San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

A daughter’s search goes on in Costa Rica

From the print edition

Céline Roussel came to Costa Rica this month to try to understand the last moments of her parents’ lives before they disappeared on the central Pacific coast. After hosting a press conference with her family and lawyer in San José on March 22, the group traveled to the Pacific before returning to France on Wednesday. 

The family’s lawyer, Nathalie Valade, answered questions from The Tico Times via an interpreter about the visit to Costa Rica, and what the trip meant to a daughter still looking for answers.

Roussel’s parents, Claude and Gerard Dubois, disappeared near the central Pacific beach town of Manuel Antonio on March 31, 2011.

For the missing couple’s daughter, last week’s journey included meetings with investigators working on the case and a trip to Tamarindo, a beach town in the northwestern province of Guanacaste. 

“It was especially important for Mrs. Roussel to see the last place where her parents were happy,” Valade said. 

The lawyer, based in Angers, France, said she could not reveal details of her discussions with police in Costa Rica. However, Valade said she feels the investigation is making progress, and that the family “trusts the Costa Rican authorities to keep going.”

The family expressed skepticism about Costa Rican investigators’ efforts last summer after police first declared the case a likely accidental drowning, despite evidence indicating an attack on the Dubois.

The missing couple, both 65 and retired at the time of the incident, vanished after leaving Manuel Antonio in their rented Daihatsu Terios. The car was found on a bridge over the Naranjo River on the highway between Quepos and Dominical (TT, March 19, Jan. 13, 2012, July 4, April 4, 2011). 

The windows of the vehicle had been broken, and the Dubois’ bags were found alongside the river, empty of possessions. Purchases were made with the couple’s credit card until April 7.

Valade also praised the French ambassador to Costa Rica for his attentiveness to the case. Valade said Ambassador Fabrice Delloye “has followed the case file closely from the very beginning” and played “an important role” in coordinating this month’s meeting between the party from France and Costa Rican investigators.

French authorities opened a judicial investigation last summer in the city of Meaux “for abduction and kidnapping.” 

“I want to explain to my daughter what happened to her grandparents,” Roussel said at a press conference at the ambassador’s residence last week (TT, March 23).

At the press conference, Delloye said French police would be coming to Costa Rica in upcoming months to review the evidence. However, Valade said that plan is not confirmed.

Other cases involving missing persons in Costa Rica have run into obstacles when trying to bring foreign investigators to the country, specifically in the case of Michael Dixon. 

On Oct. 18, 2009, U.K. citizen Michael Dixon disappeared after leaving his hotel room in Tamarindo, on the northern Pacific coast. The British government expressed willingness to review the details of the case with Costa Rican authorities, but said U.K. detectives cannot join the investigation without a formal invitation. The government stated it has never received that invite.

“We’re hoping that the investigation will give us the possibility to find the corpses, to do a proper burial and for Mrs. Roussel to have a real place where she can mourn,” Valade said. “It has not been ruled out that the French police will [come to Costa Rica] since they collaborated with [local] police from the very beginning, for example, by questioning Celine Roussel about her parents to help the Costa Rican police investigate. But it’s not planned either.”

If you have any information about the Dubois, the French Embassy urges calling the Judicial Investigation Police in Quepos at 2777-0511.

Translator Scarlett Menoud contributed to this story.

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