A local investigator named Martin Ferrara O'Donnell later also shed some doubt about some of the details in Irma and Luis' statements. There already are different stories circulating about where exactly the bag was discovered. It was either found in a rice paddy, or stuck in the middle of the river, underneath some rocks. But Irma said that she was alone at the river when she found the backpack and went home to show it to her husband, Luis. Whereas Luis has testified to police that he was right there at the river when Miranda saw the bag and took it along. Their stories do not line up in that respect. Irma and Luis also both declared to police that it was the very first time they went to this rice paddy. It says so in the police files. But does that make sense? Who normally worked on that rice paddy? Why walk at least two hours to go to this specific spot (to wash your clothes?) and what are the odds of ending up exactly where that backpack of Kris and Lisanne was supposedly lodged in the river? Seeing it by chance, as Irma was doing her thing? Then there is the phone call that Boquete police got the next morning, informing them about the discovery of the bag. It wasn't Luis (or Irma) who called, but a man called Domingo Gonzalez. Brother of guide F. Domingo the cattle ranger. Irma and Luis were employees of guide F. and his family, who own land in the Alto Romero region and employ several of the villagers.
The police report also mentions several details from the forensic analysis of the backpack. The attachment of one of the straps had partly come loose. The plastic closures contained deep scratches. The fabric of the bag showed some signs of discoloration in various places, possibly by abrasion. A rectangular piece of the fabric of approximately 30 by 15 mm at the top right corner was missing, showing straight edges at the location of the damage. And close-by there was a straight tear in the fabric of the bag of approximately 10 mm. This big tear was located near and parallel to a seam. It was determined to have been caused by a sharp edge. The precise nature of this edge (whether it was a natural sharp edge or a man-made sharp object) has not been determined. But going by the photo taken of the bag, it does appear to hang upside down on a nail in the wall... Within this tear, the material polyester urethane was found. This material is frequently found as foam or elastomer. But the origin of this specific piece of material remains unknown. Matt had access to the official police files and concluded: "Although the damage of the backpack (scratches and abrasion) is consistent with travelling in a river and rocks, the damage is very light and probably not consistent with a travel of many kilometers in a wild river." An inhabitant of Alto Romero, called Guide Tony, was present when police came to Alto Romero by helicopter and opened the backpack. He told podcast makers that he saw it and says that despite being wet, the backpack was in "pretty decent shape". Having extensively been exposed to the jungle for ten weeks, it had held up. It was damaged, but intact. He also mentioned that he saw how the cellphones and money, all those things "were taken out of the plastic bags". It has not been reported on or cleared up since in what sort of plastic bags the phones and such were found, inside the backpack. Or whether or not Kris and Lisanne ever carried their devices in protective plastic bags.
The DNA Analysis of the backpack
A total of 13 DNA samples were reported to have been taken from the straps, zippers, and edges of the backpack. Some DNA was also found on the bras. Out of the 13 samples, DNA was only found on three of those samples. They turned out to belong to multiple people, including at least two different women and one man. But none of those DNA traces were ever matched to anyone. The DNA samples also did not match that of Kris and Lisanne. That seems odd, as they most certainly touched their own backpack and belongings, but their DNA may have been washed off in the river water (and if that was the case, then the DNA of any other potential person handling the backpack before it ended in the water could also have disappeared). Because local police did not collect the DNA from people involved in the searches and in the finding of this backpack, police also did not verify if these prints were from people of the search teams or not. Not even the DNA from the couple who found the backpack was recorded and compared - although in that case there would still be the unidentified DNA of at least one other female left to identify. Local newspapers reported that the woman leading the case, Betzaida Pittí, never further investigated these leads properly. As for the phones and the camera: the Dutch forensic report failed to detect DNA profiles on these phones and the camera. The police files reveal that fingerprints and DNA samples were taken from the two mobile phones, but that there was no DNA profile recovered and the recovered fingerprints were not suitable for identification. - Regarding these fingerprints it was also reported in the local media that as many as 34 different fingerprints were found; 13 on the backpack, 12 on the (scotch tape on the) phones and the camera, as well as 6 different ones on the bras. No fingerprints were properly recorded however from those helping in the searches and handling evidence that was found on site. Not even the investigators themselves always handled the evidence with protective gloves and masks on; on the scotch tape with which memory cards were attached to the mobile phones/camera, detectives later found several fingerprints, but because the police did not wear gloves it can't even be excluded that officials were to blame for these fingerprints. The report carried out by the Dutch Forensic Institute officially revealed that three fingerprints were found on this self-adhesive tape and that only one of the prints, of which a photograph was sent to the Panamanian prosecutor's office, could have been checked in the Panama database. "This fact seems to have gone unnoticed by the prosecutor Betzaida Pittí, who so far has not checked the fingerprint with the locals who manipulated the objects or other possible suspects. According to the lawyer Enrique Arrocha, defense of the Kremers family, the prosecutor has not taken a statement from the people who handed over the young women's belongings to the prosecution, and neither had she collected the DNA found on the clothing and other belongings of the girls, he confirmed." It was later published in local newspaper La Estrella that one of the fingerprints found on the smartphone matched a Panamanian Database. No updates were ever given on this however. It simply never was cleared up either from whom those fingerprints were. As for the bras: the Dutch forensic report mentioned that five of the fingerprint samples failed to obtain DNA profiles; the sixth came from one of the Institute's employees. There were no forensic results of the water bottle's examination either. The backpack of the girls also showed minor botanical traces of leaves and soil material. Kris' dad also shared info that there were some minor leafs and sand residue inside the bag. The Dutch forensic institute failed to determine the source of these plants for lack of reference. The task was forwarded to the Panamanian prosecution, but, to date, there are no reports of Pittí having compared these botanical results with the vegetation at the site where these belongings from the girls were found or the surrounding area. Prosecutor Betzaida Pittí also claimed to a local newspaper that the backpack had signs of dragging. No photo evidence of this has been shared in the media, to this date. "This suggests - she explained - that the foreigners could have been pushed by one of the tributaries of the river called by the locals as "Culebra", which flows into the Changuinola River, in Bocas del Toro". In one of the first articles on the matter, the families of Kris and Lisanne expressed their disappointment in the leaking of the footage of Lisanne's backpack. "The family finds it very distressing that these photos appear in the media. They also show bras, which is of course not pleasant."
Also, there were no unsent text messages found in their phones and no 'goodbye' messages in any shape or form, which was confirmed by Dutch investigators and the parents. Unfortunately some people have tried to insinuate that a (conveniently) anonymous cop has seen attempts of the girls to send text messages after they went missing, which is made up and incorrect; the investigators who checked the phones, the case files and the parents and their representatives have all and always confirmed that no text messages were found, drafted or attempted to be written or sent by Kris and Lisanne.
So summarized, the phone logs (which we just have to trust to be correct and complete, although we cannot be 100% sure of that even) show that the phones of Kris and Lisanne only called 112 and 911 during the first three days of their disappearance. No further attempts to call 112 or 911 were made again after day 3. Check part 4 of my blog series for more details about the specific phone use on April 1st, including apps that were used.
According to some sources, no less than 77 attempts to get into the phone were made between the 7th and 10th of April. Others claim that the wrong PIN code was entered that many times. In this news article, former detective Dick Steffens has been quoted in that there were 80 attempts to log in on the phones of the girls. Wikipedia states [at the moment that I write this] that 77 actual emergency call attempts were made between April 7-10. However, there is controversy about this, and according to others these '77 times' can also refer to the amount of times someone just tried to activate the phone. Matt had access to the police files and revealed in March of 2021 that the info about the 70-something attempts to enter the SIM pin in Kris' iPhone4 was measured over a much longer time period: from March to April. Therefore it is not relevant for the situation after April 1st, he says.
Please note: For the iphone4 running iOS7, which was on Kris's phone, six failed attempts gets you a one minute lockout. Seven failed attempts gives you a five minute lockout, eight gives a fifteen minute lockout, and nine failed attempts a full hour lockout. After ten failed attempts, the system will either lock you out completely or erase your data, depending on your settings. Once locked out, you will need to sync with iTunes to restore things. Based on the phone logs, that did not happen.
when thinking of all possible explanations, it is something to know about. Interesting is also that the time stamp on the phone of the man in the youtube video, once he gets in, is 1:37.. (The equivalent of our European 13:37 PM). The same time that was in Kris' phone for the PIN-less signal check on April 5th. Probably a coincidence though. Initially the Dutch NFIinvestigators noted down this time of 13:37 for two days in a row in the case files. This caused some interest and suspicion in the online world, because what would be the chances of activating your phone twice at the exact same time, without having a clock or watch to go by? Years later it was clarified by the authorities that it was an error made by the NFI investigators, who inadvertently copied the time of 13:37 and printed it twice; both for April 5th and 6th. In reality the time for April 6th has to be 14:35, the authorities now claim. So that should solve the mystery of the identical phone activitation times.. - Also interesting is that the guy in that youtube video pressed 112 for help - the Dutch emergency number - and not 911. And he definitely is not Dutch. Meaning that anyone watching this video and not coming from the Netherlands could have known about this number. Another thing is that the Panamanian media had insight in the police report and published this photo. On April 2nd, for 08:14 AM, they registered: "Tomaron una foto de la pantalla del telefono, despues registra apago. Llamada de auxilio al 112". Meaning in English: "They took a picture of the phone screen, then registered the shutdown. Call for help to 112." This is another peculiar thing; the iPhone from Kris took a screenshot picture on day 2 in the morning... (This was confirmed in the official report). It made no sense really why they or someone else would do that. But in the youtube video below, the only way to get access into an iPhone 4 when you don't have the PIN code is to actually make a screenshot, while simultaneously pressing the home button and the power button. Although for several days after that screenshot was taken, the correct PIN code was still being entered in the iPhone from Kris. So the screenshot on day 2 was most likely something insignificant, done accidentally perhaps by one of the girls. By the way, it could also be possible theoretically that these attempts to call emergency services were mostly done by a 3rd party altogether, as a fake trail and by removing the little phone cards that are needed to actually make a connection. More on all that later.
Update: It is disputed by now if there truly ever was a 1 to 2 second connection made with the cellphone of Lisanne. This was reported to have happened on day two and possibly more often, when Lisanne called 112 with her phone. A local newspaper who had all the finer details of the phone logs correct and who had been leaked this information, also mentioned this short connection to have taken place. This map with the phone data, published in a Panamanian publication, says that the phone shortly connected to the GSM then. The rest of their detailed information seems to be 99% correct, including the info about a screen capture, which the official case files confirmed to me to be true. Only their mentioning of a short connection cannot be found in the official case files. So, this supposed super-short connection has not been proven and it also does not feature in the official phone analysis results. It may therefore have been an error of the newspaper. Investigators in the case state that the local telecom company Movistar was asked on April 8th to share every detail they had about the girls' phone use during the first week of April, but that this resulted in nothing. Or perhaps the connection wás in fact made, but was too short to register in the phone's operating system or with Movistar? There was no GSM connection seemingly, but you can never rule out that on one particular freak stretch, there wás a short connection possible after all. - Gaetan wrote me and stated that if a cell phone connects to the network for 2 seconds [as was claimed by some to have been the case here], the operator automatically knows many things. Because when a mobile phone connects to a network, many data are checked: first, once the pin code is entered, the phone connects to the nearest cell tower. Your phone number is verified by the servers to know which operator you can get access to, then your subscription plan (or prepaid plan) is checked and once deemed valid, you can access the network. All this takes a few seconds. Then you see the network operator’s name on your cellphone. Considering that on April 2nd, Lisanne's Samsung phone had a few seconds of connection that day, this means that the phone was actually connected to a specific cell tower. Meaning that Panamese cell operators should be able to know which cell tower was used when this specific 112 dial was made. Of course, a cell tower doesn’t give you a precise localization like GPS. The accuracy depends on whether or not you are in an urban area (more towers, more accuracy) or in the countryside (less towers, larger radius). In the case of Kris & Lisanne, it would have helped to know if the calls were made from a city or a forest. It would also be good for us to know if a tower near the Pianista Trail pinged, or one near... let's say the Caldera swimming area. However, Panama supposedly found no info on this. Even though cellular tower companies should keep records or logs of established connections. But Betzaida Pitti and her team failed to get this information. The Dutch investigators as a result had nothing to work with. - Gaetan also confirmed that if somebody needed to access the iPhone, a code and pin code were required. At that time, to charge or to connect the iPhone to a computer, you needed its non-standard 30-pin connector to usb-a cable Kris certainly left in her room. Another thing which Gaetan told me, is that in 2014, the iPhone4 (which Kris had) used iOS 7. Even now, people usually leave the tracking location services on by default. It means the iPhone regularly pinpoints your location using either cell or gps. There was even an app showing on a map where you’ve been to. It could be interesting to know where the 112 calls have been made. Hopefully Dutch forensics knew about this hidden tracking device and checked it and did their job. Gaetan also wrote that the iPhone 4 battery cannot be compared to an iPhone 5C, as these two phones are a few generations apart (iPhone 4 from 2010 and the iPhone 5S/5C from 2013). He owns an iPhone 4 and after seven years of use, he now manages to keep its battery alive by charging it at 85% every 1 or 2 months. In the meantime, the phone is totally switched off. When he restarts it, the battery lost about 20 or 30%. But in his case, after ten years the battery is still working fine. Translating this to the Kris and Lisanne case, it is apparently not that strange that Kris' iPhone 4 was able to be switched on and off for eleven days, starting with 51% battery life, and with over an hour of phone use time left by day eleven. Matt made a good graph of the decline in battery of both phones. He agrees however that it is strange that the iPhone had still enough battery by day eleven to be powered on for over an hour, and then have what he estimates to be around 22% battery left still..
Then there was the digital camera in Lisanne's backpack
The first photos showed the girls in good spirits on April 1st, confirming that the women had taken the Pianista trail and wandered into some wilderness, hours before their first attempt to reach 911, but with no signs of anything unusual. The girls took photos of each other and the weather was good; sunny and no rain. These first sets of photos show them walking up the trail, as well as showing the scenery around the trailhead. As this blogger who took the same route (but on a more cloudy day instead) describes this old cattle trail: "El Pianista Trail is one of the moodiest cloud forests I have ever adventured into. Rain droplets falling to the ground from every leaf and branch while mist floats through dramatically. The early stages of the hike are open fields, with mountains on all sides. You can already see the clouds hugging the summit of the mountain. You know what you are heading into. I enjoyed the early parts of this hike with the beautiful hills on either side and the sounds of the river cascades to the right." And in this blog the Pianista Trail is described as follows: "The trail can be broken into three "sections". In the first 45 minutes, you will walk through open area pasture land with gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains and downtown Boquete. Second you enter a dense jungle* surrounded by lush vegetation, birds and insects. In here you will walk for about 1.5 hours and enter the cloud forest where it is very humid and magical, as you are literally walking in the clouds! Finally after another 30 minutes climbing the mountain, you will reach the top and will be fully enveloped in the cloud forest. It's really an amazing experience!" - *People often call it 'jungle', but Boquete locals tend to correct this notion and describe the nature surrounding the Pianista trail as a highland forest. "Only the highest part is jungle. Like maybe 5% of the presumed "lost" area. The rest is a tropical highland forest with people, large pastures and well hydrated cows. It is not anywhere near as wild as those hyping for click bait and book sales would have you believe. The settlement of Alto Romero where some of the items were found nearby even has cell service."
So, by the time they were done taking summit selfies, the girls did not return to Boquete, as advised. Instead, they continued to walk on, past the summit: Photo IMG_505 shows Kris bent in a specific way, with one hand used to shield her eyes, looking back. She seems to stick her tongue out. This picture was taken after they walked straight on beyond the summit, following the trail downwards again, further into the tropical forest. It was taken at 13:20 PM. Photo #506 was taken six seconds afterwards and appears to show the infamous 'wall of moss' just behind the summit, something which this matching gif image seems to confirm; it was taken by a youtuber and appears to show the location of photo 505. At 13:38 PM the GSM network connection of their mobile phones was cut off as they had ventured too far from the summit. Then IMG_507 shows Kris crossing a small stream, seen from the back again, at 13:54:50. Eight seconds later, IMG_508 is said to be taken. It is the last known photo taken by the girls that day. However, strangely enough there are two versions of photo #508: one shows in its metadata that it was taken 8 seconds after photo 507, but another version of the same photo circulating in online media and such, states that this last photo of Kris looking backwards was taken 50 seconds before the previous photo of her passing the creek. Of course, with her general direction of movement being forward and not backwards, this makes no sense. It is strange that two different versions circulate. This photo specialist explains that he thinks that he can link it to photo manipulation by a 3rd party. So far, this is a subjective explanation of events, but interesting nonetheless. The fact that no more daytime photos were taken on April 1st, could implicate either that they kept walking and that something unexpected happened, which prevented them from taking any more photos on the trail leading deeper into the forest. Or it is also possible that they returned at this point, back to the summit of the mountain and that they did not feel like taking more photos of the same scenery they had already seen. They had already taken pictures of that same route, after all. The girls would have probably only needed approximately one hour or less to walk from the location of photo 508 - the 1st quebrada/stream - back to the summit. And to then walk further downhill, back down to Boquete, would have probably taken them 1 (maybe 1,5 hours if they were very slow) at most. They could have been back at the trailhead by 15:30 or 16:00 then. And with the sun setting around 18:40 PM that day, depending on their location beyond the Mirador Kris and Lisanne would have had to turn around at the latest at 16:00 PM, in order to make it home before dark. Although that would have been already tight and 15:00 PM would have been a better time in fact. It is one theory that the girls kept walking after having reached the summit ("plenty of time") around 13:15 PM, but panicked by 16:39 PM. If they had indeed kept walking on and on for all that time, they would never make it back to Boquete before dark then.. More theories will follow. Please check out my entire and comprehensive oversight of all the photos taken by Kris and Lisanne, put in chronological order and with the known photo numbers and times attached here. Update: many of the remaining photos taken by Kris and Lisanne have been made public. You can see them all here or here.
On April 1st, 34 pictures were taken with the Canon digital camera. Photo #475 was probably the first taken that day, at 11:08 AM (17:08 data time). Left you see the last known photo taken by the girls on April 1st (photo 508). It shows Kris in what’s being called a “Quebrada”: a gully or ravine which you can walk through in the dry season, but in the rainy season they can be knee deep covered in mud. The term can also be used, confusingly, to describe a small stream of water. The photos also show what is said to be a barranca, also a gully or ravine, but with steeper sides, and also treacherous in the rainy season. On the photo of Kris crossing the small stream, the main trail she follows leads to the earlier mentioned small waterfall. They never pictured it however. The girls no longer made smiling selfies at this point, but instead someone - assuming it was Lisanne - took photos of Kris walking some distance in front. Kris looks back and her facial expression has been called slightly worried by some, although this is open for interpretation. The camera point is quite high, indicating that Lisanne may have climbed up onto something perhaps, or that the road itself was making a descent towards the creek. Something I couldn't verify in the videos featuring this stretch of the track.
The question everyone is asking now is: what could have happened to the girls after photo 508 was taken? Their photos show that they had left the Pianista trail and crossed over to the other side of the Divide. The Pianista trail is a clear path, but once you walk on, paths eventually become small trails, poorly maintained and the forest closes in. But not unless you walk on for a very long time; initially the ongoing path is clear to follow and partly surrounded by stone walls that make it nearly impossible to unknowingly divert from this one and ongoing trail. You cross a small stream twice, the second time also passing a very small waterfall of sorts. These trails are said to be used mostly by locals, tourists and indigenous people living within the forests; some walk their cattle there, others use the trails to walk to their coffee plantations. This includes the Ngobe people, who’s village is approximately 12 hours by foot from the Continental Divide, and in whose territory the girls’ backpack was found. But despite this clear to follow trail going on for a long time after the El Mirador, it is a frightening thought that the girls were in distress relatively shortly after they crossed onto this side of the mountain and that they started to call emergency services so soon, while it was still light. And they called those emergency services in vain... The reason why they started calling 112 has never been discovered. Some people think they called for help because they thought they were lost.. Or because one of them had an injury. Being born and bred in the Netherlands myself, I like to stress here something that's a Dutch fact of sorts: every child is thoroughly made aware by their parents and by the state that one does not call 112 for anything short of an immediate life-threatening situation. Think of heart attacks, critical car accidents and being threatened by someone with a gun. You can get punished for abusing the number and even in actual life-threatening situations, many people are hesitant to call 112, unsure if their issue is 'serious' enough. I am extremely weary therefore of the theory that Kris and Lisanne would have called thát Dutch number by 16:39 already when it was still light, simply for fearing they could not make it back home in time or felt lost. That is not usually a good enough reason to call 112 in our country.
The girls were said to have been avid mobile phone users and eager to stay in touch with their family. They also took photos every single day of their holiday, often several dozens. Like most young people do these days. Makes you wonder why they díd not create a single normal selfie, photo or message about what happened to them during the entire 11+ days of their disappearance. Wouldn't they want to get a message out, or document their journey/ordeal? They wrote in their dairies most days, normally. Kris had a boyfriend in the Netherlands, but didn't try to contact him even once through messaging or phone after April 1st....Very strange. This young woman from New Zealand for instance fell in the desert of the US and broke her hip. Her phone had no cell coverage and she thought for days that she would die there. She said: "I was filming little videos from the moment I fell just in case anyone found me, to explain what happened. I haven't watched them yet [after she was found and saved]. I'm unsure whether I want to." Here you can see some of her self made videos, while laying isolated, thinking she would die there. And Robert Scott, to name just one of many other examples, was stuck in his tent in a snowstorm on Antarctica in 1912, knowing he would not make it out alive, and he used his last powers to write letters to loved ones and last lines in his diary. Leaving some message or some update of what is going on, can work very soothing for most people. Many people do. So the fact that Kris and Lisanne didn't record anything or leave a single message for their beloved parents, while normally in the habit of doing so, is out of character. The question is: did they opt not to because they were physically or mentally unable to, or because they didn't have the freedom to do so? If you want to consider foul play a possible factor in this disappearance, then it isn't far-fetched to imagine how anyone can make fake phone call attempts in a region where not even your GPS location is establishable, let alone a phone connection. But a 3rd party cannot fake someone else's voice messages and personal videos, and cab neither fake Dutch draft text messages.
CASA ESPERANZA – after school care center for indigenous children: help with the afternoon activities like organizing meal time, afternoon-tutoring classes in English, Computer Sciences, Music, Sports.
GUARDERÍA AURA – Daycare: help taking care of the children; sing English songs, do handicrafts, feed the children.
We just don't know. But it was really unprofessional at the least. And Marjolein should have instructed Kris and Lisanne beforehand that they had no business going to Aura, since the agreement had fallen flat. That would have saved them the shock and humiliation of being insulted and sent away there. But if Ingrid or Marjolein had been honest with them by Friday already I don't even exclude the possibility that the girls would have stayed put in Bocas instead. No reason to leave and go to Boquete, if the volunteer work had been cancelled. And in the midst of this chaos, we have Ingrid who left for Costa Rica, Marjolein who was in the process of knocking off to Costa Rica as well, and a brand new, super young and panicky German intern who had to sort it all out. If Kris and Lisanne OR their parents had known this beforehand, I doubt they would ever have landed in Boquete. The girls were let down there, in a way. Both by Ingrid and Marjolein who had given false reassurance about the work being arranged for them, and also by Maria Elena, who could not find some space for them to work as volunteers with the children in her center, despite having had a clear arrangement with Spanish at Locations, to house their students for package deals. Going by the girls' diaries, this especially shook Lisanne, who was prone to neat planning. In countries like the Netherlands, and also in countries like Germany, where Eileen was from, punctuality and reliability are important and it is considered a bit rude to be late or let people waiting. It also remains a mystery how Ingrid could state on camera and on her social media for as long as she did, that both teachers saw Kris and Lisanne leave that Tuesday just after 13:00. And which second teacher would that have been? With only Eileen present that day and Marjolein in Costa Rica? All in all, not even Miriam seemed all that protective of them, and only shook her shoulders when she noticed on Wednesday morning that the girls hadn't come home that night. Yes they were legally adults, but at the same time they were also slightly vulnerable I'd say, especially just with the two of them in Boquete. As Dave Mullen said about this: "It is hard to accept that virtually every person involved in their short time there let them down, in one way or another."
Then there are update blog entries: part 2 detailing topics related to the swimming photo for instance, part 3, with all the photos and the diaries, and part 4 with further case updates.