TORONTO — The search for an Ottawa-area businessman missing in Mexico has come to a tragic end after his remains were found in the trunk of his charred rental car, his family said Sunday.
Daniel Dion, 51, who ran a business in the city of Acapulco that employed inmates to make bags from recycled materials, was last heard from on Oct. 22, while at a restaurant in the city.
On Friday, police in southern Mexico confirmed Dion’s rental car had been found completely burned with a corpse in the trunk, about 33 kilometres north of Chilpancingo in the state of Guerrero.
Several family members, including Dion’s brother Gaetan Dion and his nephew Shanny Bolduc, travelled to Mexico to search for the Sherbrooke, Que.-native after he stopped contacting his family and failed to board his flight home last Tuesday.
In a letter to the media, Bolduc and Gaetan Dion detailed the painstaking days of battling with Mexican officials and a car rental company in an attempt to find out what happened to Dion.
Bolduc discovered that his uncle had rented a 2010 white Jetta from Hertz, which was equipped with a GPS tracking device.
The rental car company got in contact with the GPS tracking company, and on Wednesday they confirmed the grisly discovery.
“I had trouble swallowing … and keeping my tears as Daniel’s sister and his girlfriend were in front of me waiting for news,” Bolduc wrote in the letter. It would take several days for Dion’s family to piece together what had happened.
On Friday, they travelled to the scene, a remote area covered in bush about 130 kilometres from Acapulco.
The car was destroyed.
“Our concern was with the trunk as everything in the auto had melted, the dash the windows,” wrote Bolduc. “Through the holes where the turn signal lights were we saw what seemed to be bones.” he said.
As police lowered the back seat, the family saw some remains, “vertebrates and some bones.”
Amidst the debris, they also found a burnt watch they believe to be Dion’s.
One of the vehicle’s license plates was not burned in the fire, which allowed police to identify it as Dion’s vehicle, according to Guerrero state Investigative Police director Fernando Monreal.
On Sunday, Mexican investigators would not publicly confirm that the remains were those of Dion’s.
The family had said they were frustrated by the slow pace at which Mexican authorities and Canadian consular officials were investigating the disappearance. They took matters into their own hands, retracing Dion’s steps, checking hospitals and asking the public for help.
“If I had any advice to give to anybody that has to live the nightmare that our family is going through, it’s the following: get an interpreter and work your own investigation,” the letter from Bolduc and Dion stated.
Dion had been in Mexico since September 28. He was the CEO of Mexican-based company Ecopurse, which the family said gave work to thousands of prisoners and poor people.
They also said he was an influential businessman who knew many high-level government officials, including the country’s president.
On the night Dion went missing, his family said he was carrying between US$500 and US$5,000.
The Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa said it’s aware of “new developments” regarding the case, but would not confirm any details.
Melissa Lantsman, a spokeswoman with the department, said consular officials are working with local authorities to gather additional information.
She said Foreign Affairs recommends that Canadians travelling to Mexico exercise a high degree of caution.
“Canadians travelling to the state of Guerrero, amongst others, should be particularly aware of their surroundings, monitor local news, and provide friends or family in Canada with their itinerary,” said Lantsman.
While Acapulco remains a popular getaway for foreigners, it has been hit by drug-gang violence in recent years.
Fighting between two rival factions of the crumbling Beltran Leyva drug cartel has resulted in shootouts and deaths.
Mayor Jose Luis Avila Sanchez had warned people earlier this week to stay indoors after dark — an extraordinary pronouncement for a city whose economy depends deeply on nightclubs, restaurants and bars.
Consular affairs critic, Liberal MP Dan McTeague said he would like to see very specific travel reports for Canadians.
“Canadian have to be given up-to-date information, including city specific,” said McTeague, who said he noticed Acapulco itself wasn’t on a warning list.
“It would be responsible to have particular cities and destinations mentioned.”
Canadians have been at the centre of several violent incidents in Mexico over the past several years.
Gordon Douglas Kendall and Jeffrey Ronald Ivans, were shot to death execution-style on Sept. 27, 2009 at a Puerto Vallarta condominium.
At the time, an RCMP spokesman said the service’s organized crime and gang units suspected Kendall and Ivans of being in the drug trade in British Columbia.
On Sept. 17, 2009, Renee Wathelet, 60, of Montreal was found stabbed to death in her apartment on an island off the tourist haven of Cancun. Police later arrested a 24-year-old boatman.
In 2006, Dominic and Nancy Ianiero of Woodbridge, Ont., were found dead at a five-star resort near Cancun in a case that remains unsolved.
Mexican authorities named two women from Thunder Bay, Ont., as suspects in the killings, but they were later cleared.
In January 2007, Adam DePrisco, 19, was killed outside an Acapulco nightclub.
A Mexican doctor blamed the teen’s death on a hit-and-run, but his family and friends believe he was beaten to death.
In May 2007, Jeff Toews, 34, of Grande Prairie, Alta., died from severe injuries in Cancun.
His family accused officials of covering up a brutal beating, while prosecutors claimed the man fell off a balcony at a resort.