Bodies in Mexico presumed to be missing surfers have bullet wounds to head

Rescuers are seen working at a clifftop shaft where bodies believed to be those of three missing surfers were discovered (Guillermo Arias)
Rescuers are seen working at a clifftop shaft where bodies believed to be those of three missing surfers were discovered (Guillermo Arias)

Relatives of two Australians and an American who disappeared on a surfing trip arrived in Mexico Sunday to identify their presumed bodies, which were found with gunshot wounds to the head, authorities said.

Brothers Callum and Jake Robinson, and their friend Jack Carter, were believed to have been killed during a botched theft of their pick-up truck, state prosecutor Maria Elena Andrade said at a press conference.

Bodies presumed to belong to the three men "all have a hole in their head made by a firearm projectile," Andrade said, adding that the trio had previously visited Mexico several times without any problems.

Three suspects, two men and one woman, have been detained on suspicion of involvement in the case, according to prosecutors.

One of those arrested has a history of violence, drug dealing and robbery, officials said.

Investigators said earlier that the bodies, which were recovered from a cliff-top shaft in the crime-hit northwestern state of Baja California, were very likely those of the missing tourists.

The remains were in an "advanced state of decomposition," Andrade said.

But "given their clothing and certain characteristics such as long hair and specific physical descriptions, we have high probability," that the bodies are those of the three missing men, she said.

Another corpse found at the site had been there longer and was unconnected to the others, officials said.

AFP journalists saw authorities use a pulley system to extract the mud-covered bodies from the shaft on Friday near the town of Santo Thomas, about 30 miles (45 kilometers) southeast of Ensenada.

- 'Tragic loss' -

The Australian brothers' mother, Debra Robinson, had sounded the alarm on a Facebook page for Baja California tourists several days ago, after the young men dropped out of contact.

A missing poster shared on social media said Callum Robinson was 33 and his brother Jake was 30. It named their friend as Jack Carter Rhoad, aged 30.

Callum Robinson's Instagram page showed several images from the trio's Mexico trip: enjoying beers with their feet up in a bar, lazing in a jacuzzi, eating roadside tacos, looking out at the surf.

Six-foot-four (1.93 meters) Callum had played in the US Premier Lacrosse League, which left a message on its website saying the lacrosse world was "heartbroken by the tragic loss" of the trio.

Jake Robinson was a doctor in Perth, according to Australian media.

Baja California is known for its inviting beaches, and its resorts are popular with US tourists, partly because of their proximity to the border.

It is also one of Mexico's most violent states because of organized crime gangs, although cartel activity doesn't commonly affect foreign tourists.

Dozens of surfers protested in Ensenada on Sunday with messages written on their boards including "beaches, security, freedom, peace" and "no more deaths."

The latest case echoes that of two Australian surfers who were murdered and their bodies burned while traveling in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa in November 2015.

Criminal violence in Mexico has claimed 450,000 lives and led to more than 100,000 disappearances since the end of 2006, when the government launched a controversial anti-drug strategy involving the military.