Sunday, January 29, 2023

Prime suspect in disappearance of Canadian snowbird wants to cut deal, new film reveals


A new documentary delving into the disappearance of Canadian snowbird Malcom Madsen in Mexico four years ago reveals that the primary suspect in the case is willing to cut a deal with prosecutors in exchange for information about the location of the Ontario man’s body.

The offer to shed light on the whereabouts of the remains of Madsen, a retired real estate agent and jeweller from Sutton, Ont., comes from his former girlfriend Marcela Acosta Ramos, and contradicts her earlier statements to police that she had no idea about what happened to the 68-year-old Canadian.

That revelation is one of several in “Malcom is Missing,” a documentary by filmmakers Robert and Jari Osborne chronicling the efforts of Madsen’s daughter Brooke Mullins to find out what happened to her father and obtain justice. The film airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on CBC’s Documentary Channel.

Mullins, who lives in Port Hope, Ont., is seen on a heart-rending and arduous journey to force indifferent Mexican authorities to act on evidence, which she uncovers through her own investigative work, pointing to who might be responsible for her father’s disappearance. With the help of a trusted team of friends, private investigators, local informants and a lawyer, Mullins appears to achieve the impossible when her work leads to the arrest of three people implicated in the case.

The film also explores Mullins’ complicated relationship with her father, who left when she was just a baby and came in and out of her life as she grew up.

“I don’t think I ever fully got what I wanted before he passed away,” Mullins says in the film. “But I’m sure he knew I loved him. I stood in my very kitchen and said ‘Dad, I love you,’ and he had wept.”

Malcom Madsen, a Canadian snowbird who disappeared in Mexico in October 2018, is pictured here with his daughter, Brooke Mullins.

Co-director Jari Osborne said she was constantly amazed by the length Mullins went to get to the bottom of the mystery.

“What certainly touched me most was her desire to repair her relationship with her father … I always felt for me that was the beating heart of the piece,” she said.

The film comes after a 2019 Star investigation that examined the circumstances of Madsen’s disappearance from the Mexican resort town of Puerto Vallarta on Oct. 28, 2018.

After Madsen disappeared, his former girlfriend Ramos told local investigators that she and Madsen had a few drinks shortly after midnight at Andale’s Restaurant and Bar, a popular tourist hangout, before returning immediately by taxi to the home Madsen had bought in town. The next day, Ramos said, Madsen packed up his things and headed for his beachside treehouse a few hours south of the city. Five days later, she reported him missing.

The Star’s investigation published security-camera footage recorded from Andale’s — footage Mullins recovered herself without police help — that shows Madsen and Ramos sitting at a table next to a dance floor. Shortly after midnight, Madsen goes to the washroom, at which point Ramos takes what appears to be a white pill or powder from her handbag, cradling in it her hand.

When Madsen returns, he sits down and leans in close to Ramos to speak into her ear; at that moment, Ramos appears to sprinkle the substance she is holding into Madsen’s glass. Over the course of the next 25 minutes, Madsen can be seen taking several sips of his drink. The couple then gets up and leaves, and no one has heard from Madsen since.

When she couldn’t get in touch with her father, Mullins immediately flew to Mexico; so began her search for truth and justice that brought her into conflict with what the documentary portrays as a corrupt and thoroughly uninterested team of local investigators.

Not only did Mullins recover the bar security-camera footage that suggested her father might have been drugged, but she also uncovered GPS data from a device Madsen had installed on his Toyota van that showed where the vehicle travelled on the night he went missing. That GPS data contradicted Ramos’s statements to investigators that the van never left the garage that night.

Information in the new documentary links that GPS data to phone records of the three suspects and places them in the vicinity of the van as it travelled to a jungle area north of Puerto Vallarta between 12:45 a.m. and 2 a.m. that night.

“It’s huge, considering in her first statement Marcela claimed they went straight home — that she went home and went to bed. So why is her phone travelling somewhere on the same path as my father’s vehicle?” Mullins says in the film.

“Malcom is Missing” co-director Robert Osborne notes that with all the evidence Mullins collected, including the video from the bar, the GPS data, and the phone records, it would be hard to build a more compelling case.

Finally, in July 2020, Ramos was arrested and charged with “disappearance committed by individuals,” a charge used when the fate of a missing person is not known. Later, her brother, Martin Alejandro Acosta Ramos, and her son, Andres Javier Romero Acosta, were also arrested and face the same charge. No trial date has been set and none of the allegations have been proven in court.

In her previous statements to investigators, Ramos has said she has done no wrong. The Star’s attempts to reach Ramos, her brother and son through their lawyer have been unsuccessful.

In the documentary, viewers learn that Ramos’s offer to Mexican prosecutors to provide information about where Madsen’s body is came with the condition that any incarceration she faces be no longer than eight years, instead of more than 25 years. She also wants the same deal for her son Andres.

“In many legal systems, that would be a confession,” said Robert Osborne. “But because Mexico has got such a big problem with disappeared people that they created this loophole to try and get the bodies back to the people who lost them. And the loophole is that if you reach out to create such an agreement, just the fact that you’ve reached out is not considered a confession.”

The documentary notes that more than 100,000 people are officially registered as “disappeared” in Mexico and that 95 per cent of all violent crimes in that country go unpunished.


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The Editor

The Editor

I am the Co-Publisher of "The Native Press".