American Couple Missing in Peru Found on Riverboat; Family Questions Safety

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By Sami K. Martin , Christian Post Reporter
February 27, 2013|8:36 am

The American couple thought missing and feared kidnapped has been found, according to Peruvian officials. Garrett Hand and Jamie Neal were last heard from on Jan. 25, sparking great concern by family and friends who, even now, question whether officials are telling them the truth.

"The American tourists are continuing to enjoy their trip in the Peruvian Amazon," Peru's tourism ministry said in a statement. Lima's officials also issued a statement to the same effect, stating that Hand and Neal were fine and had turned up on a boat in the Amazon.

Hand and Neal were on cycling trip in Peru and had traveled through the Andean countryside when they disappeared. They never made it to Peru, causing great concern due to threats of kidnapping in the area. United States citizens are specifically vulnerable, and U.S. and Peruvian officials launched an investigation into the disappearance.

"Embassy officers are … in close contact with Peruvian authorities who are working diligently to find Mr. Hand and Ms. Neal," read a statement given to Reuters by information officer Leslie Nunez Goodman.

However, there are discrepancies between the Peruvian officials' account of what happened and the U.S. Embassy's statement that diplomats knew of "no connection between the disappearance of these two U.S. citizens" or the travel advisory warning of kidnappings.

There are also conflicting reports about when the couple actually disappeared. One group in Peru has said that Hand and Neal were aboard a boat to Ecuador on Feb. 16, three weeks after they were supposedly last heard from.

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"Somebody knows where they are and we want them to come home safely, and anything anybody can do to help us to get them home safely, we appreciate," Francine Fitzgerald, Hand's mother, told ABC News. "We want them to come home safely."

Fitzgerald told Reuters that she'd been informed that a plane was going to pick up her son and Neal, but she questioned whether her son was truly okay.

"Proof of life is my son's voice on the phone and a picture of him holding the missing poster," she explained. She may soon get that proof of life, if all goes according to the government's plan.

 

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