Bocas tourist was hit with rock, strangled

In her travels since graduating from Columbia University, Catherine Johannet taught English in Vietnam and visited other countries before she came to Bocas. Photo that has been circulating on social media.

Leaks: Johannet was struck on the head with
a rock, strangled with a piece of her clothing

by Eric Jackson

Through the investigators’ veil of secrecy, certain things have leaked out about the disappearance and death of Catherine M. Johannet, who left Isla Colon on a water taxi headed for a visit to Red Frog Beach and whose body was later found on a forest trail on Isla Bastimentos. Preliminary reports are that she was hit on the head with a rock and then strangled with an article of her clothing.

It had been previously reported that the FBI is participating in the investigation and La Prensa reported on February 7 that raids had been conducted on Isla Bastimentos. No arrests or charges are reported as of early on the morning of February 8.

As expected, there is a lot of discussion about the case in the community and on social media. The litany of crimes against foreigners is being recited by some, although any true version of the homicides in Bocas will point the finger most of all at other foreigners. The instances of crime by water taxi drivers that are central to transportation in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago are noted, as can be said about crimes involving taxi drivers in the metro area as well. Surely investigators would want to identify and talk to the water taxi driver with whom Johannet left Isla Colon, which would not at all be the same as accusing him. There are warnings about women going places alone and about “bad areas” of Bocas for tourists to avoid.

The official secrecy is routine. It doesn’t help with the morbid speculation or “get tough on crime” demagoguery. Nor will the lack of official information do much to protect the Panamanian tourism industry, which will inevitably suffer from the publicity generated by this crime. If the avoidance of a media circus helps with the prompt solution of this murder mystery — and worldwide, murders in which the killer and victim did not know one another are usually difficult to solve — it may mitigate the damage that will be done to Panama’s reputation as a tourist destination and allow the entire community to breathe a bit easier.


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