UK tourists warned to be cautious in Mexico after three surfers shot dead

British tourists heading to Mexico were warned on Monday to be cautious after the brutal “execution-style” killing of three surfers was uncovered.

Two Australians and an American had been shot in the head by thieves who wanted their truck’s tyres, prosecutors said. The three had travelled to northern Baja California, a popular region of the country’s Pacific coast.

Relatives identified the bodies of Australian brothers Callum Robinson, 33, and Jake Robinson, 30, and their American friend Jack Carter Rhoad, 30. Their remains were found near Ensenada in Baja California, near the US border on Sunday.

The country is notorious for drug cartel killings but this violence rarely involves tourists. However, the latest murders raise fears over how safe Mexico is for holidaymakers.

Danny Callaghan, CEO of the Latin American Travel Association (Lata), told i: “We were very saddened to hear of this incident and our thoughts are with the victims’ families and loved ones.

A rescue worker enters a well where human remains were found near La Bocana Beach in Ensenada (Photo: Guillermo Arias / AFP)

“Whilst thousands of British travellers enjoy trouble-free trips to Mexico every year, we always advise checking the official Foreign Office advice and discussing your travel plans including specific areas and regions, with a reputable Lata tour operator prior to booking.”

Dozens of surfers protested near where the victims’ bodies were found on Sunday with messages written on their boards including “beaches, security, freedom, peace” and “no more deaths”.

Paulina Rodriguez, a Mexican surfer who took part in demonstrations calling for an end to the killings, said the deaths showed this could happen to anyone.

“Normally it is only women who are scared to go surfing alone but this case shows that we are all vulnerable, that this kind of thing can happen to any of us,” she told i from Baja California.

The case echoes that of two Australian surfers who were murdered, and their bodies burned while travelling in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa in November 2015.

In June 2023, British woman Sophie Wiggins, 32, was seriously injured in Mexico after robbers broke into her jungle ranch and shot her and killed her Polish partner in the resort of Playa del Carmen.

The latest shootings come amid increasing concern that Mexico is in the grip of escalating drug gang violence.

The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office has advice for British tourists travelling to Mexico. “Crime in Mexico can pose a risk for foreigners, particularly in major cities and tourist resorts where street crime is a serious issue,” it says.

For decades, Mexico has been plagued by violence linked to drug cartels. Since 2006, 450,000 people have been killed and an estimated 100,000 have disappeared, according to government statistics.

Northern Baja California, where the three surfers were killed, has one of the highest murder rates in Mexico, with between 50-100 killings per 100,000 people, according to a 2023 Mexican Citizen Council for Public Security and Justice report.

While the Ensenada area is considered relatively safe, the US State Department advises Americans to reconsider travel to the state due to crime and kidnapping.

Marina del Pinar, the state governor of Baja California, told i that despite the killings, the region was safe for tourists. “Baja California is and will continue to be a secure place for people to visit from our country and from all over the world,” she said.

Two men and a woman have been detained on suspicion of involvement in the case, said Mexican prosecutors. They were named by Mexican media as Jesus Gerardo aka “El Kekas”, his girlfriend Ari Gisel, and his brother.

Members of the surfing community protest against insecurity after two Australians and an American surfers went missing last week during a surfing trip, in Ensenada, Baja California state, Mexico, on May 5, 2024. Three bodies believed to be those of two Australian brothers and an American who disappeared on a surfing trip in Mexico have bullet wounds to the head, authorities said Sunday. (Photo by Guillermo Arias / AFP) (Photo by GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images) - 13386701
Dozens of surfers protested near where the victims’ bodies were found on Sunday with messages written on their boards including ‘no more deaths’ (Photo: Guillermo Arias / AFP)

One of those arrested has a history of violence, drug dealing and robbery, officials said. The woman is facing drug charges.

Investigators said the bodies were recovered from a clifftop shaft in an “advanced state of decomposition”. Another corpse found at the site had been there longer and was unconnected to the others, officials said.

The friends had previously visited Mexico several times without any problems, said chief state prosecutor Maria Elena Andrade Ramirez.

Jake was a doctor, while Callum played in the US Premier Lacrosse League, which said that the lacrosse world was “heartbroken by the tragic loss” of the trio.