Missing British canoeist may have been ‘snatched by pirates’

Brazilian police say adventurer disappeared in notorious drug trafficking area

(Image credit: Twitter)

A British adventurer who was canoeing alone in the Amazon may have been “snatched by pirates”, say Brazilian police.

The disappearance of the woman, who is understood to be a former headteacher, “has prompted the Brazilian authorities to deploy more than 60 personnel including the navy, who were using divers and helicopters to help with a widespread search and to monitor other vessels in the region,” say The Times.

The canoeist, who has not been named at the request of the British consulate, disappeared last week while canoeing through a stretch of river “which is part of a drugs trafficking route and known for frequent pirate attacks,” says the Daily Telegraph.

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Her canoe and belongings were later found on sandbanks on the side of the Solimoes River in Brazil’s northern jungle state of Amazonas.

Police said the canoeist came into difficulty last week when she activated an emergency locator device when she was between the towns of Codajas and Coari, 150 miles west of Manaus.

“There are various lines of inquiry,” said Ivo Martins, the police chief leading the investigation in the state capital Manaus. “She could have been killed by drug traffickers, or attacked by pirates, but she could also have been attacked by an animal, or just got lost.”

Martins indicated the investigation had found “consistent information” from local eye witnesses about the circumstances surrounding the canoeist’s disappearance.

He refused to disclose details of the investigation but said police were working with the possibility the woman is still alive.

He added that the search efforts will continue until “all possibilities of finding the English woman have been exhausted”.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We are supporting the family of a British woman who has been reported missing in Brazil, and are in contact with the Brazilian navy.”

The state’s previous civil police chief, Thyago Garcez, disappeared in December in “almost exactly the same remote stretch of the Solimoes river after an incident involving drug traffickers. His body has never been found,” says the Telegraph.

The Times reports that the woman, a graduate who lived in London before leaving her job, had taken lesssons in canoeing and self-defence in preparation for her adventure. In a blog written before she left, she said: “I have had folks, friends and strangers telling me not to do it, it’s stupid, it’s too dangerous... and I will die.”

She posted regularly on social media, and “had written that she had encountered men with rifles and arrows”, adds the paper.

Three days before she disappeared, she posted: “So in or near Coari (100km away) I will have my boat stolen and I will be killed too. Nice.”

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