Missing French couple's families seek answers in Bolivia

26th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

The relatives of a French couple who disappeared four weeks ago have arrived in La Paz in hopes of finding answers to their worrisome ordeal.

Jeremie Bellanger, 25, and his girlfriend Fannie Blancho, 23, have not been seen since they traveled the night of August 28 across the Brazilian border to Guayaramerin, near a lawless area known for drug-trafficking and high crime rates.

"We came to learn more about where our children are," Bellanger's father Patrick told reporters Saturday at the airport, where he was greeted with Blancho's father Jean-Paul by French consular authorities.

A visibly emotional Benjamin Dupont, the father of Fannie Blancho's three-year-old son Bounty -- the only survivor found so far -- is due to be reunited with his son and return to France with him early next week, a French embassy official said.

The Bellanger and Blancho families are due to meet with French and Bolivian officials. They hope to head to Guyaramerin, about 800 kilometers (500 miles) from La Paz, next week.

The couple had traveled to the village and rented a room for a night there to attend a local festival. They were then invited by a man to visit a farm about 12 kilometers (eight miles) away.

Bellanger had apparently borrowed a motorbike at the farm to return briefly to check on Bounty, who was staying with the landlord in Guayaramerin. But he then set off again and has not been seen since.

The man -- the last person to see the couple -- appeared before a Guayaramerin court as a suspect but local prosecutor Carlos Aponte told AFP that "nothing incriminates him" at this time. He was not detained.

Sources close to the matter stressed that the disappearance took place in difficult circumstances, in a border region known for high crime and in the midst of a dense tropical forest that complicated any search efforts.

© 2010 AFP

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