Costa Rica’s Unsaid Protocol When Dealing With Foreigner Deaths


Over the past few years, an increasing trend in Costa Rica seems to be the suicide and accidental deaths of foreigners.

It should come as no surprise that the legal system in Costa Rica is completely dysfunctional – conviction rate of 2011 was less than 25% for felony offenses.

Although the Chief Prosecutor, Jorge Chavarria, who came to power in October 2010, claimed it to be 60% for which he would harshly criticize public prosecutors for not doing their jobs effectively.

Chavarria would later add that he felt the conviction rate should be no lower than 80% – a pipe dream in hindsight. La Nacion would expose the truth that a measly 1 in 7 felony cases end in a conviction.

Like the cult classic “The Sixth Sense”…

“I see criminals. They’re everywhere – all around us all the time.”

Back to the story…

Remember the case of the Dubois’s? They were French tourists who went missing in March 2011.

Despite overwhelming evidence supporting foul play, Costa Rican officials would try to pass it off as an accidental death – saying the couple fell in to the Naranjo River (which had approximately 8″ of water in it) and were swept out to sea. This would not be accepted by family and friends of the couple back in France where, in 2012, the daughter would seek the assistance of French Ambassador to Costa Rica Fabrice Delloye.

With pressure from France to revisit the case and investigate the idea the couple was murdered, OIJ would eventually be pressured in to reopening the case due to overwhelming media coverage. However in true Costa Rica fashion it would take a further right turn after local media would announce that OIJ had employed the assistance of psychic investigators who would eventually lead them to a farm outside Quepos where they would find a towel from the same hotel where the couple were staying in Manuel Antonio.

In the end, after days of media coverage and suspense filled reports, Costa Rican officials would come up with nothing.

Had officials not tried to sweep the couples death under the dust filled rug that is becoming common for foreigner deaths, maybe the case wouldn’t have gone so cold.

And who could forget Michael Dixon? He was a British journalist who went missing in Tamarindo, Guanacaste.

As this BBC article suggests (

Foreigners are turning up missing or dead with consistant unbelievable causes of death being issued by Costa Rican officials.

When Costa Rica ruled an accidental death in the case of Michael Dixon, family members would immediately question the official ruling and even countered it with their belief that he was a victim of a violent crime and that Costa Rica is simply trying to sweep him too, under the rug of concealment where so many have ultimately found themselves.

And then there’s the case of Canadian citizen, Sarah Western. Who, on the morning of December 10, 2012, was found dead in a garden shed. The official cause of death would be asphyxiation by hanging however as we’ve learned in previous cases…Costa Rican officials love to jump to the “suicide” claim – especially in the case of foreigners.

Official coroner reports would reveal that Sarah Western had been deceased for longer than 12 hours. When questioned on a more specific time of death the coroner would respond, “sorry but we don’t have the technology that the US and Canada have.”

Timing in this case was crucial given it would later be revealed that Sarah was in fact NOT hanging. Furthermore witnesses would come forth stating she was involved in a physical confrontation with a her then ex-boyfriend only hours before her death.

Here is an article on some of the ways a professional can determine time of death. (

In the case of Sarah Western there would be no investigation. It was cased closed without even a single interview – not even the last man to see her alive.

The biggest question on many residents minds is the timing of the whole thing. The man who’s shed she was found in would claim that in the early morning of Friday December 9th, he would forcibly remove Sarah from his home after a violent fight. He then claims to have not seen her until she was discovered in his shed the morning of the 10th.

So where did Sarah Western go for all those hours in between? In the self proclaimed upscale community of Lagunas de Baru, foreigners are everywhere – surely someone would have witnessed her in all that time.

Family and friends back in Canada have expressed their suspicion of foul play however also stated that Costa Rica and the Canadian Embassy were less than forthcoming with information or assistance in the matter and have since chosen to not pursue an investigation in to Sarah’s death.

Now there’s a Quebec man – 60 year old Serge Gravel was excited to be retiring in January to Costa Rica’s West Coast. Family and friends were excited that he’d found such a beautiful place to live out his golden years.

Shortly after his arrival in 2012, the body of Serge Gravel would be discovered locked inside a hotel room in the popular “unofficial” red light district of Jaco beach.

Jaco is known for it’s drugs, prostitutes and seeding characters it attracts. And the fact that the community knew of the situation with Mr.Gravel whereas he’d long ago deposited a large sum of money in CR to only find that interests had accrued to make him a small fortune – motive?

Found shot 3 times in the chest, the family of the man are not buying the official story of…you got it…suicide.

Denise Gravel – sister of the man – would later say, “The family doesn’t believe that he killed himself,” she said. “How does one shoot themselves three times in the thorax? To me, the second and third shot seem physically impossible.”

Denise said that she and her family are hoping that Costa Rican authorities and the Canadian federal government investigate the death further.

Is there some sort of conspiracy going on in Costa Rica to keep the actual numbers of homicide victims (foreigners) down to ensure the global tourism reputation of Costa Rica remains untarnished?

Corruption in Costa Rica is nothing new. Almost weekly a new government official is arrested and charged with some sort of fraud or extortion. Just a couple weeks ago the ICT (Costa Rica Tourism Board) were accused of fudging tourism numbers to portray an image that Costa Rica tourism remains strong when in fact it was the opposite.

So, if much of Costa Rica is smoke and mirrors, what can we truly believe? One thing is for certain…

Outside of all the bureaucracy, crime and corruption, Costa Rica is definitively one of the most beautiful treasures this planet has.


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