‘We live in anguish’: Parents of missing Belgian woman launch appeal for help
Three months after the disappearance of Belgian woman Natacha de Crombrugghe in Peru, her parents are launching an emotional appeal for help.
The 28-year-old from Brussels has been missing since 24 January. She was last seen in the Colca valley region of Peru where she was solo-hiking while on a backpacking trip.
Her parents, Eric and Sabine, said they travelled to Peru to be on the ground throughout various parts of the search.
The couple returned to Belgium at the end of February, reassured by the ongoing mobilisation to track her down and on the advice of three Belgian police officers who spent five days there assisting with the search.
Over the weekend, they sent out a press release with an update on the overall investigation, expressing frustration with its lack of progress.
“In mid-March, the Peruvian police informed us that a new witness had come across Natacha in the canyon and had heard an earthquake and a landslide just afterwards,” her parents wrote.
“We asked them to verify the veracity of this testimony and to go to the site to find out if our daughter is buried under the earth and rocks. We live in anguish, with no update, and we have to wait for the meeting with the prosecutor and the people in charge of the case in Belgium before we can fly back to Lima.”
Parents plan their own investigation and offer reward
They said they planned to start their own parallel investigation, concerned that villagers are afraid to talk to authorities: “Everything is known in a small village, but nobody dares to speak out.”
They are also offering a reward of $15,000 and have launched a website appealing for help. It provides people with the option of testifying anonymously.
Over 70 volunteers and authorities have searched more than 496 kms for de Crombrugghe since she went missing, without any substantial breakthroughs. The search was abandoned in March after the rainy season and an earthquake made it difficult to traverse the canyons where she was thought to be hiking.
‘She may still be alive, trapped somewhere’
Her parents are critical of the decision to stop actively looking for their daughter, and what they describe as a series of excuses to postpone the resumption of the search or take advantage of drone technology. They also questioned whether De Crombrugghe could still be alive.
“The police are waiting for the corn harvest, the river to recede and Natacha's body to be found before continuing the judicial investigation, yet everyone, including the police, thinks that something happened at the hotel or in Cabanaconde. She may still be alive, trapped somewhere.”
They said they were physically and emotionally exhausted.
“The only information we get is from shamans, mediums and other psychics who either see her dead or alive and each time in a different place,” the couple wrote.
“We are still at the starting point and we are going round in circles. We expect the authorities to take the investigation seriously and answer all our questions. Natacha is out there, we can't abandon her. We need to know what happened and find her.”
De Crombrugghe’s friends and family are organising a march on 22 May at Boitsfort racecourse in Brussels to raise money and awareness of her ongoing disappearance.