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“Don’t expect justice”; Families of murdered expats say Belize investigation is hopeless

Posted: Wednesday, May 2, 2018. 10:42 am CST.

By BBN Staff: “They have no powers of authority…My advice is don’t expect any help, don’t expect justice, because you won’t get,” says Walter McKay, a Canadian policing and security expert speaking of the Belize police department and government’s ability to help in solving the double murders of Francesca Matus and Drew Devoursey, who were killed in Corozal last May.

“We’re never going to know who killed my sister,” Matus’ brother, Tony Rino recently told local Canadian media. An American living in Belize, Joe Milholen, who was friends with the couple, recounted being called to the scene to identify the bodies after the couple had been found in a cane field, strangled and decomposing.

“We had to wait all night for the pathologist,” he said in an interview from Corozal. “This guy was telling me how busy they had been … there was a rash of murders and suspicious deaths.”

The pathologist arrived around 5:45 a.m., said Milholen, but he had no supplies — no body bags or something to cart the bodies out of the bush.

“So I got to figure out where the hell do you get a body bag,” he said.

Milholen went to the local hospital, but they didn’t have any. He managed to secure two body bags from someone with ties to the U.S. embassy in Belize who knew Matus.

When he returned to the field, Matus lay on an old wooden door while DeVoursney was being carried out of the bush on a large piece of plywood.

“I can’t lie, it was one of the most difficult things I’ve gone through,” Milholen said, his voice trailing off. “I was frazzled — I’m still frazzled, man.”

Once the cause of death was determined, the authorities didn’t know what to do with the bodies, said Milholen. A decision had to be made immediately, he was told, or the bodies would be buried in Belize — the morgue would not accept partially decomposed bodies. The families reluctantly agreed to have them cremated.

The murder investigation is ongoing, but the families say there have been no developments. A Canadian who was considered a person of interest in the case has also been cleared.

John Deshaies, of Barrie, Ontario, who was renting the ground-floor apartment in Matus’s house with his girlfriend, was arrested shortly after the bodies were discovered and spent 10 days behind bars.

“I thought I was going to die in there,” Deshaies said in a phone interview from Belize.

He recalled being particularly scared of one of the detectives who questioned him in jail, where he said he was “just another worthless gringo.”

“He pumped himself up, said he knew taekwondo and could kill a man with his bare hands,” Deshaies said. “Then he yelled at me: ‘Do you believe in God? You killed them!’ I was like, what’s happening?”

Michael Deshaies, John’s son who lives in Barrie, was worried. He hadn’t heard from his father after learning about his arrest.

“For three days we were trying to get the consulate to find out where my dad was, but they couldn’t find him,” he said. “We needed some help from the Canadian government, but got nothing. You can’t just leave the guy and walk away from it.”

His family found a lawyer who got him out on bail, but only after police laid charges of theft and handling stolen goods in connection with an unrelated incident.

“I loved Francesca. She was a great friend. A great person,” Deshaies said. “It’s a bulls–t story.”

Global Affairs Canada say 190 Canadians have been killed in foreign countries between 2013 and 2017, and that does not include cases where the families of the victims chose not to seek assistance from Ottawa.


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