A group of expats are searching along small roads, trails and in the bush of a town in Belize where a Canadian woman and her American boyfriend were reported missing, a friend said.
Joe Milholen said he was supposed to take Francesca Matus, 52, to the airport Wednesday morning to fly back to Canada. But, he said, when he arrived at her house, her car was gone and the house was locked up.
"When I went inside, her bags were by her bed, packed and ready to go," said Milholen, who is an American also living in Belize. "She left her passport and her travelling money."
He added that her companion, Drew De Voursney, 36, also left his passport in his home. His motorcycle — his only form of transportation — was parked at Matus's house.
"So whatever happened, they don't have their things to travel," Milholen said.
Matus checked in to her flight online Tuesday night, shortly before she was last seen leaving a bar, he said. But the airline reportedly confirmed that Matus never showed up.
He said Matus has homes in Belize and Canada, and lives in the Central American country five or six months a year.
"She's a great, great person," Milholen said. "She's very outgoing."
While Travel Canada suggests people "exercise a high degree of caution" throughout Belize due to high rates of violent crime, Milholen said the area of Corozal, where Matus lives, is very safe.
"The possibilities (of what happened) are endless," he said. "But I don't have an idea that I want to share publicly. I have a law enforcement background, so I know you have to keep an open mind."
Milholen said the police in Belize have put out a national bulletin in response to Matus and De Voursney's disappearance, and they're also searching for the couple.
"And we have a whole host of volunteers, mostly made up of expats, looking for them," he said. The search started Friday, and by Sunday, they'd covered the part of town where Matus lived.
He said they are planning to branching out to De Voursney's side of town Monday.
A spokeswoman for Global Affairs said they're aware that a Canadian citizen was reported missing in Belize, but she said consular officials are in contact with the family and local officials, but declined to comment further, citing privacy considerations.
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Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press