As suspects in snowbird’s disappearance face trial at last, his daughter says Canadian agency failed to help

As suspects in snowbird’s disappearance face trial at last, his daughter says Canadian agency failed to help

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More than four years after Canadian snowbird Malcom Madsen went missing in Mexico, the three suspects accused of orchestrating his disappearance, including his former Mexican girlfriend, will stand trial this week.

Marcela Acosta Ramos, 48, along with her son Andres Javier Romero Acosta and brother Martin Alejandro Acosta Ramos, are charged with a “disappearance committed by individuals,” used when the fate of a missing person is unknown.

Prosecutors in Puerto Vallarta, where the trial is to begin Monday, are seeking a prison sentence of between 25 and 50 years for Acosta and her alleged accomplices, and are planning to present the court with some 100 pieces of evidence, according to local media reports.

“It feels surreal. I’ve experienced a lot of highs and lows during the past four years,” said Madsen’s daughter Brook Mullins, who has conducted her own investigation into his disappearance and pushing Mexican authorities to do more to find out what happened. “I have had moments of hope that brutally collapsed while searching for my dad. Regarding the trial, I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Mullins will appear as a witness for the prosecution during the trial, expected to last a week.

Madsen, a jeweller and retired real estate agent from Sutton, Ont., went missing on Oct. 28, 2018, after going out for drinks with Acosta at a popular Puerto Vallarta tourist hangout called Andale’s Restaurant and Bar.

Shortly after Madsen’s disappearance, Mullins rushed to Mexico from her home in Port Hope, Ont., when she stopped hearing from her father. So began Mullins’s four-year mission to solve the mystery of his disappearance — a saga that has led to disturbing revelations about the lack of a competent police investigation, an absence of support from Global Affairs Canada, and a recent documentary film chronicling her search for answers.

It was during Mullins’ initial visit to Puerto Vallarta shortly after she stopped hearing from her father that she — not the police — recovered security video footage captured at Andale’s bar that night.

The footage shows Madsen and Acosta sitting at a table just after midnight sipping drinks. When Madsen gets up to go to the washroom, Ramos can be seen looking around and pulling what appears to be a white pill or powder from her purse. She cradles the substance in her left hand beneath the table until Madsen gets back. When he sits down, he leans in close to speak into Ramos’s ear and loses the sightline to his drink. At this moment, Ramos lifts her left hand from beneath the table and appears to sprinkle the substance she was holding into Madsen’s drink. He then takes several more sips before the couple gets up to leave.

As they leave the bar, Madsen, instead of walking normally, appears to shuffle, seemingly off balance. The couple then gets into a waiting cab. Madsen, 68 at the time, hasn’t been heard from since.

Ramos has told investigators she is innocent and that after she and Madsen left the bar, they returned home to the house he had bought for her and went to bed. She claims that in the morning, Madsen packed up his things and left for his beachside tree house a few hours south of the city. She reported him missing five days later.

Evidence collected by Mullins during the course of her own investigation, for which she hired her own lawyers and private investigators, revealed several inconsistencies in Ramos’ testimony.

For instance, Ramos told police that Madsen’s van had sat in the garage for the whole night. Yet a GPS tracking device, which he installed on the van unbeknownst to Ramos, showed that the vehicle travelled across town to four locations during the night, including to a junglelike area and a marina.

Ramos also told investigators that she and Madsen immediately returned home after leaving Andale’s, but a statement to the Jalisco state prosecutor’s office by the taxi driver that picked them up contradicts this assertion. According to an official document obtained by the Star, taxi driver Jose Guadalupe Ochoa Garcia told investigators he did not take Madsen and Ramos home, but rather, dropped them off at another bar, Mandala. During the drive, the document states, Ramos would communicate on the phone with her son Andres, who would immediately communicate with his uncle and Ramos’ brother Martin.

Messages sent by the Star to Ramos’ email account seeking comment for this story bounced back, while neither the district attorney in charge of the case nor a lawyer representing Martin responded to an interview request by press time.

In the immediate period following Madsen’s disappearance, local authorities seemed to take little interest. Investigators failed to take basic steps, such as retracing the van’s route on the night Madsen went missing, dusting the vehicle for fingerprints, conducting luminol tests for blood traces, or searching the house. Some of these steps were completed only after Mullins’ lawyer filed motions with the Jalisco attorney general.

In April 2022, local authorities began a ground search of a forested area of Puerto Vallarta, a joint operation between several agencies that found nothing related to Madsen, but did recover the remains of several others.

Support from Global Affairs Canada has also been lacking, says Mullins, who has asked the agency on numerous occasions for information about her father’s case and for help in pressuring local authorities to act.

A week ago, Mullins asked Global Affairs if they could provide a translator for her during the upcoming trial. The government agency told her it is the responsibility of the Mexican courts to provide translation services but that she can hire her own if she wishes.

A Global Affairs spokesperson told the Star that the agency is aware that a Canadian citizen is missing in Mexico and that “consular services are being provided to the family in Canada.”

“Consular officials in Mexico remain in contact with local authorities to gather additional information. Due to privacy considerations, no further information can be disclosed,” the spokesperson said, adding that Global Affairs “is committed to providing effective and efficient consular service to Canadians around the world.”

Mullins says she feels abandoned by the agency.

“If you can’t help provide a translator, what is it that you do there?” Mullins says, noting her frustration with Global Affairs has made her “sick my stomach.”

“I shouldn’t have allowed it to get to me as much as I did, but it’s just like a constant betrayal and letdown.”

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