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ARGENTINA | 20-12-2018 13:45

Two arrested in Salta province for suspected homicide of missing French tourist

Two brothers in custody over disappearance of French citizen Mathieu Martin, a 32-year-old backpacker, has been missing since August 8. His body has not been found.

Prosecutors in Salta have ordered the arrest of two brothers, after confirming on Wednesday that they suspect a French tourist, who has been missing since August in the province, was the victim of a homicide.

"There are indications to support the hypothesis of a crime of homicide, which has been attributed to two men who have been arrested," said prosecutor Ramiro Ossorio, during a press conference in Salta, about 1,600 kilometres north of Buenos Aires, the nation's capital.

Despite the arrests, the body of French citizen Mathieu Martin has not been found. 

Martin, a 32-year-old backpacker and globetrotter, has been missing since August 8, earlier this year. He last seen travelling on foot in the region, hiking toward Iruya, a small town with a population of just over 1,000 people that sits around 2,700 metres above sea level and is popular with tourists.

The suspects were named in local media as two brothers, Juan and Froilán Cuevas, aged 39 and 41 respectively. The two, from Iruya, have been accused of homicide.

"Martin would have gone astray and [it is believed he] arrived at the house of the detainees in a mountain area called Huacamola," said Ossorio, suggesting the murder may have been part of a botched attempt to rob Martin.

A source in the prosecutor's office told the AFP news agency that the indictment "is based on a testimony from a sister of the detainees."

The source said the duo had been identified locally as "alcoholics and troublemakers." 

"The Cuevos [brothers] admit to having seen Martin," Ossorio said. "We can estimate that his disappearance is associated with his death."

"The body has not been found," he added, "but the search continues in the area."

Martin's movements

The backpacker is known to have set off from Tilcara, a city in the neighbouring Jujuy province that's well known to tourists for its proximity to the ruins of an Incan fortress. He did not have a mobile phone or GPS device, prosecutors told AFP.

Martin "communicated with a certain regularity with friends and relatives, who have already been informed" of developments in the case, the source added, confirming that suspicions that he had suffered a fatal accident or been the victim of a crime grew "when he stopped communicating."

The Frenchman was headed for Iruya, a small town nestled on a hillside of a mountain range, which receives thousands of visitors each year despite its relatively low population.

"Witnesss testimony indicates Martin was seen camping in Huacamola and even in neighbouring Islas de Cañas and Volcán Higueras," according to the source.

The search area for Martin's body is located about 300 kiolmetres north of the city of Salta, the capital of the province.

- TIMES/AFP

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