Bodies found in Mexico confirmed as those of missing American and Australian tourists

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Three bodies found dumped in a well with gunshot wounds to the head have been confirmed as missing tourists, including a US citizen, Mexican authorities said Sunday.

Relatives of American Jack Carter Rhoad and Australian brothers Jake and Callum Robinson identified their bodies without having to perform genetic tests, the Baja California Attorney General’s office said in a statement on Sunday.

Three Mexican citizens previously questioned in relation to their disappearance have been arrested on suspicion of kidnapping, the attorney general’s office said. One of the suspects was identified as Jesús Gerardo “N,” alias “El Kekas.”

The three friends were on a surfing and camping trip near the town of Ensenada, about 60 miles south of the border city of Tijuana, when they went missing on April 29, and are believed to have been murdered, according to authorities.

Baja California Attorney General Maria Elena Andrade Ramirez met with parents of the victims on Sunday and “reaffirmed the institution’s total commitment to continue the investigation into these unfortunate events until those responsible are fully prosecuted by the law,” she said.

The surfers may have been attacked in an attempted vehicle robbery, officials said, citing preliminary investigations. Baja California has been plagued by cartel violence in recent years, though it rarely occurs in tourist areas like Ensenada.

‘Infectious spirit’

The confirmation of the surfers’ deaths is heartbreaking news for desperate relatives who had flown to Mexico hoping for better news – and for their friends back home.

The siblings went to Coachella music festival a week before they crossed into Mexico with their American friend, planning “to surf for a few days,” parents Martin and Debra Robinson said last week.

“Callum and Jake are beautiful human beings. We love them so much and this breaks our heart,” they said in a statement before departing Perth, Western Australia.

Callum, 33, was a member of Australia’s national lacrosse team and a Stevenson University alumnus. He was based in San Diego, California.

In an Instagram post, the Maryland college said, “Callum will be remembered for his infectious spirit and larger-than-life personality.”

“With his beautiful long hair and charming smile, he truly embodied the nickname ‘big koala’— warm, friendly, and always there to lend a helping hand,” the post said. “Though he may be gone, Callum’s legacy will live on in our hearts forever.”

She said she saw him on the morning he left for Mexico, but quickly felt something was wrong when she didn’t hear from him.

“I don’t know what’s going on but I think he’s mad at me, like something doesn’t seem right,” she said.

‘We need security’

While parts of Mexico are established tourist destinations, violent crime including kidnapping and human trafficking plague parts of the country, particularly in border areas. Mexico’s homicide rate is among the highest in the world, and more than 100,000 people remain missing in the country.

Drug cartels have terrorized the country with ever-increasing levels of violence and cruelty, fueled in part by huge demand for drugs from US consumers and armed with an arsenal of weaponry from north of the border.

In 2015, the bodies of Australian surfers Dean Lucas and Adam Coleman were found in a burned-out van in Sinaloa state. Authorities said they were killed by low-level drug dealers who had been robbing motorists.

The latest suspected murders sparked outrage in the surf community of Ensenda, where about 500 people marched on Sunday to call for justice and better security, Australian public broadcaster ABC reported.

“We are here in solidarity with our friends from Australia and the United States,” local surfer Héctor Estrada told the ABC.

“We are a big community of surfers all over the world and we need security, we need the beaches to be safe [for] camping around, surfing or just playing with your family, friends.”

Another resident, Ana Acosta, told the ABC: “I’m asking for justice and security from the government and for the state to provide to us surfers.”

In a statement Sunday, Mexico’s Foreign Ministry expressed its condolences over the suspected killings.

“The Foreign Ministry stands in solidarity with the families of the victims in this tragic event and deeply regrets the outcome of the events,” it said.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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