San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Investigators: No Leads On Missing Australian

SIX months after Australian student Brendan Dobbins, 25, disappeared from the northern Pacific beach town of Tamarindo, and three months after his body was discovered, police have no leads and no idea what may have happened.Forensic analysts were unable to determine the cause of death from a study of the remains, concluding only that it is Dobbins’ body, first through a dental match-up, later though a DNA test last month.Three crab hunters found Dobbins’ skeletal remains June 9. He disappeared March 4, last seen leaving a bar in Tamarindo, about three kilometers from where the remains were found.Chief forensic examiner Luis del Valle said there was little to be known from the remains because of the degree of decomposition. “THE body was mostly bones, not enough to test blood or conduct anything other than an examination of the state of the bones and the DNA test,” del Valle said. “We discarded traumas; there were no (visible) fractures or lesions caused by blunt or penetrating objects. It means that clearly he was not hit (judging by the condition of the bones). He could have been stabbed, but the possibility of a bullet is improbable.”What remained of the body was found scattered in a small area and looked as though it had been disturbed by animals, Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) detective Alvin Obando said. Leads are scarce.Two OIJ detectives in the region have conducted interviews with the people who last saw Dobbins and with others in the area, but still have no clue as to how he died.“We are investigating everything from a natural death to a homicide, an accident, a fall, an overdose… We have interviewed people who were close to him,” Obando said. However, investigators’ hands are tied legally without evidence, and they cannot detain people or turn the screws in the interrogation process, he added.“We have a lot of speculations about homicide, but they’re just that – speculations. Without a scientific base it’s complicated,” he said.IN spite of the lack of leads, he insisted the investigation is still active.“We are going to keep working. I can’t give details. It’s not easy. Things are being done – we’ll interview people again and go over the place he was found again,” he said.One problem, he said, is the lack of cooperation from the community of Tamarindo.“People don’t help because they are scared,” he said.Jorge Vallejos, a prosecutor in the nearby city of Santa Cruz, gave a different version of the investigation. He said it is still open, but police are not actively searching for information. “If something comes up, it will be investigated,” he said.As a prosecutor, he works with the OIJ, but does not head the investigation.THERE are no unresolved homicides in the province of Guanacaste, where Tamarindo and Santa Cruz are located. A young Costa Rican man disappeared two years ago from a beach in the area and has not been accounted for, but, Obando said, police suspect accidental drowning, not murder.Dobbins’ remains were flown to Australia, where they are under examination by a coroner in an attempt to determine the cause of death. That investigation is still under way, according to The Sydney Morning Herald, with no results to date.The funeral will be held Sept. 9 in the Melbourne suburb where Dobbins’ parents live.Dobbins studied construction management at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and was in the midst of a semester-long exchange program at the University of Florida when he visited Costa Rica for spring break.His father, Brian Dobbins, visited Costa Rica to help in the search effort (TT, May 6), and four Australian students who were traveling with Dobbins stayed as long as a week and a half after his disappearance to help as they could.

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