special six-week vacation, hoping to learn Spanish and do something meaningful for Latin Americans, particularly volunteering with children.  The two friends arrived in Panama on March 15th 2014. They first toured the country for two weeks before arriving in Bajo Boquete in Chiriquí province on March 29th to live with a local family for a month while volunteering with children. 

 

On April 1st around 11:00 in the morning, Kris and Lisanne took a taxi and headed to the place where they would begin the hike on the El Pianista trail. To this day it is not clear why they decided to take the excursion without the company of a guide, knowing that they did not know the area.  Most of us who live here, have never even considered hiring a guide.  From day one, most folks just get into their hiking gear and off they go.  It was shortly after the ‘Dutch Girls’ tragedy, as well as a few incidents of folks getting lost on Volcan Baru, that guides became in great demand for tourists. Back to our story:  The next day, April 2nd one of the tour guides who was supposed to accompany them reported that they had not arrived at the appointment and that he had not heard from them for several days. It was then that they notified the police and all the alerts went off. 

 

On April 6th the parents arrived in Panama along with police, canine units and detectives from the Netherlands to conduct a large-scale search in the jungle for ten days. The parents offered a $30,000 reward for any information leading to the whereabouts of Kremers and Froon.  However, it was not until two months later that the authorities found some of the young women's belongings and skeletal remains that after DNA testing showed that they belonged to one of them. "Officially" the results of the analysis confirmed that the DNA of the "left femur, the left tibia" found " was that of Lisanne Froon," announced the senior prosecutor of Chiriquí, Betzaida Pitti, who was in charge of the case. 

According to investigations, an indigenous woman found a blue backpack on the bank of a river near her town of Alto Romero, in the province of Bocas del Toro. The backpack contained two pairs of sunglasses, $83, Froon's passport, a bottle of water, Froon's camera, two bras and the women's cell phones in good condition.  The girls' phones showed that around six hours into their walk, someone dialed 112 (an international emergency number in the Netherlands) and 911. Kremers' iPhone 4 made the first attempt at a distress call to 16:39 pm and shortly after, another attempt was made from Froon's Samsung Galaxy S III at 16:51 pm.  In total, both women made 77 attempts to call 911, but only one was connected and it lasted just two seconds due to lack of reception in the area. 

 

Photographs taken by Kremers and Froon confirm that they reached the plateau safely and took photographs there.  Instead of returning, Kremers and Froon crossed the continental divide and entered the jungle along a path that was not part of the route. There is a hypothesis that they wanted to look at some waterfalls since they had previously searched for a map of this area on the Internet. Judging by the last photos taken on April 1st the young women were an hour from the top of the basin and continued walking.  In photographs 507 and 508, Kremers crosses a shallow stream covered with stones and stands on one of the stones, looking at the camera.  On April 8, ninety flash photos were taken between 01:00 and 04:00, apparently deep in the jungle and in almost total darkness. Some photos show that they were possibly near a river or ravine. Some show a twig with plastic bags on top of a rock; another shows what looks like a backpack strap and a mirror on another rock and another shows the back of Kremers' head. 

 

The disappearance of the Dutch women gave rise to countless theses and theories on social networks about the real causes that led to their death. Some pointed to a criminal organization dedicated to human trafficking and others to the alleged possibility that a serial killer or a cannibal tribe that killed the women existed in the area. These theories gained strength after other similar cases of missing people became known without their whereabouts being known. In 2009, for example, British Alex Humphrey (29) disappeared in the area. Nothing has been heard from him to date.  A month after Kris and Lisanne disappeared; American Loretta Hinman (47) also disappeared. A few days later, her rental car was found intact at her house, but there was no sign of the woman. 

 

A year later, in 2015, Leonardo Arturo González, the taxi driver who took the Dutch women to the El Pianista trail, was found inexplicably drowned in the waters of Los Cangilones de Gualaca, in the province of Chiriquí.  González had arrived in Gualaca to take a tour guide and three foreigners, to visit the spa. Apparently, González was waiting for the tourists, but while the guide was bathing in the waters of the Estí River, his body appeared floating in Los Cangilones, alerting some lifeguards who were there. When the paramedics tried to help him by providing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, it was too late.  González was already dead. 

 

Despite the fact that the official investigation of the case ended in 2015 and was not resumed, more and more new materials "surfaced” on the Internet from various parties.  In 2019, the personal diaries of both Dutch women, which they kept until the moment of their disappearance, appeared on the Internet and were translated into English from Dutch. In 2021, previously unknown photographs of Kremers' jean shorts found in the river between the first and second "Monkey Bridge" were published.  In January 2022, a podcast called “Lost in Panama” was made, published on the Apple and Spotify platform, in which various investigators who had been involved in the case for years gave new details about the events that occurred, stating that the girls were possibly murdered by a group of locals they met the night before at a local nightclub;  It is worth mentioning that 5 people related to the girls have been murdered in Panama, including people who last saw them with the group of locals they were with the night before.  A movie is in the works. The mystery continues.