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Family of French couple that disappeared in Costa Rica denounces investigation

January 12, 2012

ANGERS, France – The family of a retired French couple who disappeared in late March in Costa Rica is seeking help from France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy to promote cooperation between judicial authorities of both countries to further investigation, the family’s lawyer said.

Claude Dubois, a former floral decorator, and her husband, Gérard, a former broker, both 65, disappeared March 31 during a holiday near Manuel Antonio, a popular tourist town on the central Pacific coast. 

“Until now, the family had chosen the option to protect the interests of the investigation, but [that investigation] faces significant challenges and is at a standstill,” Nathalie Valade, an Angers attorney told AFP. “We believe that only political support will make a difference.”

The couple left for a trip from their Manuel Antonio hotel after arriving the previous day. Their rental car, a Daihatsu Terios, was found on a bridge over Naranjo River on the highway between Quepos and Dominical. The car’s doors were locked, but the windows had been smashed.

Their backpacks and sunglasses were found alongside the river. Their bags did not contain any possessions. The couple’s passports were found 75 kilometers north of their car, in a trash can close to Jacó.

The Dubois’ credit cards were used on several occasions between the date of their disappearance and April 7, in amounts totaling almost €12,000 ($15,000). Items bought with the cards included computer equipment and shoes, and purchases at area gas stations. Evidence raises suspicion that a crime occurred, but little information has resulted from Costa Rica’s investigation, the attorney said.

Judicial Investigation Police said the materials could have been robbed from the car since it was left abandoned on the side of the road for two days.

Costa Rican authorities have posited that the couple accidentally drowned at sea, although a search by the Coast Guard did not turn up any bodies. Police also did a sweep of nearby rivers and mountains.

In France, a judicial investigation was opened on June 23 in the city of Meaux “for abduction and kidnapping.”

“Discussions have taken place between judicial authorities, but there are obstructions in the transmission of information,” said Valade, adding that “we know that two men were interviewed and then released.”

Céline Roussel, the couple’s only daughter, does not believe that her parents could have drowned based on the evidence she’s seen. She plans to visit Costa Rica in March.

“Nine months later, it seems silence suits everyone best. And the investigation is not moving,” said Roussel, who lives in Saint-Germain-sur-Morin, a suburb of Paris.

She added, “My mother wore a prosthetic knee and walked very little. Why were they not able to find the bodies? I think more and more that they had an unfortunate encounter. My father was impulsive. I cannot imagine he’d put down his arms if facing an act of aggression.”

The Dubois are among several foreigners to disappear in Costa Rica in the last few years. U.K. resident Michael Dixon was last seen leaving his hotel in Playa Tamarindo, on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast, during the afternoon of Oct. 18, 2009. U.S. student David Gimelfarb vanished Aug. 11, 2009 in Rincón de la Vieja National Park. Kim Paris, a dual citizen of France and Canada, disappeared in October 2010 in Santa Teresa, on the northwestern Pacific coast. None of these cases have been solved.

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