A 23-year-old British backpacker who vanished in Guatemala with nothing but a stray puppy died from a traumatic brain injury, autopsy finds

Lucie Blackman TrustCatherine Shaw went missing in Guatemala on March 5.
  • The 23-year-old British backpacker found dead in Guatemala suffered a traumatic brain injury, an autopsy has found.
  • Catherine Shaw, who was last seen leaving her hostel with a stray puppy last week, was found dead in the Guatemalan mountainside.
  • The charity supporting her parents ruled out foul play, and suggested she may have fallen.

A 23-year-old British backpacker found dead in Guatemala suffered a traumatic brain injury, an autopsy revealed on Tuesday.

Catherine Shaw was last seen leaving her hostel in the early morning hours of March 5, with no possessions and carrying a stray puppy she had befriended. Her body was found on a mountainside on March 11.

She died four to six days before she was found, according to the Guatemala’s Institute of Forensic Sciences document, published by Guatemalan newspaper Soy 502. The report did not say what might have caused the injury, but said it will pass the information on to investigators.

The Lucie Blackman Trust, a charity supporting Shaw’s family, said it does not suspect foul play, and that Shaw’s death could be due to a fall, linked to her decision to fast while travelling.

After visiting the United States and in Mexico, the 23-year-old had went to the Lake Atitlan region in southwestern Guatemala.

She was last seen at the Eco Hotel in Mayachik last Tuesday. Security cameras showed her leaving the hostel on two occasions: at 1:37 a.m. and at 5:23 a.m.

A second video, obtained by MailOnline, shows Shaw lying in a hammock and playing with a stray dog she had befriended at her hotel.

The second time Shaw left, she headed towards the lake, taking the puppy with her. She did not return, and was reported missing the same day.

Locals, expats, law enforcement, and international agencies made a taskforce to hike around the area, and search for the 23-year-old, the Facebook group Finding Catherine Shaw wrote.

It also said Guatemalan tourists found the puppy that Shaw had taken with her alive on Friday. The search crew then employed drones to scour the area where the dog was found near a volcano called Indian Nose.

Amy Farrows, an American paramedic who was part of the search party, said they spotted Shaw when they flew over the area in a helicopter.

“As horrible as it was, we were also relieved to at least know where she was,” she wrote in a Facebook post.

The backpacker’s body was 60 feet down the mountain from where the dog was found, Farrows said. Local authorities risked their lives to move the body during unsafe weather conditions, Farrows said.

Shaw’s parents, Ann and Tarqin, thanked the volunteers and authorities in a statement shared by the Lucie Blackman Trust.

“We wish it to be known how grateful our family are for the huge response locally and across the world in our search for Catherine and for the vast amount of messages of support,” they said.

The trust criticised social media users sharing images of Shaw’s body and speculating about foul play as a cause of death.

The charity’s chief executive, Matthew Searle, suggested that Shaw had been fasting, and could have died from lack of sustenance.

He said: “She was very much a nature lover and adored sunrises, so it seems quite conceivable that she went up to the mountain to greet the sunrise, shedding clothing as she went, and due to her lack of intake of food and fluid may have passed out or fallen, causing wounds to her body.”

Her parents added: “Catherine just loved mountains and sunrises. She died doing what she loved.”

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