Dean Lucas and Adam Coleman — the two Aussie surfers found murdered in Sinaloa last fall – lived every travelers worst nightmare: they wound up murdered thousands of miles from home and anyone they knew.
The only thing that seemed to make sense about the senseless crime was that the police mobilized and captured Lucas and Coleman’s murderers. At least they wanted the world to think so, according to a new story in Men’s Journal. The piece details the months that led up to the discovery of their burned out 1992 Chevy Van and their charred remains, and the events that followed.
It alleges that the police version of what happened was fabricated to satiate the media and cannot be believed. The official story was that a pair of cousins, surname Muniz, and a third person acting as lookout approached the surfers on a stretch of road dubbed the “Highway of Death.” The trio is said to have placed police lights on top of their Jeep Cherokee and pulled the Aussies over. During the robbery, Coleman briefly escaped and unsuccessfully fought his captors, one of whom shot him. Lucas was killed later, and their van burned.
According to MJ:
It was a tidy description of events. But nearly as soon as the arrests were announced, the case against the men began to unravel. The Muñiz cousins’ parents filed a complaint with the Sinaloa State Commission on Human Rights, alleging that authorities had coerced the confessions after beatings and death threats. ‘They were pouring water down my nose and mouth,’ Martín says now, in a meeting room at Sinaloa’s state penitentiary, pantomiming the hand of a police officer pulling his shirt over his head to waterboard him.
Martín says that plainclothes police came first for him, to his sister’s house in Culiacán, where he was staying. “I was asleep. They were hurting my sister, hurting me, wanting me to say where Julio lived,” he says. “That stuff was planted on us — uniforms, guns, all of it. We weren’t involved.”
The cousins’ defense attorney, Francisco Fierro Verdugo, says the coercion is not surprising. The attorney general’s office was receiving massive amounts of bad publicity for the murders. “It is safe to presume there was a lot of national and international pressure to find the persons who committed these homicides,” says Verdugo. “The arrests relieved that pressure.”
Javier Valdez Cárdenas, the editor of the Sinaloan newspaper Ríodoce, is familiar with the government’s description of the events and the upcoming trial. Valdez has been a journalist in Sinaloa for two decades, and he is an entrenched skeptic. “The story sounds really good,” he says of the Coleman and Lucas case. “That’s why you have to distrust every word.”
Lucas and Coleman’s story hit close to home for anyone who has ventured to dangerous places in pursuit of adventure. Or wanted to. Over the last decade, they had ticked off an enviable list of surf destinations: South Africa, Sri Lanka, Iceland, India, and multiple jaunts to Mexico.
Aside from traveling to one of the most dangerous countries on earth, it seemed they made only one mistake: Driving at night on the Benito Juárez Toll Road, ominously known as he Highway of Death. The author of the MJ article, Jason McGahan, also suggests the Aussies didn’t know the real danger of the toll road — six travelers have been murdered on the same stretch in only the past two years.
A delayed ferry put the surfers, both traveling to meet up with their respective girlfriends, behind schedule. In fact, One of Lucas’ final acts was asking a friend to get his girlfriend flowers and red Lindt chocolates because it looked like he wouldn’t make it on time to their three-year anniversary.
As surfers, there isn’t much we can do now but try to learn from Lucas and Coleman’s misfortune. And also their bravery — after all, they were living the dream until they weren’t. For those who knew and loved them, justice, if it ever comes, is unlikely in Mexico’s current state.
Lucas’ girlfriend, Josie Cox, has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Peace and Share the Stoke, two charities that work to improve health, education and economics in Mexico.