What do the bones tell us?

There is still some debate on what traces were and were not found on the remains of Kris and Lisanne after they were recovered from the banks of the Changuinola.

During the writing of Lost in the Jungle we had access to the autopsy reports describing the investigation of all found remains by the Panamanian Forensic Laboratory. The autopsies were carried out by experienced forensic, anthropological and medical pathologists, and were all executed using standard international procedures. All the reports were signed by the heads of the departments: dr. Bandel, dr. Moreno, dr. Pittí (no relations) en dr. Trejos for the DNA analysis.

None of the bones showed any trace of violence. Lisannes leg bones showed signs of periostitis and traces of roots. Kris’ pelvis showed traces of roots and gnaw marks of rodents and othe small carnivores. Lisannes foot had three broken toe bones.

Another important observation is the examination of Kris’ rib, where a certain white pallor is found which, as the forensic anthropologist states, can be explained by sunlight or by the presence of phosphates in the soil. In the reports we read that ultimately no foreign matter was found on the bones. From this we can conclude that the pallor was indeed caused by sunlight. When we later showed the photos from the autopsy report to Van de Goot, he said that the bleaching was not that bad to begin with and within the expected parameters.

This tells us several things. The periostitis was found in both leg bones. Periostitis is a condition that results in inflammation of the band of tissue that surrounds your bones that is known as the periosteum. It’s caused by repetitive stress. The fact that it was found in both legbones means it was a very severe case and likely to have caused both great pain and limited mobility.

The symptoms of acute periostitis can include:

  • intense pain
  • difficulty bearing weight on the affected limb
  • pus formation
  • fever
  • chills
  • swelling of the tissue surrounding the bone

This indicates that the girls likely walked for long periods under very difficult conditions. How long cannot be determined with any precision. People with sensitive legbones, or with previous injuries, can get periostitis within a day or two. Lisanne was an avid volleyball player, which meant her legs endured a lot of stress regularly, but if this contributed to her condition remains open.

Lisanne also broke three bones in her foot. How she got this injury cannot be determined. There are several possibilities: a rock fell on it, or she fell/jumped from a great hight. The fact that she also had severe periostitis means that she would have moved akwardly, which caused her to stumble or fall and break her foot. Or alternatively, she broke her foot first, which cause her to walk akwardly, which induced the periostitis. Either way, after about two or three days, her mobility must have been severely limited.

As the symptoms listed above show, periostitis can be dangerous. Besides severe pain and limited mobility, it can lead to chills and fever and even pus formation. Combined with the broken foot it’s very unlikely she would have moved much after a period of three to five days, depending on what scenario you choose.

If she broke her foot early, let’s say early enough to be the cause of the emergency calls, the periosititis would likely come up quickly and render her practically immobile after a day or two, three at the most. Her worsening condition may have led to the decision to walk in the riverbed, which would at that time probably be easier than find their way through the jungle, which is dense and steep.

And when Lisanne finally could not go any further, the automatically ended up along the banks of the river. We deem it likely that this place was the location of the night photo’s.

The traces of roots and carnivourous animals also tell us something. For these traces to occur, the bodies must have decomposed somewhere dry, where plants and animals could get to them. Animal traces means the remains were likely scattered over a certain area as well. If they died alongside a river, a flash flood could easily have carried the bones further down the river.

It would also explain why only certain bones were found: if the remains were spread out, they were likely not washed away at the same time or maybe some of the bones were not washed away at all. They were found in the river, not on dry land, which means they were not there for very long, otherwise they would have washed away again.

All the remains were found along the banks of the same river, downstream from the second monkey bridge, where Kris’ shorts were found. This means the remains had to be located somewhere upstream from the first bridge. This is in line with the geography. All small rivers and streams eventually end up in the two larger tributaries of the Changuinola, which means that everything that is washed away by the water north of the Mirador will eventually pass the location of the remains.

The bones do not tell us how they died or if someone was involved. They do not exclude foul play. But what they do tell us is that they ended up somewhere along the banks of a river or stream and that they died there, after which their bodies remained there for long enough to decompose completely, before some of the remains and the backpack were washed away by the water.

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