COPS believe that British backpacker Catherine Shaw, 23, was raped and murdered on a Guatemala volcano hiking trail notorious for gun-wielding bandits, cops say.
Her naked body was found was in a mountain cavern last night as police in Guatemala told The Sun Online they had already identified and interviewed a number of suspects.
Facebook Catherine Shaw, from Witney, Oxfordshire, was reported missing last week
Catherine can be seen sitting with another woman in her hostel, chatting and smiling at the man sitting down at the table, this was the last time she was seen before heading for her hike
Twitter Officials in Guatemala have appointed a team to carry out a ‘criminal investigation’, seen at work above
A preliminary police report that was leaked to local press says that Catherine was found “totally naked, face down and at first sight has visible blows to her body and lacerations on her left leg.”
A spokesman for Guatemala’s PNC police said that the state of decomposition of her body meant it would not be possible to confirm how the injuries had been caused and that forensic experts would have to determine the cause of death.
Police have said a “criminal investigation” had been launched into the “deplorable incident”.Visible blows to her body
Catherine was last seen in the early hours of last Tuesday in San Juan la Laguna in the Lake Atitlan area of the central American country, where she had been travelling with a friend.
Although not as yet formally identified, police in Guatemala said it was the body of the missing Brit.
Police told The Sun Online they have launched a murder investigation after finding the body at the volcano lookout point known as Indian Nose.
It is believed that Catherine’s trousers have been handed in after they were found in by local search teams before her body was discovered.
Local police officer Felix Cruz, who is based in San Pedro, said: “There are many suspects there and the police are interviewing.”
After 120 hours of exhaustive search, the result is regrettable.Policia Nacional Civil
He said attacks in the area around the mountains in the vicinity of Indian Nose and near Volcano de San Pedro occurred, but foreigners were never before victims of violence.
Cruz added: “If we talk about a kidnapping, attacks in the area of San Juan la Laguna, San Pedro, these cases we don’t have.
“The police haven’t registered any type of such cases in respect to foreigners.
“But in many cases there have been attacks around the volcano. The majority involved are people from an area over the mountain.
“In occasions in the past where they have found guns, knives, stolen goods. There are people there of bad faith who only look to do bad to the people.”
Facebook Catherine left the hotel with no belongings, leaving behind her passport, money and a mobile phone, says a friend
The Policia Nacional Civil issued a statement after they found a woman’s body this evening, describing her apparent murder as a “deplorable event”.
The news comes as Catherine’s dad Tarquin was due to arrive in San Juan La Laguna, the town where she had been staying.
Earlier, searchers found Catherine’s jacket and her puppy “shivering and alone” on a volcano.
Both were discovered a short hike from the Mayachik eco-hotel, where Catherine was reported missing during the early hours of March 5.
Search teams had focused on the area after Catherine’s small stray white and grey puppy was found there early on Friday.
Travellers warn of bandits on the trail there who wield weapons and demand money.
Catherine, from Witney, in Oxfordshire, was last seen in the Eco Hotel Mayachik in San Juan la Laguna in the early hours at the accommodation where she was staying with her friend Elena Consolini.
Coleman-Rayner Above: one of the last CCTV images of Catherine Shaw, taken on March 5, while the British backpacker was staying at the Eco Hotel Mayachik. Her body was recovered this afternoon in Guatemala
The Policia Nacional Civil said in a statement: “After several days of intense search by police authorities, other institutions and civil society of the missing English citizen, at this moment participating units are coordinated to process the scene of the find.
“After 120 hours of exhaustive search, the result is regrettable, and the Ministry of the Interior and the General Directorate of the PNC has immediately appointed a team that will carry out the criminal investigation.
“This to determine what happened and who could be involved in this deplorable event.
“According to the PNC, the discovery took place in a mountainous area of the Mirador known as Nariz del Indio (Indian Nose).”
Police had deployed a helicopter and drones in their search and specialist divers have submerged in the lake in the search.
Three teams of officers are still active in the area, including a search and rescue dog unit, after an investigation was launched.
Formal identification has not taken place but the body is believed to be Catherine.Lucie Blackman Trust
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are supporting the family of a British woman reported missing in Guatemala and are in contact with the local authorities.”
In a statement tonight, the Lucie Blackman Trust, which has been supporting the backpacker’s family in the UK, said that it was “saddened to announce that a body has been found in the search for Catherine Shaw.
“Formal identification has not taken place but the body is believed to be Catherine.
“Catherine’s family have been informed.
“Please respect their privacy at this difficult time.”
The news came after CCTV images, obtained by The Sun, showed Catherine outside Mayachik eco-hotel hours before she went missing with her puppy last Tuesday.
The Brit had no possessions with her or shoes on her feet and had been up during the night playing a percussion instrument.Puppy found on volcano
Her dog was found shivering and crying by tourists three days later at the top of the Indian Nose, overlooking Lake Atitlan.
The Austrian owner of Mayachik hotel, who did not want to be named, claimed the backpacker and a pal had handed out cookies with cannabis in them.
She said: “They checked in and came back and put a box of cookies in reception. My colleague asked what was in the cookies and they didn’t say.
“They offered them to my colleague and other guests and everyone ate the cookies.
“I came down and also ate three cookies.
“An hour later and suddenly I felt completely spaced out, everything was spinning. We smelled one and it smelled like hash.
“I felt like I was dying.”
The hotel owner said he had asked her to leave last Monday, following the incident.
Facebook Her belongings were left behind, the Lucie Blackman Trust said
Hours before police discovered a woman’s body, a pink and brown woollen coat was discovered among leaves on Indian Nose.
Catherine’s pal Paco Rosales, 35, who travelled to Guatemala from Mexico to help the search for her, broke down in tears when shown a picture of the item.
He recalled having asked her to “throw away” the coat but she was “emotionally attached” to the garment and “loved it”.
Paco added: “It was one of her favourite items of clothing. It was really warm, that’s why she always kept it. She didn’t care about the way she looked.”
Friends revealed that it was normal for Catherine to set off at 5.30am to watch the sunrise and that she had been on a spiritual quest in the days before her disappearance.
Westerners who live around Lake Atitlan said San Pedro, where Catherine had been staying, was a big draw for nightlife and nature and described the area in general around the lake as safe.
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Bill Forward, 73, who is originally from New York and is retired from the US Navy, has been living around Lake Atitlan for the past 15 years and said crime against tourists had been unknown.
“This is the first event like this in about 10/15 years. In the past girls were raped, but that doesn’t happen anymore. Guatemala city is not safe, but around the lake is pretty safe.”
He added: “San Pedro – it’s a place to go party, to have a happy time. Tourists, that’s where they go if they want to party.”
Facebook Officers from Guatemala’s National Civil Police went to Mayachik to search for her
Lucie Blackman Trust Catherine Shaw had been visiting Guatemala
The Lucie Blackman Trust confirmed that this jacket was ‘positively identified as belonging to Catherine’
Twitter Above, the Policia Nacional Civil said a body had been discovered on Indian Nose, and further investigation is being carried out in the area
Eco-hotel MayAchik The Brit backpacker was ‘caught on CCTV wandering out of a Guatemala hotel’, above, early on March 5