The Missing Americans Project

Looking for People and Answers

When a U.S. citizen disappears in a foreign country, the family quickly finds that they're on their own. We've been there and want to help.

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Looking for Americans Lost in Foreign Countries

Families of Americans who disappear in foreign countries should not have to invent the wheel. Unfortunately, this is what too often happens: people in deep distress have to learn how to run an international search and rescue operation, raise funds, cultivate relationships with nongovernmental organizations, and work with the media -- all within hours of learning their loved one is missing. The absence of clear standard operating procedures within and among U.S. embassies and a lack of State Department support leads to an unconscionable waste of time when time is of the essence.

The Missing Americans Project is intended to:

* Build awareness of the problems of Americans missing in foreign countries;
* Increase the accountability and transparency of U.S. State Department processes where missing Americans are concerned.
* Lobby for legal and policy changes where necessary.
* Develop a global rapid-response network that is not subject to the same bureaucratic wrangling as the U.S. State Department is.
* Advocate for the interests of the families of missing Americans.

Blog Posts

Catherine Shaw, U.K. Backpacker Missing in Guatemala, Found Dead; Likely an Accident; Funds Being Raised for Her Repatriation

An English backpacker who went missing last week in Guatemala has been found dead — and authorities said she suffered “blows to the body” and died of hemorrhaging caused by a traumatic brain injury.

Tourist Catherine Shaw, 23, of the southeastern English county of Oxfordshire, was reported missing after she left a hotel in Guatemala’s San Juan La Laguna off Lake Atitlan on March 5, the BBC reported.

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However, foul play was “probably not involved,” according to the Lucie Blackman Trust – a…

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Posted by Jeff Dunsavage on March 17, 2019 at 9:25pm

U.K. Family 'Desperate' Over Woman Missing in Guatemala

The family of a 23-year-old British woman missing in Guatemala say they are "desperately worried" for her safety. 

Catherine Shaw, from Witney, Oxfordshire, had been travelling and was reported missing on 5 March. 

She was last seen the day before and had been staying in the San Pedro, Lake Atitlan area of the central American country with a friend, the Lucie Blackman Trust said.

Read full…

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Posted by Jeff Dunsavage on March 10, 2019 at 7:03pm

Amy Gerard 'Could Have Been Crime Victim'

The investigation into Amy Gerard’s death in Tenerife has taken a new turn as it emerges a secrecy order has been placed over the court probe. Police initially appeared to rule out the existence of a crime three days after a woman’s body Amy’s family later confirmed as hers was recovered from the sea off the northern coast city of Puerto de la Cruz. Afterward, it  was revealed that the judicial investigation is the subject of a secrecy order - an exceptional measure adopted to safeguard the probe by trying to minimize publicity.

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Posted by Jeff Dunsavage on January 15, 2019 at 9:13pm

Tourist Murders, Rising Crime Jeopardize Costa Rica’s ‘Safe’ Destination Reputation

The recent murders of Tom Cook and Carla Stefaniak in Costa Rica, combined with other murders, disappearances, and a general atmosphere of rising crime may be putting a crimp in the country's reputation as a safe destination.

An arrest has been made in the Stefaniak case (see picture), though her family has said they believe more people were involved in her murder than the Nicaraguan security guard who was taken into custody.

Stefaniak was just the latest in a string of violence against Costa Rican tourists. Two unidentified female travelers were found dead near Tortuguero National Park in August. One 31-year-old woman’s body was discovered with strangle marks around her neck, and a 25-year-old woman drowned after she was attacked by two men. Over the summer, a 19-year-old Canadian tourist was robbed and raped after a local tried to…

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Posted by Jeff Dunsavage on January 8, 2019 at 9:00pm

Grace Millane Case: Man appears in New Zealand Court charged with U.K. Backpacker's Murder

A 26-year-old man has appeared in court in New Zealand charged with the murder of British backpacker Grace Millane.

Miss Millane, 22, disappeared in Auckland on 1 December - police ended their search on Sunday after finding a body in the outskirts of the city. The man, who cannot be named, is due back in court next month

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Posted by Jeff Dunsavage on December 10, 2018 at 6:31pm

U.K. Tourist Who Died in Mexico Is Returned to Family With Major Organs Missing

A dead British tourist's body was returned to her family with no eyes, heart or brain after she died in a Mexican hospital.

Organ traffickers are feared to be the reason that 41-year-old Amanda Gill's corpse came home with every vital parts missing other than her lower bowel.

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Posted by Jeff Dunsavage on December 10, 2018 at 6:00pm

Two U.K. Citizens Found Dead in 4 Days in Jamaica

British photographer Barbara Findley, 58, spent five years in Jamaica after moving from Kennington, south-east London, and was reported missing on 29 November. She was found nine days later on the side of a road in Santa Cruz, St. Elizabeth. The incident followed the disappearance and death of Karen Cleary-Brown, a 44-year-old woman who had visited Jamaica.

Ms. Cleary-Brown had been missing since 25 November and was found on Monday when her killer, who was also working on her property, confessed to the murder and led detectives to her grave.  

The news comes six months after the deaths of British couple Charlie and Gayle Anderson, who …

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Posted by Jeff Dunsavage on December 10, 2018 at 6:00pm

U.S. Citizen Murdered on Roatan

A sixty-nine year old U.S. citizen, originally from California, was identified yesterday as the victim of an abduction and murder in Roatan, Honduras, according to a Honduran newspaper El Heraldo.

The newspaper reports that the body of Philip Foster Brown was found in a ravine near a road leading from West End to West Bay in Roatan on Tuesday.  Mr. Brown, who had lived on the island of Roatan in a community on West Bay for several years, disappeared from his home several days ago, leaving a large pool of blood on the porch of his house.  His corpse was found yesterday wearing only shorts with a bag over his head.

Mr. Bown was one of three “foreigners” (i.e., not Honduran) in Roatan who died…

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Posted by Jeff Dunsavage on December 8, 2018 at 4:16pm

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    Jeff Dunsavage posted a blog post

    Catherine Shaw, U.K. Backpacker Missing in Guatemala, Found Dead; Likely an Accident; Funds Being Raised for Her Repatriation

    An English backpacker who went missing last week in Guatemala has been found dead — and authorities…See More
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    Jan 19
    Jeff Dunsavage posted a blog post

    Amy Gerard 'Could Have Been Crime Victim'

    The investigation into Amy Gerard’s death in Tenerife has taken a new turn as it emerges a secrecy…See More
    Jan 15
    Charlotte Benedict is now a member of The Missing Americans Project
    Jan 9
    Jeff Dunsavage posted a blog post

    Tourist Murders, Rising Crime Jeopardize Costa Rica’s ‘Safe’ Destination Reputation

    The recent murders of Tom Cook and Carla Stefaniak in Costa Rica, combined with other murders,…See More
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