A corpse found along a dirt path in a remote town in Mexico has been confirmed to be that of Harry Devert, a US citizen who went missing in January on a road trip he planned to the World Cup in Brazil.
Last week, local police near the town of La Union located a motorcycle with a VIN number that matched Devert’s green Kawasaki. Alongside the bike was a dismembered man’s body in two plastic bags. La Union is about 40 miles from the tourist port city of Zihuatanejo in the troubled state of Guerrero.
Unspecified amounts of marijuana and cocaine were found alongside the body. Locals along Mexico's coastal regions frequently sell small amounts of these drugs to tourists.
According to Devert’s family, he was leaving a bed-and-breakfast in a small town in the state of Michoacán, near Mexico’s monarch butterfly sanctuary, before he vanished. The state border between Michoacán and Guerrero is often patrolled by citizen militias called autodefensas, often resulting in violent confrontations with local drug gangs, such as the Knights Templar.
The cartel is involved in a broad range of criminal operations, including kidnapping and extortion. And the circumstances of Devert's disappearance are still cloudy.
In his last exchanges with loved ones, Devert said he was being held up on his journey by “crazy military stuff.”
Mexican troops are active in the government’s ongoing fight against powerful cartels. However, paramilitaries or other armed groups have been known to don military-like gear in some parts of the country under their control.
“Just got an hour and a half long escort out of some area it was too dangerous for me to be,” he messaged his girlfriend, Sarah Schiear. “Apparently there's another military escort waiting for me in some other town.”
The Mexican daily Excelsior quoted two unnamed state investigators on Devert's case, who said that he was picked up by a local offshoot of the Knights Templar known as Los Guerreros. The report could not be independently confirmed.
A spokesman at the US Embassy in Mexico told VICE News on Thursday that the embassy had no information on Devert. A statement released by the Guerrero state prosecutor’s office said that local authorities sent the remains found in La Union to the national forensic service in Mexico City for analysis.
More than 20 million US citizens traveled to Mexico in 2013, according to US government data. The State Department frequently updates its travel warning on Mexico, including the region shared by Michoacán and Guerrero, where it lays out specifics on the local dangers.
“Flying into the coastal cities in southern Guerrero remains the preferred method of travel,” the State Department's warning currently states. “Travel to Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa only by air, and exercise caution while in Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa.”