British backpacker dead on Guatemala mountainside died of brain injury

British backpacker dead on Guatemala mountainside died of brain injury

British backpacker found dead on Guatemala mountainside died of traumatic brain injury, post-mortem reveals, as family say ‘she died doing what she loved’

  • Catherine Shaw’s naked corpse was found on a mountain close to Lake Atitlan
  • The backpacker went missing last Tuesday after heading to watch the sunrise
  • Local media had claimed Miss Shaw may have been raped and murdered
  • Police sources say she fell 330ft as a post-mortem revealed a fatal brain injury

A British backpacker found dead on a Guatemelan mountainside died of a traumatic brain injury, as her family say she ‘died doing what she loved.’

Catherine Shaw, 23, disappeared from her hostel in the early hours of last Tuesday morning as she stripped off during a hike on the trails over Lake Atitlan.

She was discovered by a search party on Sunday with bruising across her body, as a post-mortem reveals she died of haemorrhaging resulting from a traumatic brain injury.

Miss Shaw’s father Tarquin identified her body on Tuesday as the family stated: ‘Catherine just loved mountains and sunrises … She died doing what she loved.’ 

The body of missing British tourist Catherine Shaw (pictured), 23, was found on Sunday in Guatemala, local police have confirmed 

Miss Shaw, a former yoga teacher, was last captured on CCTV at 5.23am on Tuesday morning leaving the hostel where she was staying

Tarquin Shaw, father of Miss Shaw, visits the hostel MayAchik where his daughter stayed in San Juan La Laguna in Guatemala on Tuesday

The scene of the mountain overlooking the Lake Atitlan near where Miss Shaw’s body was found

Police sources have claimed Miss Shaw fell 330ft and that her injuries were consistent with a fall. 

On Tuesday a doctor performing the examination said the body showed signs of trauma but no apparent gunshot or stab wounds. 

‘In the preliminary findings, there are no wounds from bullets or sharp weapons,’ Miguel Angel Samayoa said. ‘There are blows to the body.’

In a statement, the National Institute of Forensic Sciences of Guatemala revealed Miss Shaw had died four to six days prior to her being found. 

Neither Dr Samayoa nor the institute said what might have caused the trauma.

Police sources revealed yesterday Miss Shaw may have taken a 330ft plunge from the rocky terrain to her death. 


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Police announced on Monday that her body had been found unclothed and in a state of decomposition in undergrowth near a mountain overlook.

The Lucie Blackman Trust, which has been assisting Ms Shaw’s family, issued a statement urging people not to speculate about her death and saying it may have been a ‘tragic accident’ not involving foul play.

It added that Ms Shaw had been fasting for days before her disappearance and ‘disposing of possessions, including clothing’.

‘She was very much a nature lover and adored sunrises, so it seems quite conceivable that she went up the mountain to greet the sunrise, shedding clothing as she went, and due to her lack of intake of food and fluid may have passed out or fallen, causing the wounds to her body,’ the statement added, cautioning that not all the facts were known and nothing could be ruled out.

Mr Shaw visiting the hotel which his daughter disappeared from in the early hours of last Tuesday

Firefighters, police officers and volunteers surrounding the body of Miss Shaw after finding her on a hill near San Juan La Laguna

Rescue workers surround Miss Shaw’s decomposing corpse after discovering it on the hillside near San Juan La Laguna


In footage shared with the Mail by the hotel’s owner, Miss Shaw can be seen in a long purple dress standing in a communal café area

The British Embassy confirmed that Mr Shaw had identified the body in Guatemala on Tuesday, and said it was working with local authorities and assisting the family.

The news comes as local media had made sinister claims about an alleged leaked police document which said Miss Shaw may have been raped and murdered.

It is understood Miss Shaw, from Witney, Oxfordshire, was discovered in a cavern close to the trail, two miles from her hostel in the village of San Juan La Laguna.

Local mayor Antonio Chavajay said: ‘I’d like to thank the community for coming together. They found the body near the dog, the dog was the evidence of where she was. It is not known how she died. She was found in a very rocky area.’

A Ministry official also said police had designated a team to carry out a ‘criminal investigation’ to see ‘who could be involved in this deplorable incident’, although there was no immediate confirmation investigators were sure any foul play had occurred. 

Miss Shaw had been fasting and had stopped washing in the days before she vanished.

Miss Shaw’s parents had earlier said they were ‘desperately worried’ for her. 

Former yoga teacher Miss Shaw was last captured on CCTV at 5.23am last Tuesday leaving the hostel, clutching the dog

A search party spent hours searching for Miss Shaw until her body was found near a perilous rocky path


Volunteers searched for Miss Shaw who went missing 36 hours after she checked into a hotel in the village of San Juan la Laguna

The former yoga teacher was last captured on CCTV at 5.23am last Tuesday leaving the hostel, clutching the dog.

On Sunday evening, a search party organised by volunteers and joined by locals, expats and police officers, found her distinctive jacket.

It was discovered two miles from her hostel and 45 minutes on foot up the trail through dense woods.

The woollen pink and cream jacket was found among leaves near a line of avocado trees on the hiking trail near a peak known as ‘Indian Nose’.

Before the body was found, Paco Rosales, who had travelled to Guatemala from Mexico to help find his friend, said he immediately recognised the coat.

The puppy, which Miss Shaw had been carrying around in the days before her disappearance, was discovered in another spot at the top of the mountain on Friday.

The wooded hiking spot where searchers believe Miss Shaw may have gone to watch the sunrise involves climbing extremely rocky terrain for around an hour

A search party found a distinctive jacket belonging to Miss Shaw, who is originally from Witney in Oxfordshire

‘The puppy was OK, a little undernourished and crying a lot,’ said Amy Farrow, 37, an American former paramedic who had been helping the search.

Meanwhile, the owner of the hostel where Miss Shaw was last seen claimed the young backpacker had given cookies laced with cannabis to guests.

The boss of Eco Hotel Mayachik claimed she herself had fallen ill and had nightmares and hallucinations after trying the biscuits.

The Austrian woman, who did not want to be named, said: ‘They came and put a box of cookies on the bar and said: ‘Everyone, have some.’ I tasted two and an hour later, I was completely under [the influence of] drugs. I think these cookies had drugs in them.’

After the alleged incident the woman claims she told Miss Shaw to leave, adding: ‘I confronted her. She said: ‘It’s just love. It’s just nature.’ The hotel has a strict no-drugs policy.’ 

Police are understood to be investigating the claims but have been unable to find a cookie to test.

CCTV shows Miss Shaw placing a plastic box at the hostel reception, wearing a long flowing dress at about 1.30pm on the Sunday.

Later footage, taken in the early hours of the following morning, around 1.30am, shows her walking out of the hostel with a large drum known as a Hang, on her back.

Although it had initially been thought Miss Shaw never returned to the hostel, a clip at 3.30am shows her in a hammock outside her room. She is seen leaving again at around 5.30am.

The owner added: ‘My opinion is that she was completely lost and completely on drugs. She didn’t know what she was doing. She did things a normal person would not do at all.’

Her father Tarquin, pictured, landed in the Central American country after his daughter went missing

Miss Shaw’s friend Paco Rosales, who shared this post on Facebook, said he immediately recognised the coat – and burst into tears when he was shown a picture of the item

Miss Shaw’s friend Mr Rosales, 35, said of the jacket: ‘It was one of her favourite items of clothing. It was really warm, that’s why she always kept it.’

It was ‘so normal’ for Miss Shaw to set off at 5.30am to watch the sunrise, he noted, adding that the pair had regularly done this.

Miss Shaw began her trip last September, visiting the US and Mexico before travelling to Guatemala in recent weeks.

In an online post two weeks ago, she described having the ‘most magically spiritual week of my journey so far’ following a visit to a nudist festival in Oaxaca, Mexico.

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