Emma Kelty had been posting regular updates of her trip down the Amazon. But after a series of increasingly worrisome posts, the updates stopped.
As The Sun reports, the 43-year-old former teacher from London was taking part in a 4,000-mile canoe trip down the Amazon River. An experienced adventure traveler, Kelty shared her experiences on social media.
As Kelty moved into the Brazilian rain forest, her updates began to focus less on the arduous paddling and more on the dangers she encountered.Screenshot/Facebook
On September 10, she wrote:
So in or near Coari (100km away) I will have my boat stolen and I will be killed too.
Two days later, she assured friends that she had passed through safely.
However, that update was followed by two more that seemed to foreshadow danger.Screenshot/Facebook
On September 12, she wrote:
Turned corner and found 50 guys in motor boats with arrows!!! My face must have been a picture!! (Town was uber quiet… too quiet!!) all good.
She quickly amended the number of people she encountered, as well as the weapons:
Ok 30 guys …. but either way… thata a lot of folks in one area in boats with arrow and rifles.
Despite that frightening encounter, Kelty seemed to be fine. Her next post, on September 13, was about meeting friendly locals and having kittens chase her around her tent.
Sadly, that would be the last update Kelty would make. The next day, she disappeared, and searchers found her abandoned canoe near the river.
Despite Kelty’s words of reassurance, she had headed into a part of the rainforest populated by pirates and drug traffickers. When she disappeared, authorities suspected she had been the victim of foul play.
Brazilian police mounted a search for Kelty. After days of investigation, they were able to determine that the intrepid traveler was the victim of a gang who shot Kelty and threw her body into the river.
According to BBC News, Kelty was camping on September 13 when a group of pirates in a canoe shot her and stole her belongings. They attempted to dispose of her body by dumping her in the Amazon.
The Telegraph reports that the pirates originally thought Kelty was carrying drugs and may have abused her in an effort to discover where the drugs were hidden. When they returned, boasting about what they had done, locals reported the crime to authorities.
A member of the community told the Telegraph the men weren’t pirates so much as drug abusers:
“The men fled into the forest after we all found out what they had done. We provided the police with the details and their identities. We’re all disgusted by what they have done.”
The criminals helped police find them when they unwittingly activated the “SOS” feature on Kelty’s GPS, thereby sending a distress signal that helped pinpoint their location.
Jose Afonso Barradas Jr. of the Coari police told the Telegraph that if the thieves hadn’t hit the button while playing with Kelty’s GPS, the killing might have gone unsolved:
“The place where she disappeared is a very complicated area, it’s difficult to access and there are no telephones or mobile signal. The criminals thought they could kill her in impunity, but then they stupidly pressed the only button which could have turned them in to the police.”
Brazilian police have since arrested three men for Kelty’s death. A fourth is believed to have been killed in a fight over Kelty’s stolen money.
Kelty’s family has since turned her Facebook page into a place to pay tribute to her. On September 20, they wrote:
“In a world that is today a much smaller place, the explorer in our sister found herself seeking ways to prove that challenges were achievable.”
The added: “We are extremely proud of our sister who was dearly loved by us all and her strength will be sorely missed.”