Missing Australian surfers Dean Lucas and Adam Coleman, both 33, may have been targeted by drug gangs while driving through Sinaloa in rural Mexico last month, according to authorities.
The ABC reports the Benito Juarez Highway, which the men were travelling on, is under the control of cartel loyal to fugitive drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, and notorious for robberies and attacks on tourists.
The mayor of the town near where two bodies were found, Miguel Calderon Quevado, told the ABC: “The highway on which the Australians were travelling in the north of this state is renowned for its dangers.”
He also said that it would be unlikely for any witnesses to come forward.
“It’s very dangerous for them. There’s definitely a risk, especially in the zone [where the van was found],” Calderon Quevado said.
The mayor expects the cartel mistook the men for foreign investigators.
“What I suspect is that once they saw this van, gang members stopped and robbed them,” he said.
Local authorities found the van the pair were travelling in on a side road on November 21, burnt-out with two bodies inside, a day after they were driving south on the highway. The bodies inside were too badly burned to be identified.
DNA testing is yet to be conducted, but a spokesman for Sinaloa state’s attorney-general said the tests will be done in Australia and results sent back to Mexico, which could take more than a week.
The men from Perth had been living in Canada and drove down to Mexico to surf and visit Coleman’s girlfriend, Andrea Gomez.
In November there were 95 murders in Sinaloa.
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