Manchester

Graves of British couple murdered in Guatemala in 1978 found

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Media captionThe moment Penny Farmer finds her brother Chris' grave in Guatemala 40 years after his murder

The graves of an English couple murdered in Guatemala in 1978 have been rediscovered after 40 years.

The families of Peta Frampton and Chris Farmer from Manchester had been told their remains had been lost forever.

A letter and two pictures taken in 1984 were the only clues to their location in a cemetery in Puerto Barrios.

But new evidence has led Chris's sister, Penny Farmer, along with 5 Live journalist Dan Maudsley, to discover the couple's final resting place.

Image copyright Penny Farmer
Image caption Chris Farmer and Peta Frampton had kept in touch with family by letter and on cassette when they went travelling in central America

In July 1978 the bodies of 25-year-old Chris and Peta, a 24-year-old lawyer, were discovered tied up and attached to engine parts, 200m off the coast of Guatemala.

The couple, from Chorlton in Manchester, had last told their families they were travelling on a boat owned by an American, Silas Duane Boston.

After a cold case breakthrough, FBI agents arrested the Californian in 2016. He was charged with their murders but died before the trial could get under way.

As part of the investigation, the FBI had tried and failed to find the couple's graves in the Puerto Barrios cemetery where they were known to have been buried.

Vital clues

The only person known to have visited the graves was an American pastor, Garry McClure, who took photographs of the cement crosses in 1984. He sent the pictures, and a description of his visit, in a letter to a family friend of the Farmers.

Image copyright Farmer Family
Image caption A letter from pastor Garry McClure sent to the Farmer family contained a description and photographs of the graves

The pastor was retraced for the BBC podcast Paradise and passed on vital new information that gave hope the graves could be found.

Armed with the new clues, Penny and BBC reporter Dan went to Puerto Barrios in December to make one last attempt to find the graves.

The sprawling cemetery was as chaotic as the FBI had described.

"It was far more shambolic than I ever appreciated," said Penny.

"Tomb after tomb. There was no pattern to them."

Remarkably, after an hour of searching, the details the pastor gave them led to Chris's graveside. Moments later, Dan found Peta's cross under a pile of leaves.

Image caption The cement crosses were found by Penny Farmer and Dan Maudsley, marking the burial places

"I didn't realise how important it was until I was there standing by his graveside, that was actually quite emotional," said Penny.

As the podcast reveals, finding the graves has now raised even more questions.

"We thought the FBI were working really hard. They told us that there was a concerted effort, but by following the pastor's details to the letter we were able to find them in just an hour."

The prolonged efforts by investigators to find the graves is believed to have delayed the arrest, potentially denying the families the opportunity to see Silas Boston face trial.

The FBI officer who led the investigation, SSA David Sesma, said it was "unfortunate for the Farmer and Frampton families that we were unable to find them".

He defended the agents sent to find the graves, saying they had managed to locate several trial witnesses and "did good work".

Image copyright Penny Farmer
Image caption Pictures were taken in 1984 of the cement crosses marking the burial site of the couple in a Guatemalan cemetery

The investigation into the murders of Chris Farmer and Peta Frampton is documented in the podcast Paradise, available on the BBC Sounds App for iOS, Android and Amazon Fire devices.

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