American bird-watching tourist mysteriously disappears while visiting Mayan ruins in Guatemala
Guatemalan police are looking for an American tourist who disappeared after visiting Mayan ruins deep in the jungle.
Raymond Ashcroft, 66, of Texas, was last seen seven weeks ago on February 3 before he went missing.
His 40-year-old wife Van Phung – who met Ashcroft when they both worked as pharmacists at a Houston cancer hospital – said he suffered from memory problems and mania, which meant that he could not be left alone for extended periods.
She said he also had problems walking, which now makes her suspect that he was taken by someone, as he was not able to walk far on his own.
The couple had been on a wildlife tour with a group of other travellers, visiting the famous ruins of Tikal – a UNESCO World Heritage site inhabited from the 6th century BC to the 10th century AD
Raymond Ashcroft – whom Guatemalan authorities have named Ashcraft – was last seen on February 3
Search and rescue teams are pictured searching for the missing American
They were traveling with Canadian tour operator Eagle-Eye, local media reported. Eagle-Eye Tours, which offers wildlife tours around the world, currently offers an 11-day trip to Belize and Tikal on its website for $4,075 per person.
Eagle-Eye Tours has yet to confirm he is one of their tourists and did not respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.
Phung told Prensa Libre, a Guatemalan newspaper, that they set off on the morning of February 3 on foot to try to spot the birds.
“Around noon our group was heading back to the Jungle Lodge for lunch when we saw a crocodile at the edge of a pond in front of the hotel entrance,” she told the newspaper.
“We got closer to the pond to take pictures of the crocodile and a tiger heron.”
Ashcroft left the group and said he was going back to their hotel – Phung assumed he wanted to use the bathroom or just wait for lunch.
Phung said he had a bad left knee and moved slowly: she said he couldn’t take more than 500 steps without having to sit down.
“He walks slowly, so it’s odd that no one has seen him in the less than 30 minutes since we last saw him, by the pond in front of the hotel entrance. ”
She returned to the hotel shortly after him, but could not find him.
Ashcroft and his wife were visiting the Mayan ruins of Tikal, as part of a birding vacation
The couple were traveling with Canadian company Eagle-Eye Tours, local media said.
The Mayan ruins of Tikal are one of the most popular tourist sites in Guatemala
“When I got to the hotel lobby, I didn’t see him waiting for me, so I went to check the restrooms behind the restaurant,” she said.
“I couldn’t find him, so I went to our room, room 31, to see if he was there – but he wasn’t.”
At 12:30 p.m. she told two guides that he was missing.
Hotel guards and two members of the birdwatching team set out to find him, one of them on a motorbike.
“When they didn’t find him outside the park itself, five men entered the park to look for him – they split up, so each took a different route,” Phung told the newspaper.
At 5 p.m., the United States Embassy was informed and notified the Guatemalan Ministry of Interior.
Local officials arrived soon after and began questioning him and others at the hotel.
A search and rescue team was dispatched, and as of 6:30 a.m. on February 4, 97 people were looking for him, Phung said.
A group of rescuers prepare to begin the search for Ashcroft
A volunteer lifeguard from the Guatemalan team is pictured searching for Ashcroft
Rescuers are seen preparing search dogs
Ashcroft has been missing for seven weeks
Teams in Guatemala scoured the area for Ashcroft
Guatemalan authorities notified Interpol, which facilitates law enforcement cooperation across borders.
Interpol has issued a yellow notice, designed to help locate missing persons, often minors, or to help identify those unable to identify themselves.
In 2022, German tourist Stephan Baitz, 53, was found dead in the park.
His body was found two days after he disappeared and authorities said he died of heatstroke.