Justice appears unlikely in the case of a Canadian man who disappeared in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, more than a year ago despite the best efforts of his daughter to assist Mexican authorities.
Malcolm Madsen, a 68-year-old snowbird from Sutton, Ontario, who spent winters living in a treehouse on the Jalisco coast, was last seen on the night of Saturday October 27, 2018, in the Ándale restaurant and bar in Puerto Vallarta.
Security footage filmed inside the bar shows Madsen sitting at a table with a woman who his daughter Brooke Mullins identifies as his 43-year-old Mexican girlfriend, Marcela Acosta Ramos.
The footage shows Madsen leaving the table at one point and in his absence, the woman believed to be Acosta is seen preparing a substance that she would soon put into his drink. After Madsen returns, the couple are seen in close conversation before the woman opens her fist and drops what appears to be a powder into his margarita glass. She then stirs the drink with a straw.
Edited and condensed footage posted online by the newspaper Toronto Star shows Madsen sipping from his glass nine times in a 13-minute period before the woman repeatedly stops him from drinking more by pulling the straw away from his mouth.
Footage also shows Madsen and the woman leaving the bar together. The Canadian was never seen again.
On November 1, 2018 – five days after the disappearance – Brooke Mullins received a Facebook message from a friend of her father who said that he couldn’t reach him at Los Chonchos, a beach town south of Vallarta where Madsen lived when in Mexico.
Mullins tried to contact her father by calling him and sending messages to his cell phone and Facebook account. However, all her attempts to get in touch went unanswered.
Mullins told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) that she was not initially worried because she knew her father had poor internet and phone reception.
However, after hearing from friends and neighbors a few days later that Madsen hadn’t been seen at his home all week, the situation became one of “full panic,” she said. Her father was reported as missing but local police didn’t appear to take the case seriously, Mullins said.
“They thought maybe he wandered off or was taking a break from his life,” she said. “They were not interested at all.”
Mullins told the CBC that she was informed by Canadian authorities that there was little they could do because the investigation fell under Mexican jurisdiction.
“I’m not satisfied with the help I received from Canada, and I’ve spoken to everyone you could possibly imagine,” she said in a December interview. “I am not content with the way the Mexican government has dealt with this. I do not feel like anyone is interested or cares.”
Frustrated by the apparent police inaction after her father was reported missing, Mullins traveled to Jalisco in November 2018 to see what she could discover for herself.
A week after her father was last seen at the Ándale bar, the Ontario woman said the bar owner allowed her, her lawyer and a few of Madsen’s friends to review the security footage. Mullins said she “felt physically ill” after watching the video in which her father’s drink appears to be spiked. “There was that physical reaction of realizing how serious this really was.”
Mullins said she took the footage to police but an officer accused her of “doctoring” it.
By accessing GPS coordinates sent to her father’s email account, Mullins also discovered that Madsen’s Toyota van had traveled to several different locations on October 27 and 28, 2018.
She said the data – automatically sent to her father’s email address by GPS provider Trackimo – shows that Madsen’s van went to a shopping mall early in the evening of October 27, a remote jungle-like area north of Puerto Vallarta three hours later and a marina in the early hours of October 28 before returning to Acosta’s home.
The data is at odds with a statement Acosta reportedly made to police that the van had been in her garage all night. Mullins said that Acosta also told police that she and Madsen left the Ándale bar early because Madsen was drunk. Acosta claimed that she and Madsen slept at his home in Los Chonchos and that the next morning, he got up, packed his bags and left never to be seen again.
Along with the bar footage, Mullins took the GPS evidence to police believing that it would help them solve the case.
“I honestly felt like I was almost divinely guided. I just thought I had everything. You know, I thought how could they not see how damning this is and get involved?” she told CBC.
However, Jalisco authorities failed to make any progress in the case and there have been no arrests, the news website Vallarta Uno reported on January 10. The website said that Marcela Acosta contradicted herself about the last time she saw Madsen in a statement to the Jalisco Attorney General’s Office but noted that neither she, nor anyone else, faces charges.
Vallarta Uno also revealed that Mullins submitted a series of emails to police that provided an insight into the relationship between Madsen and Acosta. The latter would frequently ask Madsen for money and to buy cars and real estate for her, the website said.
In July 2018, Acosta sent an email to Madsen (who was in Canada at the time) to tell him that she, her mother and her son were sick and for that she reason she needed to continue withdrawing money using a bank card he had given her. Madsen reportedly responded that he had no problem with her withdrawing money when she needed to.
In other emails, Acosta asked Madsen to buy a house for her in Vallarta so that she could rent it out, threatened to withdraw all the money from his account and accused him of giving her a disease. Madsen told Acosta that he was going to buy her a restaurant but turned down her request to purchase a house in Vallarta, telling his girlfriend that she could rent out his property in Los Chonchos and keep the revenue it generated.
In addition, Vallarta Uno said that lawyers hired by Mullins discovered that Madsen made a call on October 27 to a man named Gabriel who operated a water taxi that the Canadian would use to travel between Vallarta and Los Chonchos. It is the last known call that the Canadian man made.
Although there have been no arrests, Vallarta Uno said there are a number of suspects in the case including Acosta’s son and brother, who may have been driving Madsen’s van on the night of his disappearance.
However, with little progress having been made, Mullins stood before a court in Ontario in late November to ask for her father to be declared dead. The court upheld the request.
Mullins and her lawyers hope that authorities in both Mexico and Canada will treat a suspicious death more seriously than a missing person case, CBC reported.
“It was very hard,” Mullins said, referring to her decision to ask the court to declare that her father was dead. “I’ve been holding on to that 15% still that he might be alive somewhere out there being held . . . But I do know he’s gone.”