As It Happens

Canadian woman's investigation into father's disappearance in Mexico leads to arrest 

Nearly two years after a Canadian woman launched her own investigation into her father's disappearance in Mexico, the man's former girlfriend has been arrested.

Mexican police charge woman seen on video seemingly slipping something into Malcom Madsen's drink 

Malcom Madsen, 68, a Canadian snowbird from Sutton, Ont., went missing in Mexico in October 2018 and is presumed dead. (Submitted by Brooke Mullins)

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Nearly two years after a Canadian woman launched her own investigation into her father's disappearance in Mexico, the man's former girlfriend has been arrested.

Marcela Acosta Ramos, 44, was arrested north of Mexico City on Tuesday and charged in connection with the disappearance of Malcom Madsen, according to Mexican authorities.

The arrest comes after Madsen's daughter Brooke Mullins discovered security footage from a Mexican bar that appears to show Ramos slipping something into her father's drink the night before he disappeared.

"It was definitely overwhelming," Mullins, of Port Hope, Ont., told As It Happens guest host Duncan McCue. "When my lawyer finally called and confirmed that she was, indeed, arrested, you know, there were tears of joy for sure."

Ramos was charged with "disappearance committed by individuals," used in Mexico when a missing person's fate remains unknown.

This story was first reported by Toronto Star investigative journalist Kenyon Wallace. 

Neither As It Happens nor the Star were able to reach Ramos or her lawyer for comment. In previous statements to authorities, she denied having anything to do with Madsen's disappearance and said she did not know his whereabouts. 

Rene Ortega, the district attorney in charge of the investigation, also did not respond to a request for comment from either the Star or As It Happens. 

No help from Canada or Mexico, says Mullins

Madsen — a 68-year-old Sutton, Ont., man who spent his winters in Chonchos, a small beach town near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico — hasn't been seen since October 2018. 

An Ontario court declared him dead last year at Mullins's request, she said.

Brooke Mullins, right, with her father, who is missing and presumed dead in Mexico. (Submitted by Brooke Mullins)

After he went missing, Mullins says she desperately reached out to authorities in both countries for help. Mexican police, she said, didn't take her seriously, suggesting he had perhaps "wandered off."

Canadian authorities, meanwhile, told her the investigation was under Mexican jurisdiction and there was little they could do.

"I don't feel that they've done their job at all. I honestly don't feel Canada or Mexico has been much help in my father's case," Mullins said.

In an emailed statement, Global Affairs Canada said it is "aware that a Canadian citizen is missing in Mexico" but declined to comment on specifics, citing the Privacy Act. 

"Consular services are being provided to the family in Canada. Consular officials in Mexico are in contact with local authorities to gather additional information," the statement reads. 

A daughter's quest for the truth 

Frustrated by what she perceived as inaction on the case, Mullins took matters into her own hands, spending more than $100,000 on travel expenses and private investigators to find out what happened to her father.

That investigation led her to Andale's Restaurant and Bar, a popular tourist spot in Puerto Vallarta, and the last place her father was seen.

The bar's owner allowed Mullins, her lawyer and a small group of her father's friends to review the surveillance footage from that night. It showed Madsen and Ramos, who had been dating for six years, sitting together at a table in the crowded bar. 

At one point, Madsen gets up to go to the bathroom, and Ramos is seen pulling something out of her purse. When he returns, the woman leans in close to him, blocking his view of his drink. She then appears to slip something into his drink and stir it.

The pair left the bar together in a taxi. Madsen hasn't been seen since.

  • Watch security footage from the night Malcom Madsen went missing:

Footage from the night Canadian Malcom Madsen went missing

3 years ago
Duration 0:14
Brooke Mullins recorded this video on her phone of surveillance footage from Andale's Restaurant and Bar in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. She says it shows her father Malcolm Madsen and a woman she says is his girlfriend on Oct. 28, 2018, the night he went missing. In it, the woman appears to put something in his drink.

According to the Star, Ramos reported Madsen missing five days later. She reportedly told police that she and Madsen went back to her place after having drinks at Andale's, and fell asleep. When she woke up the next morning, she said he was gone.

She also told police that the couple left Madsen's Toyota van in the garage the night he went missing, Mullins said.

But when Mullins examined data from a GPS tracker on her father's van, she found that he had travelled to several locations that night: a shopping mall early in the evening, a remote jungle-like area north of Puerto Vallerta three hours later, then a marina in the early-morning hours before finally returning to Ramos's home. 

As It Happens has seen email notifications from the GPS company Trackimo, which show Madsen's van taking several trips on the night he went missing.

Not over yet 

Mullins says she doesn't believe the arrest would have happened without her own team's diligent work on the case.

"We used a private investigator. We had local sources that also were very helpful. And we just worked, worked, worked until the point we could have local police there go in and get her at the house we knew she was living at," she said.

But the journey isn't over yet. According to the Star, a judge in Puerto Vallarta has ordered Ramos to remain in prison for up to a year while her lawyers prepare the case for the defence.

What's more, Mullins says she doesn't believe Ramos acted alone. 

A warrant has also been issued for her brother and son, according to a private email sent by Global Affairs Canada to Mullins. The pair remain at large. 

Mullins as a little girl with her father. (Submitted by Brooke Mullins)

Mullins hasn't stopped investigating, and says she believes she will make more progress soon. 

"I think I will be able ... to bring some remains home of my father to give him a proper burial back in Canada," she said.

While she's been looking for her father, Mullins says others who have missing loved ones in Mexico have reached out to her. Most do not have the finances and resources for private investigations. 

"I don't want my father's death to be in vain. I want this to maybe make a change in the way Canada deals with tourists overseas and the way Mexico deals with us as well," she said.

Global Affairs estimates that at least 385 Canadians died in Mexico in circumstances other than a natural death since 2007.

"It happens weekly and I just feel like I got this far and I kind of owe it to not only my father and my family, but I owe it to the rest of the people that have not gotten this far to see it through," Mullins said.

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Jeanne Armstrong. Interview with Brooke Mullins produced by Jeanne Armstrong.

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