Natacha's trip to Peru
From 1st to 22 January 2022
23 and 24 January 2022
Alert and first searches
From 2 to 6 February 2022
Parents go to Peru
From 5 to 27 February 2022
Parents return to Belgium
From 27 February to 3 April 2022
From 4 April to 20 July 2022
Steps to a new investigation
From 23 May to 20 July
New investigation by the Dirincri Homicide of Lima
From 15 June to 5 October
Return of the parents to Peru and discovery of Natacha's body
From 11 September to 10 October
From 21 November 2022
Natacha de Crombrugghe, 28 years old, is a young Belgian lawyer living in Linkebeek (near Brussels, Belgium). After her law studies, she worked for the Allianz Insurance Group for 4 years. In September 2022, she decided to travel to Latin America for 6 months. Sunny, dynamic, sporty, intelligent, adventurous, sociable, resourceful, hard-working, generous, organised and independent, Natacha has a thirst for adventure, freedom and discovery. This trip is also the opportunity to reflect on what she wants to do with her life.
On 1st January, Natacha flies to Peru. She disappeared on 24 January in Cabanaconde, a small town in the Andes, she was going on a trek in the Colca Canyon.
On 1st January
Natacha flies from Brussels (Belgium) to Lima (Peru) for a 6 month trip in Latin America. After visiting Lima, Natacha travels with other backpackers to visit the Cordillera Blanca: the Laguna Paron, the ruins of Chavin and the Querococha lake. Then she trekked to Laguna 69 and the Pastoruri glacier.
Still on organized trips, she goes to Cuzco and visits the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the Rainbow Mountain, the Montaña Roja, the Manu National Park. Then, after a four-day trek, she arrives at Machu Picchu.
Afterwards, Natacha travels with a friend by bus to Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca. There she visits the Uros, Amantani and Taquile islands.
On 20 January
Natacha celebrates her 28th birthday on Lake Titicaca.
In her last phone conversation with her parents, she tells them that she plans to go alone to the Colca Canyon, trek there, disconnect and rest for a few days in an oasis to prepare for the rest of her trip to Bolivia. She buys a ticket for a flight from Lima to Bogota on 4 February.
Cabanaconde is a small town of 3000 inhabitants, located at 3200 m of altitude in the Peruvian Andes. It is the starting point for three treks in the Colca Canyon, one of the deepest in the world.
On 23 January - Arrival in Cabanaconde and last day before disappearing
5am: Natacha takes a tourist bus from Puno to Chivay from where she goes by collective bus to arrive in Cabanaconde at 3.23pm.
From 3.26pm to 3.28pm: Natacha is filmed by the camera at the Pachamama Hotel. The receptionist recommends Mirko's House, which is cheaper.
From 4pm to 5pm: the Polarstep application shows that Natacha walks towards the ruins of Kallimarca.
Around 5.30pm: Natacha uses the wifi in Mirko's House for 10 minutes to send her last messages to friends. But the hotel is closed due to COVID. The hotelier tells her about La Estancia, a small local hotel.
From 9pm to 9.45pm: Natacha eats alone at La Virgin de Chapi restaurant.
The testimony of the manager of La Estancia, the last person person who saw Natacha: Natacha arrived on 23 January at about 8pm, put her bag in her room and left 5 minutes later to go and eat. Natacha returned to La Estancia around 11pm and asked if she could leave her big bag for 5 days, the duration of her trek in the Colca Canyon. The next day, January 24th, it was still dark when Natacha left the hotel with a small backpack around 5am without having had breakfast and headed out to the left (towards the San Miguel trek).
Two witnesses say they saw Natacha on 24 January at around 6.30am near the Mirador San Miguel where the trek to San Juan de Chucho begins. Natacha had planned to meet two Belgian friends on the way to Llahuar, which starts on the other side of Cabanaconde.
On 25 January
Kevin Ramos, a 14-year-old Peruvian boy, falls from a bridge over the Colca River in Yanque, before entering the Canyon.
On 2 February
Natacha's friends share the notice of her disappearance on social medias. Her friends and relatives contact the accommodation in Cabanaconde, the tourists Natacha met during her trip to Peru and the local police.
On 3 February
The search is launched in the Canyon by volunteer guides. The police investigate the three hotels: La Estancia, Mirko's House and Pachamama. Natacha's backpack is found at La Estancia.
On 4 February
Eric and Sabine de Crombrugghe, Natacha's parents, report their daughter's disappearance to the Belgian police. The Belgian police start their investigation: telephone, computer, Natacha's flat (DNA analysis), questioning of Natacha's friends and travelling companions.
On 5 February
After a crisis meeting with the Belgian Federal Prosecutor's Department, the Disappearance Unit, the police, the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs... Eric and Sabine de Crombrugghe, accompanied by their son Tanguy, take a plane to Lima.
On 6 February
The parents and Tanguy land in Lima and are welcomed by Ambassador Mark Van der Vreken and Consul Joren Selleslaghs. The Consul accompanies them to Arequipa (capital of the region where Natacha disappeared) where he organises a virtual meeting between the Belgian and Peruvian police and prosecutors.
On 7 February
At 5am, Javier Vellarde, Honorary Consul of Belgium in Arequipa and José Moscoso take the parents, Tanguy and the Consul to Cabanaconde.
They stop in Chivay to meet the Prosecutor Bejarano in charge of Natacha's disappearance.
In the early afternoon, they arrive in Cabanaconde where a crowd of journalists is waiting for them. They meet with the police of Cabanaconde, the Dirincri PNP of Arequipa and the rescue police of the High Mountain to take stock. The parents ask for an investigation for homicide and trafficking in women. They visit the three hotels and the start of the trek to Llahuar, the one Natacha was planning to take and where she was going to meet friends.
In the evening, they organise a meeting with the guides and the rescue workers to take stock and coordinate the search in the canyon.
During the week, the search continues, meetings are held both in Cabanaconde and virtually with Belgium. International rogatory commissions are sent by Belgium to Peru, concerning Natacha's telephone and also to request the sending of Belgian police officers to Peru. The parents meet Eloy Cacya, the "Angel of the Disappeared", who has found several missing people in the canyon, and his team of volunteer rescuers, as well as the rescue guides of Autocolca, the association that manages the Colca. The parents launch an appeal on the local radio.
Large media coverage of the case in Peru, Belgium and the world. The parents are impressed by the immense solidarity and the countless messages of support they receive from everywhere.
On 15 February
70 police officers arrive in Cabanaconde to search for Natacha in the canyon. They are accompanied by a tracking dog (Wally) and a drone. Their mission will last 3 weeks. The police of the Dirincri Homicide of Arequipa question the witnesses and carry out a Luminol analysis to detect traces of blood in the three hotels. The results are negative.
On 22 February
Three Belgian police officers arrive in Cabanaconde to assist the Peruvian teams and exchange information.
On 26 February
The Belgian police officers, Sabine, Eric and Tanguy, return to Belgium with the assurance that the search will continue and that they will return as soon as there is news.
On 27 February
The parents are back in Belgium.
A support group "Looking for Natacha" is launched by Natacha's friends and relatives. This website, a Facebook page et an Instagram account relay all information. A bank account is opened to support parents financially.
Eric and Sabine create a poster and send it to Peru for diffusion in the Colca and to travel agencies as well as via social networks.
The parents hire a lawyer in Belgium (Jean-Pierre Buyle and his assistant Pierre-Alexandre Fassin) and look for a lawyer to represent them in Arequipa.
On 7 March
The search is abandoned and the rescue teams and police return home. The rainy season and earthquakes make access to the canyon impossible. With no blood evidence and no conclusive clues, the police conclude that this is not a homicide.
On 11 March
Broadcast of a documentary by a team from RTL in Cabanaconde.
On 17 March
A new witness says that on 24 January he saw Natacha on the road to San Miguel at around 9am and heard a landslide just afterwards.
On 26 March
Sophie Wilmès, Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, receives the parents and assures them of her support.
On 27 March
The parents meet with the various people in charge of the case in Belgium to take stock of the situation: the prosecutor, the lawyer, the victims' aid, the disappearance unit, the federal police, the representative of Foreign Affairs. On the Belgian side they did everything they could and continue to be at the disposal of their colleagues in Peru. Eric and Sabine announce that they are going back to Peru.
From 4 to 7 April
Consul Joren Selleslaghs accompanies Sabine and Eric. They first go to Arequipa to meet the lawyer Gustavo Herran and the criminal lawyer Carla Medina, who are in charge of advising and representing them.
They are received by the General Prosecutor of Arequipa and General Cayetano, head of the Arequipa police, who promise to continue the search.
They also meet Major Vargas, head of the High Mountain Police, who gives a report on the search in the canyon (92% of the canyon has been searched). The Colca River still needs to be searched but it is necessary to wait until the river level drops in June.
The lawyer accompanies the consul and the parents to meet the Prosecutor Berajano in Chivay, who is in charge of the case, Commander Danilo Gomez of the Dirincri Arequipa and Anthony Mozo, the Commissioner of Cabanaconde, and to visit the site. Without clues, the investigation is at a standstill. Natacha's case is considered a disappearance and not a homicide. We have to wait for the discovery of Natacha's body. But how to find her body without investigating?
The parents stay in Cabanaconde to conduct their own investigation. They stay at the Kuntur Wassi Hotel and are helped by their hosts.
They put up posters all over Cabanaconde, on the hiking trails and in the canyon villages.
They go to all the hotels to check the registers and to get the names of the tourists present on 23 and 24 January in Cabanaconde, in the Canyon and in Chivay (the capital of Colca).
They question the inhabitants and witnesses who saw Natacha on 23 January.
They hear many rumours: it was not an accident, Natacha was never in the canyon and never left her hotel, she was killed and is buried somewhere, there was a party at the hotel on 23 January... but how verify them? Someone has to make a statement but it seems that people are afraid to talk.
Sabine and Eric are working with Eloy Cacya and his team to search for places in the canyon where Natacha could have fallen (crevices, caves...) and certain areas where Natacha could have been kidnapped or her body hidden or buried. In particular, they check places indicated by psychics.
They regularly submit their reports to their lawyers and to the Embassy.
On 15 April
Hoping to encourage people to speak out, the parents, together with their lawyer, offer a $15,000 reward for information leading to the location of their daughter. They distribute new posters and make announcements on local radio and social networks.
They send out press releases and answer interviews to lobby the authorities for an investigation into homicide and trafficking in women.
On 22 May
The support group "Looking for Natacha" organises a Green Walk of Hope in Brussels. The parents, together with their Peruvian friends, organise on the same day a Green Walk of Hope for Natacha and Kevin, the young Peruvian who fell into the Colca river, in Cabanaconde, Chivay and Arequipa. The media coverage of the event is massive.
On 23 May
Accompanied by Herless Alvarez, a Peruvian journalist friend who will become their spokesperson, Sabine and Eric travel to Arequipa to meet Colonel Cuadros, the head of the Arequipa Dirincri. The police will not do anything more until there is more information. The parents send a press release to denounce the situation.
On 26 May
With the investigation and search at a standstill, the parents go to Lima to lobby the Authorities for a homicide investigation and to seek a possible private investigator.
On 28 May
Publication of the article by Herless Alvarez in Somos (El Commercio).
The Ambassador meets with the Ministers of the Interior and Justice and with the Chief General of the Dirincri Homicide Lima to request a new investigation.
On 30 May
The parents, Joren Selleslaghs the consul and Miriam Meguina the liaison officer for the Benelux countries, meet with Commander Guevara of the Dirincri Homicide of Lima and the Chief General of the police, who agree to analyse the case and take over the investigation.
On 2 June
The parents, accompanied by Herless Alvarez, meet Diana Miloslavich, Minister of Women's Affairs, who tells them that a decree allowing the investigation of presumed homicide in cases of disappearance was passed in April. More than 1,000 women disappear every month in Peru, half of whom are never found.
On 20 June
The parents, again with Herless Alvarez, obtain the support of the Ministry of People's Defence and the NGO Flora Tristan (Feminist Activists) who agree to take on Natacha's very popular case.
15 June - 5 July - First mission of the Lima police officers
Five policemen from the Dirincri (Criminal Investigation Department), the homicide and trafficking in women unit, in Lima, carry out a new investigation in Cabanaconde. They search an annex of the hotel where Natacha spent her last night and find traces of blood. The police take what they find back to Lima to find traces of Natacha's DNA.
On 7 July
The parents' DNA is taken. The parents meet with the team of Lima police officers who led the investigation. Competent and motivated, they promise to go all the way to find Natacha.
Sabine and Eric meet other parents of missing women and take part in a demonstration to obtain Truth and Justice. In Peru, there is no investigation for homicide in case of disappearance and without proof the case is closed after 6 months.
The parents change of lawyer and now collaborate with Edgar Condori, a criminal lawyer in Arequipa (with the supervision of the lawyers of the NGO Flora Tristan).
15 July - 15 August
The search for Kevin and Natacha in the Colca River continues for 26 days. Without results, the search is abandoned in mid-August.
On 20 July
While waiting for the results of the laboratory and the results of the police mission in Lima, the parents decide to return to Belgium for family reasons.
The rescue equipment (diving suits, ropes, carabiners, binoculars, walkie-talkies...) and mountain boots offered to Eloy Cacya and his volunteers arrive in Arequipa.
5 - 15 August - Second mission of the Lima police officers
No trace of Natacha's DNA is found by the laboratory but the Lima police find and question a new witness who supposedly worked at the hotel where Natacha stayed. But these are again rumours.
On 19 August
Ambassador Mark Van der Vreken and the new consul Isabelle Féry obtain from the Minister of the Interior a third mission for the Lima police.
On 23 August
The parents meet with the Belgian police officers in charge of the case to check on the internet and telephone. Everything seems to have been done but with no results.
4 September - 4 October - Third mission of the Dirincri Homicide police officers of Lima
Four Lima police officers who participated in the first two missions continue their investigation in Cabanaconde to rehear all the witnesses and verify the rumours. They work with Eloy Cacya to search certain areas of the canyon. The probability of a homicide is 90% according to them.
On 11 September
The parents arrive in Peru to accompany the Dirincri team from Lima.
On 13 September
Debriefing meeting at the Embassy in Lima.
14 - 18 September
The parents are in Arequipa. They meet with their lawyer. They reprint new posters and distribute it.
According to the report on the river search, a 20 km long area between the Choco and Canco bridges has not been explored. The parents contacted Eloy Cacya and a kayaker to organise an expedition to this area from 19 to 21 September.
On 16 September
Three fishermen discover a body in the bed of the Colca River, about 20 km from the Llahuar bridge and 10 km from the Choco bridge.
On 19 September
The parents go with Major Ricardo Cerron and the three policemen from Lima to Cabanaconde to follow the investigation and the expedition in the Colca.
On 21 September
The fishermen announce their discovery to the sub-prefecture of Choco.
The press relays the information and publishes a photo of a skull stuck between two rocks.
The Lima and Cabanaconde police and a team of rescue workers go to Choco. The prosecutor of Pedregal and four forensic experts from Arequipa join them in the early morning. About 15 men go down into the canyon and cross the river at the risk of their lives, helped by fishermen and inhabitants of the village.
On 22 September
About 15 people spend the night in the canyon before bringing the body back to Choco where the 60 inhabitants of this small village ring the church bells to pay tribute to Natacha. Her body is taken to the morgue in Arequipa for analysis to identify her.
On 24 September
The parents go to the morgue to have their DNA taken.
They recognise an earring that had been left in Natacha's ear.
31 September - 2 October
The Consul comes to Arequipa to support the parents.
On 3 October
The parents accompany the police from Lima to Cabanaconde to continue the investigation and check the three bridges over the Colca River from which Natacha could have fallen or been thrown.
On 4 October
The parents meet the three fishermen who had discovered their daughter's body.
On 5 October
The press reveals the organisation of a small ceremony that the parents had planned to hold in Choco in privacy. The parents decide to cancel it and return to Arequipa.
On 6 October
The DNA tests are positive. Natacha's body is officially identified. The media announce that the body found in the Colca is Natacha's.
On 7 October
The parents and the police return to Lima and wait to be able to recover Natacha's body and bring her back to Belgium.
On 10 October
The forensic file is finally transferred to the Chivay prosecutor. The Lima police will be able to access it to determine the cause of death and to continue the investigation if it is not an accident.
The parents are waiting for Natacha's body to be able to take her back to Belgium.
On 21 November
Eric and Sabine finally go home with Natacha's body. Further examinations are being carried out in Belgium to determine the cause of death.
On 30 November
A tribute to Natacha is held in Linkebeek (Belgium).