Recensie NRC

Het NRC gebruikt vandaag het woord “imponerend” bij de bespreking van Verloren in de jungle. Tevens ben ik blij aan te mogen kondigen dat de uitgever inmiddels een tweede druk in gang heeft gezet! Goede tijden!

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Human Condition

I have been thinking about the way we as human society have responded to this Pandemic thing. I must admit feeling rather disappointed how we managed not to do a fairly simple thing as a short lockdown – which means, staying inside for a short while to protect ourselves but also others – resulting in a drawn-out sort of lockdown with a curfew at night. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to find out the human condition apparently is one of selfishness and boorish behaviour.

Another surprise was how people responded to the extremely rare side effects of some of the vaccines, which are a lot safer than most of the medication we routinely take and a whole lot safer than drinking alcohol or smoking. Maybe it has to do with fear. That’s what this guy says. A plausible story and at least something to make one stop and think – which is always a good thing.

“Security Junkie Syndrome”. The addiction to fear. We have become afraid of everything: of risk, of death, of disease, of disappointment. Even the 1-in-a-million chance of side effects with a certain vaccine, safer than cholesterol medication or birth control, is too much for us to consider, even when it’s one-in-a-million for you, but 95% protection from infection for somebody else. If you decide not to be vaccinated, at least have a better reason.

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Verloren in de jungle in Algemeen Dagblad

Vandaag verscheen er een groot stuk over Kris en Lisanne alsook een interview met mij en Marja in de bijlage van het Algemeen Dagblad.

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Survival myths

One of the things that I have learned from writing about the Kris and Lisanne case is how important it is to be well prepared when you go out in the jungle, or any type of wild country. When we were talking to several survival specialists, one thing came up several time: there are a lot of things people think to know about surviving in nature that are simple not true. Like “if you follow a river, you will always end up in civilisation”. Which is, as the kris and Lisanne case proves, not true, more often than not. Same thing goed for the saying “moss always grows on the northern side of the tree”. Which is true most of the time (since usually the north side of a tree gets the least amount of sunshine), but not all of the time. Watch this video for a few more great tips. It’s one of my favorite channels, too.

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Details, details

Kris’ earrings

One final blog this week, to show how much data we processed while writing the book – and how much we had to leave out. I might do some more next week, but you can always buy the book. It will be out in English translation in a few weeks.

There are plenty of details to see on the photographs that helped us build our case in the book. I’m not going to repeat our scenario’s here, you’d best read the book for that. But there are things that we took into account that we couldn’t fit in the book – details so small they would only confuse the casual reader, but would be of considerable interest to someone familiar with the case.

I already mentioned the shoes, shadows and shoelaces in Image 0489. Similar things can be learned from Image 0486, a selfie with Kris and Lisanne early in their hike on the Pianista path. Smiling faces on this picture, too. They were having a good time.

The high quality of the images we have made it possible to zoom in considerably. As seen in the book, we could zoom in on the sunglasses, to see if we could perhaps see a third person in the reflection and if we could determine if the girls took the picture themselves.

As you can see, we can safely say: yes, they took the picture themselves. In this case, it was Kris who took the picture. On the detailed image you can see her outstretched hand and the camera she is holding. In the book, we included an image of the Powershot in her hand, to show how she is holding it.

We can see exactly the same arm in exactly the same pose reflected in Lisanne’s glasses. There is also no other person visible in this picture, not in front of them and not behind them. They were alone at that point.

She is holding the camera with her right hand and on her wrist we can see traces of an armband of some sort she is wearing on her wrist. On Image 501 we can see this is probably a hair elastic.

Another detail we can see on this pictures are the earrings Kris is wearing: two on the right (a silver one and a black one) and one on the left (a silver one). This means that the fact that on some pictures she seems to be wearing a black earring while on others it’s silver, does not mean, as some have suggested, that there was a perpetrator mixing photo’s from another day to somehow construct the Pianista hike.

Lisanne’s glasses
Kris’ glasses

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Shadows and shoes

Time to take a look at a picture thet is rarely mentioned when discussing Kris and Lisanne’s Pianista Hike, photo 0489. Yet much can be gleaned from it. It’s possible to pinpoint both direction and location from the photo and because of the shadows Kris casts on this photo, also about the exact time the photo was taken.

I always liked this photo, for some reason. First of all, she looks pretty happy on it and not tired in the least It also shows the beauty of the surroundings – the great view of the valley you can see behind her (not visible on this cut I made).

We can also clearly see the shadow she is casting. The sun is high in the sky, almost at its zenith, and is located somewhere behind her right shoulder. The length of the shadow is very short and indicates a time shortly before noon, somewhere between 11:30 and 11:50 am.

A closer look at her shoes reveals they are brown, wuth grey-ish laces, tied in an unruly not on both shoes. There are small metal shoelace eyelets. The rucksack carrying bands have a tartan print.

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Official time stamps daytime photo’s

Most of this information is already known to many, but still, there might be some value in analyzing the time stamps of the day time photo’s, as reported in the official investigation. We have verified the images and image numbers as the exact order they were found on the camera. This is the listing as found in the earliest reports, and we could not detect any mismatches between the Panamanian and the Dutch NFI investigation.

Photo 476 is the first one taken on the Pianista Trail, photo 508 is the last one of the daytime photo’s, the picture of Kris crossing the Quebrada.

There is no mention anywhere of a supposed second photo 508, which I come across once in a while. The list shown here is as the police found the photo’s on the memory card.

We offer a detailed analysis of this in our book. While many pictures seem to have been taken very, very fast, if you analyze the photo’s and place them in the right order, there is nothing impossible about the speed with which the photo’s were taken. They eveidently were of the “click and shoot” kind.

This behavior is consistent with the theory that thet just intended to walk up to admire the view and then go back down again, as a good way to fill a sunny free day and had no real interest in the flora and fauna. So, they did not feel the need for lots of photo’s and extensive stops along the way.

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An analysis of photo #505

Image 505 has generated some controversy throughout the years. Based on low quality images people tended to see all kinds of things, from Kris having her hands tied behind her back to people hiding in the vegetation. As we show in our book, there’s nothing wrong with Kris in this picture. She is bending down and turning slightly towards the camera, sticking her tongue out and making a mock salute.

We already knew the location of the photo can be found beyond the Mirador; several video’s made by hikers confirm it, as did some of the locals we spoke to.

Behind Kris, hidden in the shadows, the path bends sharply to the left in a downwards angle. But now I’ve found a nice video where it’s actually demonstrated with some compelling evidence, including a plausible explanation of Kris’ rather strange stance in the picture: since the path is going down and is overgrown with vegetation, it functions as a tunnel and she needs to bend down slightly to be able to see Lisanne, who likely called out to her to have her picture taken. Find the video here.

After studying the high res image, it also becomes clear there are no cables crossing above the path, just stems of plants. The sunlight creates deep shadow, which obscures a lot of detail and can misdirect the eye.

As the aforementioned video shows, the rock which “hides” Kris’ feet is a real rock, one she likely just stepped over before Lisanne called out to her to take the picture.

As far as we are concerned, there can be no doubt that the photo is in the right sequence, meaning that it falls between the Mirador and the Quebrada photo’s. But there’s more.

Several other details can be seen in the high res image. One of the mysteries (for me as well, in the early days), was the blue splash of color seen in the foreground. This turns out to be noting more then litter, an empty blue package of some sort. Maybe a crisp package or a drink carton. Sadly, the bright sunshine obscures most of the details.

I find it implausible to think Kris or Lisanne left it there, so it’s likely something thrown away by another hiker or a local.

We have also studied Kris stanbce in depth. As mentioned above, it’s clear to see she is bending forward, while doing a part turn, closing her eyes against the sun and either making a salute or placing her hand behind her ear to act as if she did not hear Lisanne call her.

Looking at it again now, I think there is a third option: she is shielding her eyes against the sun. In her pocket she carries the small water bottle with the yellow-and-white cap we also see in other photo’s.

There is no-one behind her. I think we can safely say she looks cheerful and happy, playful even.

Rest assured, we and our Photoshop specialist studied this image inch by inch. We did not see anything out of the ordinary. Therefore we can conclude with certainty this photo was not manipulated. Kris does not indicate any signs of stress that indicates she is being forced to act cheerful either, so no third parties were involved in taking this picture.

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More blogs to come (English)

Since the case of Kris and Lisanne is drawing an international audience, I will occasionally switch to English. There are several blogs with more information about the case itself forthcoming in the next week or so. In the meantime, questions can be addressed to Marja and me. My address is on my info page.

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RTL Boulevard en de mysterieuze recensie

De bespreking in RTL Boulevard van Verloren in de jungle was ronduit bizar. Het boek zelf werd positief ontvangen, het onderzoek werd “degelijk” genoemd en het interview met Betzaïda Pittí was mooi. Maar aan het eind van het stuk vroeg John van den Heuvel zich af waarom het boek geschreven was, want “het biedt geen troost”. Die laatste opmerking begreep ik niet en getuige de vele reacties die Marja en ik kregen waren we niet de enigen.

Betzaïda had in haar interview al uitgelegd waarom we het boek schreven: omdat we wilden laten zien wat er écht gebeurd was. En hiervoor hebben we alle feiten tegen het licht gehouden, waarbij we gebruik maakten van officiële bronnen. We wilden de zaak uit de mediahype trekken waarin het zich al 7 jaar bevindt.

Verloren in de Jungle is “true crime”. Het behoort tot een genre boeken waarin een bepaalde zaak volledig wordt beschreven, zo objectief mogelijk en gebruik makend van alle bekende feiten. Een true crime laat zien wat er gebeurt is en trekt conclusies waar dat kan en laat in het midden wat niet door feiten gestaafd kan worden. Speculatie mag, maar alleen onderbouwt. Een true crime laat zien hoe een zaak in elkaar steekt, zoals een krantenartikel over een moord laat zien wat er gebeurd is.

En dat weet John van den Heuvel ook. Hij is een ervaren misdaadverslaggever, die zelf ook boeken heeft geschreven, ook behorend tot het true crime genre. Hij weet dat dit soort boeken niet geschreven worden met het doel “troost te bieden”, maar juist om inzicht te verschaffen. En daarom hebben we het boek geschreven: om meer inzicht te bieden in een zaak die ernstig te lijden heeft gehad onder desinformatie en valse feiten.

Hij vond het blijkbaar ook een probleem dat we de namen van Kris en Lisanne hebben gebruikt op het achterplat van het boek – op het achterplat! We hebben de namen niet gebruikt op het voorplat, mede op verzoek van de families. Maar waarom zouden we ze dan niet op het achterplat mogen vermelden? Laat hij de namen weg van zijn boeken en artikelen van de slachtoffers van de misdrijven waar hij over schrijft?

Kortom, het was een zeer vreemde en onbegrijpelijke recensie van ons boek. We vragen ons dan ook af of hij het boek wel helemaal gelezen heeft, want wie ons eindhoofdstuk leest weet precies wat we wilden doen en wat onze conclusies waren.

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