Family and friends of an American couple who have gone missing in Peru while on a cycling holiday in Latin America have issued an urgent appeal for any information that can help lead to establishing their whereabouts.
The couple, Jamie Neal and her boyfriend Garrett Hand, both aged 25 and from Oakland, California, started their trip in December and provided regular updates on social media including Twitter and Facebook.
However, there has been silence since their last contact a month ago, and Garrett’s phone goes straight to voicemail.
Flyers with information about the couple have been produced by their family and printed in English and Spanish. They have also set up a Facebook page to co-ordinate accurate information about the search.
Their latest confirmed sighting, according to the Peruvian government and posted to the Facebook page on Saturday, is that they arrived in the capital, Lima, by bus from Cuzco, some 500 kilometres to the south east. On arrival in Lima, they got into a taxi.
It is unclear whether or not they have their bikes with them, and the US embassy in Lima currently has a travel warning out that highlights a kidnapping threat to American citizens in the Cusco and Machu Picchu area.
Adding to the uncertainty is a claim by one Gil Erez in a Facebook page set up to co-ordinate the search for the couple that he spent time with them a week ago on Friday – 15 February - in Iguitos, He said that they were fine then, nearly four weeks after their last contact.
Another commenter on Facebook, Shiv Shakti Ma, also placed them in Iquitos around ten days ago, saying the pair stayed at the Begonia hostel.
He claimed that they planned on taking a boat down the Napo river towards Ecuador, adding that he believed the journey “can take some time.”
For now, the families are treating such reports with scepticism, at least until they can be properly verified.
Earlier today, an update on the Facebook page stated: “There has still to this day not been any contact from Garrett Hand or Jamie Neal with any friend or family member.
“There has also not been any email activity, financial activity, social media activity or contact in any form from Garrett or Jamie.
“Until there is contact made or bank activity from either Jamie or Garrett they are not to be considered safe or found they are still missing until the moment they either come home to the U.S. or speak to a family member.
“Gil's statements are also not valid until this happens,” it added.
Yesterday, responding to rumours that the pair might be in Ecuador, it was pointed out there was “no proof of this, no images, no paperwork and no communication.
“Friends and family have still had no interaction with Garrett or Jamie since January 25th. They are still missing and not recovered.”
A charity bike polo tournament hosted in Folsom, California by Capitol Bike Polo on 9 March will aim to raise money to help fund the families’ search for Jamie and Garrett.
In the meantime, they are asking for news of the couple’s disappearance to be spread as widely as possible, while anyone with information can get in touch via //FindGarrettAndJamieNOW.inPeru [at] gmail.com" target="_blank">email.
Obviously, if you have connections in Peru, or know of anyone else travelling there who can help spread the word to help locate them, so much the better.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.