Conrad Fox

journalism, programming, soccer and robotics

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Mothers turn to DIY forensics when their children disappear

May 5, 2015

From La Jornada, in Mexico

Every time Angelica Maria Berrospe Medina hears the police have discovered dead bodies somewhere in the city, she runs to see if her son is among them.

He disappeared two years ago and she has been on a grueling, sometimes grisly, search for him ever since. Last April, she visited a clandestine grave where the bodies had been decapitated, but no luck.

She keeps DNA samples and makes constant visits to the police to find out how their investigation is going. But instead of getting updates, the police ask her "And what have you investigated, ma'am? What else do you know? Can you add those facts to your declaration?"

She says that she, and other mothers like her -- investigating without training or methods -- are able to turn up more facts about cases of the disappeared than the State investigative police.

Berrospe Medina is now joined in her efforts by other mothers in the neighbourhood, all of whose children disappeared at the same time. They did not know each other then, but have become fast friends, and collaborators since.

They say their children disappeared during a police operation near the city. They were taken by police, she says. They came to her house. "Where is the m---r f---r?" shouted state police and marines, entering without a warrant, searching every room until they found her son, Jonathan, hiding under the bed. They took him and she has not seen him since.

She and the other mothers were able to discover that there had been further warrantless arrests that day in the area. They visited jails around town but found nothing, until authorities "scolded them".

"I'm not going to give up until I find him" she says.



She has become friends with other mothers in the neighbourhood, who she never knew until


For 15 years, Conrad lived in Mexico, where he worked as a freelance radio and print journalist. His work took him into a minefield, a gunfight, a dugout canoe and the homes of many fascinating, brave and generous people. He is also an avid teacher and has led classes in radio, robotics, soccer, physics and anthropology in a diversity of places, including office towers, lecture halls, fields and palm thatched huts.