What Really Happened To Two Dutch Hikers Who Disappeared In Panama?

On April 1, 2014, two students from the Netherlands named Lisanne Froon and Kris Kremers went on a hike in Panama with a dog. The dog came back, but the young women didn't. A search eventually turned up a severed foot and scattered remains, but authorities had trouble determining how the hikers had died. Years later, some people still believe someone killed the pair.

Froon and Kremers were both in their early 20s; they traveled to Panama to work with children. Many hikers from all over the world disappear, fall, or suffer other fatal accidents while traveling - this could've happened to these women as well. But there are a few holes in this particular theory. For one, the girls' camera had photos on it from hours after they stopped dialing emergency services. Also, a serial killer might have stalked their area at the time.

The world may never know what happened to the pair, but speculation still runs wild. Did they become lost and fall down a cliff? Was someone who's still out there responsible for their deaths? Or is it all part of a cover-up?

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  • The Students Planned To Volunteer With Children

    On March 14, 2014, students Lisanne Froon and Kris Kremers traveled from the Netherlands to Panama, where they intended to assist local communities, volunteer with children, learn Spanish, and relax a bit. However, a miscommunication led to them arriving in Boquete too early for their program, which Kremers noted was "rude and not at all friendly" in a diary entry.

    "Tomorrow they will try and get ahold of the [head teacher]... This was a real disappointment,” the entry continued. The date read April 1, the day of their fateful hike.

  • They Took A Dog For A Walk And Never Returned
    Photo: Halbinger / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    They Took A Dog For A Walk And Never Returned

    The women wanted to see as much of Boquete as possible, hiring a guide to show them around on April 2, 2014. The day before the guided tour, however, they decided to explore the area surrounding the active Barú Volcano towards the Continental Divide. According to a geographical expert, the three-mile stretch is relatively easy to explore, and most missing tourists return without assistance or come across search parties looking for them.

    Kremers and Froon set out into the forest along the Pianista Trail around 11 am on April 1, 2014, with only a backpack between them. Blue, a dog known throughout the community, reportedly followed them along the trail. It was the last time anyone saw the women alive.

  • The Dog Returned Unharmed

    Other than the dog, the young women went on their hike alone, only asking for directions from a local innkeeper, who advised them to take a taxi back to town. People began to suspect something happened when the dog Blue returned from the hike unaccompanied

    When neither Froon nor Kremers turned up, the community decided to wait until the next day to contact authorities. Meanwhile, on April 2, 2014, the pair missed their appointment with their hired tour guide. The families of both Froon and Kremers also became concerned when they didn't get a usual check-in call. On April 3, 2014, authorities began an aerial search of the forests and an on-foot search of Boquete. 

  • The Initial Search Proved Fruitless Until A Native Woman Discovered Their Backpack

    In the days following the students' disappearances, authorities conducted foot and aerial searches. By April 6, 2014, the parents of both women grew frantic and flew to Panama with detectives from the Netherlands. Once there, the families and detectives began a massive search.

    For a time, many suspected Froon and Kremers never got lost on the mountain, but were instead victims of a crime in town; this later proved false. The search efforts moved into the forests where the young women traversed, using on-foot search teams and dog units. Teams investigated for 10 days; their hunt scaled down on April 14, 2014, though continued on for 10 more weeks.

    A woman from the local Ngäbe tribe turned in a blue backpack she claimed she found along the bank of a nearby river. The backpack contained sunglasses, a camera, two cell phones, money, two bras, Froon's passport, and a water bottle.

  • Their Phone Logs Revealed Attempted 911 Calls Made Days After They Disappeared

    After finding the women's phones, authorities now had a lead. Once they examined the phones, investigators unraveled a confusing and grim timeline. The phones remained active for nearly 10 days after the pair went missing.

    During this time, Kremers and Froon repeatedly called for help. They called 112, the emergency number for the Netherlands, as well as Panama's emergency number, 911. They made numerous emergency calls a few hours into their hike; logs show they managed to connect only once due to poor reception in the forest. This connected call was stable for roughly two seconds.

    After the attempted calls, the phones stayed on for some time. Kremers's locked phone showed someone entered a wrong PIN several times. Accordingly, Kremers's phone was powered-on one last time on April 11, 2014; both phones went dead afterward. Given the timeline, authorities assumed at least one of the women was alive at the time, five days into the search.

  • The Camera Held Strange Photos

    The girls' camera showed evidence of what may have happened. More than 100 pictures were on the camera; the first few looked like normal tourist photos with the women smiling together. However, the tone of the pictures began to change.

    One showed Kremers with what looked like concern on her face, dated around the time of the emergency calls. After this, the photos were from April 8, 2014 and likely snapped between 1 am and 4 am. These were of seemingly random objects, like a stick with plastic sticking to it, as well as scenes of foliage, canyons, and a bridge.

    Experts proposed several theories about how and why the women took these photos. The arbitrary pictures looked focused as if steady hands took the shots, suggesting they were intentional. Perhaps the photos served as trail markers to help the young women find their way around or back to the rescuers.

    Because of the dark, the pair might have used the camera flash as a light source or to scare away animals. Others suggested neither Froon nor Kremers took those photos; they believe someone abducted the women.