A University of British Columbia student who once lived in Montreal was found stabbed and strangled with her hands tied behind her back near a Mexican beach, in a slaying local news media say may be linked to organized crime.

Ximena Osegueda, 39, a Mexican national who had become a Canadian citizen, was working on her doctorate in Hispanic studies in the town of Huatulco, about 500 kilometres southeast of Mexico City, when she went missing on Dec. 13.

Osegueda's mother said her son found his sister's body last week in the bushes near a Huatulco beach.

"Her hands were tied behind her back," her mother told CBC News on Thursday.

"She tried to defend herself. She was quite a warrior. They just stabbed her in the jugular."

The body of Osegueda's partner, Alejandro Alvarado, was found with her.

Osegueda's family members who live in Mexico first became concerned when they were unable to reach her for several days.

They pleaded for information about her disappearance on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

No ransom call

Oseguedo's friend, Elisa Lipkau, said her family thought she may have been kidnapped, but there was no ransom demand.

Huatulco is considered a dangerous area, known for drug trafficking, said Lipkau, interviewed in Mexico City.

"Definitely, in the last few years, we've received notices of people dying, civilians that have nothing to do with the narco traffic," Lipkau said.

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According to Mexican media reports, the beach was being used as a burial site for victims of organized crime. Osegueda's  mother said her daughter had nothing to do with drug gangs, but did frequent the beach, as did many locals.

Family and friends have no idea why she was targeted.

Osegueda studied and worked as a teaching assistant at the University of British Columbia in French, Italian and Hispanic studies.

She was doing her PhD on colonial Latin American literature, with a focus on Mexico. Her previous degrees were from McGill University in Montreal.

No obvious motive

Police are investigating several possible theories as to a motive in the killings, including robbery and assault, or a personal vendetta.

There are no reports of arrests.

UBC is doing what it can to help Osegueda's grieving friends, said university spokeswoman Lucie McNeill.

"Of course, this is upsetting for anyone who heard the news who knew Ximena at UBC," McNeill said. "The university puts itself at the service of our students and faculty, people who were part of her community, to support them through this."

News of Osegueda's slaying comes just days after the killing of Saltspring Island, B.C., resident Robin Wood in the Mexican town of Melaque.

Wood was reportedly killed after interrupting thieves who had broken into a condo where he was staying.

With files from the CBC's Leah Hendry and Emily Elias