Earlier this week, we reported that the case against the Mexican man charged with killing Royal Caribbean crew member, Monika Markiewicz, was falling apart.  A key prosecution witness testified at a hearing that police pressured him into making a false statement implicating Nelson Pérez Torres as the murderer.

Nelson Pérez TorresIn our article Is Alleged Murderer of Royal Caribbean Musician Innocent? we pointed out that the Mexican police have now been accused of strong arm tactics against both the alleged killer and the star prosecution witness.

A newspaper in Mexico is reporting today that after Ms. Markiewicz’s death, an official from Royal Caribbean traveled to Mexico and placed pressure on Mexico officials to quickly solve the crime.

SIPSE.com states that case gained special importance because it involved a crew member from the Allure of the Seas cruise ship, operated by Royal Caribbean.  The newspaper reports that Michael Ronan, vice president of Royal Caribbean, traveled to Cozumel and met with tourism authorities and the police to discuss the details of the case.

"The pressure increased when he made statements that cruises to the island could be suspended if the case was not resolved."  (translation)

This crime occurred at a time when some cruises lines were suspending cruises to Mexico due to the perception that it is unsafe to disembark in Mexican ports due to violent crime. 

Mexican police arrested Mr. Torres within a week of the death of Ms. Markiewicz.  Newspapers in Mexico published stories that Mr. Torres was railroaded into a confession.  His friends and family members even picketed at the pier with signs saying Mr. Torres is innocent. 

On the same day as the arrest, Royal Caribbean issued a press release stating that its "Global Adam Goldstein - Royal Caribbean Security Department fully supported and assisted Mexican officials in their investigation of this isolated and uncharacteristic crime for Cozumel."

Cruise line President Adam Goldstein was quoted saying:  

"We thank the Mexican authorities for their commitment to quickly solving the murder of our crew member . . ."

"Quick" justice is often no justice at all. 

It will be unjust to both the Torres and Markiewicz families if the wrong man is convicted.  
 

 

Photo credit:

Top: SIPSE.com 

Nelson Pérez TorresThe press in Mexico is raising questions about the criminal charges leveled against Nelson Pérez Torres, who is jailed and awaiting trial for the murder of Royal Caribbean crewmember, Monika Markiewicz.

Ms. Markiewizc was an accomplished musician employed as a violinist aboard Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas.  In February, she disembarked in Cozumel from the Allure and did not return to the cruise ship which left and sailed back to Miami.  Her body was located the following day. 

An autopsy determined the cause of Ms. Markiewicz’s death was "drowning" but noted that she suffered a blow to the head.

Mexican police arrested 24 year old Nelson Perez Torres, who worked at a restaurant / bar near the port.  He reportedly confessed to striking Ms. Markiewicz in the head with a rock and then throwing her into the ocean, according to the chief prosecutor of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo where Cozumel is located.  You can read our articles about this case below: 

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Murdered in Mexico

Monika’s Last Recital

A newspaper in Mexico is reporting today that the case against Torres is "riddled with contradictions and irregularities."  SIPSE.com  reports that the "star witness" for the prosecution has not only retracted his statement but alleges that he was theatened by the police to sign the declaration.  The Torres family has always contended that their son was beaten and "confessed" to the crime under duress.  We previously blogged about this: Alleged Killer of Royal Caribbean Crew Member in Mexico Arrested – Family Maintains Son is Innocent

The Mexican newspaper also states that videos taken at an intersection near the crime scene, and which should depict the identity of the murderer walking with Ms. Markiewicz, have not been produced.  The article also alludes that there will be defense witnesses who will testify to Mr. Torres being at a different location at the time of the murder. 

 

Photo credit:  estosdias.com.mx

Video credit: VOZTVCOZQROO (YouTube)

A reader of our blog, Evelyn, left us a link to a  short video of Monika Markiewicz playing the violin aboard the Allure of the Seas cruise ship shortly before her death in Cozumel.  The reader left the short message: "I shot a short video on her playing . . . she was so sweet."’

The death of a young person like Monika leaves a void in the universe that can never be filled. 

We hope that the family and friends of Ms. Markiewicz consider the happiness that she brought to hundreds of her crew member friends and thousands of passengers who enjoyed her play beautiful and joyful music.      

May she rest in peace.   

 

 

Video credit:   luktungkuen YouTube

Nelson Perez Torres - Murder - Monika MarkiewiczNelson Perez Torres, age 24, reportedly confessed to striking Royal Caribbean crew member Monika Markiewicz in the head with a rock and then throwing her into the ocean, according to the chief prosecutor of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo where Cozumel is located.

As we reported in a prior article, Ms. Monika Markiewicz, a 32-year-old Polish musician who worked aboard Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas cruise ship was found last Saturday in the waters off the southern part of Cozumel.  Her employer, Royal Caribbean Cruises, indicated that she was a victim of foul play.  

This morning, Royal Caribbean took the unusual step of issuing a statement via PR Newswire, claiming that the killer and Ms. Markiewicz were "casually acquainted for several months."  The cruise line also made a point of characterizing the crime as "isolated and uncharacteristic" for Cozumel."  Royal Caribbean also congratulated its security department for assisting in the investigation which led to the arrest of the alleged killer.

Meanwhile, a newspaper in Mexico Por Esto is reporting that the parents of Mr. Torres are complaining that their son had been falsely accused of the crime and allegedly intimidated into a confession.  Nelson Perez Torres - Murder - Monika MarkiewiczThey claim that he had never been in trouble before and he had worked at a bar near the cruise pier for the past eight years.  They claim that because they are a humble family of little means, their son was railroaded into a confession.  Friends and family members picketed at the pier with signs saying Mr. Torres is innocent.   

There are several Mexican newspapers indicating that Mr. Torres gave different statements to the police, initially stating that he did not know Ms. Markiewicz and had never seen her, or that they had walked together to a location and he left after she resisted his advances, or that she had slipped and then he hit her with a rock to end her suffering.   

 

Photo credits:    Por Esto newspaper

The AP is reporting that a second person has died after arriving in Cozumel on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas cruise ship last Friday, February 4, 2011.  We previously reported on the death of Royal Caribbean crew member, Monika Markiewicz, whose body was recovered Saturday from the sea off of Cozumel and is believed to be the victim of foul play.

The AP reports that a 24-year-old American tourist died Monday in a Cancun hospital from internal bleeding "after ingesting a safety pin that punctured her organs."

Samantha Page (Paige) ThomasThe state prosecutor in Quintana Roo, where both Cancun and Cozumel are located, apparently released two different names for the woman neither of which were released by the AP.  The prosecutor also released information regarding the dead woman’s medical history and autopsy findings.  A patient apparently has no medical privacy rights in Mexico.

The passenger’s death is apparently completely unrelated to the death of crew member Ms. Markiewicz.

We have reported on six deaths of Royal Caribbean passengers and crew members in the last 10 days.

February 9, 2011 Update:  The Latin America Herald Tribune identifies the cruise passenger as Ms. Samantha Page Thomas (this article confuses the name of the cruise passenger and crew member).  A newspaper in Mexico also identifies the passenger and contains a strange explanation of events.  A press conference of the Mexican prosecutor is available on line.  Warning, the video contains graphic post mortem images of Ms. Paige as well as a photograph of Ms. Markiewicz  face down in the water when she was found.

Thirteen years ago I represented a young woman from St. Augustine, Florida.  She was employed as a cook on a private yacht owned by a multi-millionaire tycoon.  She went ashore to Cabo San Lucas with a group of fellow crew members.  They ended up leaving her in a nightclub and returned to the yacht.  When she tried to walk back to the marina late that evening, four Mexican men abducted her in their car.  They  drove her outside of the city to a remote area.  They then raped her and burnt her naked body with cigarettes.  When the men passed out after drinking tequila and smoking weed, she ran to a highway, flagged down a car, and escaped from her hell in the Mexican desert. 

Her maritime employer, asshole as he was, not only refused to provide her with medical treatment but fired her from her job.  He blamed her for staying out late and drinking at the club.  The kindest thing I can say about the local police in Mexico is that they were indifferent to the young woman’s plight.  

When I traveled to Cabo San Lucas, I found the surroundings hostile.  The area surrounding the marina and cruise port seemed menacing.  I have lived outside of the U.S., including in North Africa, but Mexico seemed utterly lawless to me.  The police authorities seemed no different than the banditos.    

My client’s situation ended up in litigation based on the yacht owner’s failure to warn her of the dangers ashore in Mexico and his refusal to provide her with medical treatment after she was victimized.  After a long protracted battle, she obtained a settlement and tried to move on with her life. 

Her ordeal has always haunted me. 

Cozumel Mexico - Crime - Cruise Ships Ever since then, I have been hyper-sensitive to the vulnerability of women employed on ships sailing around the world. I am apprehensive of the dangers which  await young women as they unsuspectingly walk down the gangplanks into the tropical ports of call which seem so appealing but – in truth – are so, so dangerous.

The recent story about the Royal Caribbean crew member, Monika Markiewicz, from the Allure of the Seas, who disembarked her cruise ship in Cozumel and never returned, brings me back to my client’s tortuous ordeal over a decade ago.

There is no indication that Ms. Markiewicz was sexually assaulted, but her employer has publicly stated that she was a "victim of a violent crime while ashore in a remote area in Cozumel."  Did the cruise line warn her and other crew members of dangers ashore in Mexico?   What did the cruise line do once they realized that she did not return to the cruise ship last Friday afternoon?  Did they abandon her as my client was abandoned 13 years ago?  Did they notify the young woman’s family in Poland when the cruise ship set sail and left her in Mexico?  Did they contact the Polish Embassy or Consulate?  While heading back to Miami, did the cruise line call the emergency contact telephone numbers which all crew members provide when they join Royal Caribbean?

Is Royal Caribbean going to do anything now?  Its PR spokesperson stated yesterday that the cruise line has no intention of suspending its trips to Cozumel.  Full steam ahead, they say.  When the disastrous earthquake struck Haiti and killed 100,000 people a year ago, Royal Caribbean said that sailing back into the Haitian destination of Labadee was a "no brainer."  So the loss of one of its crew members due to a violent crime in Cozumel is not going to slow it down one bit.  

Royal Caribbean is directing all inquiries regarding the crime to the Mexican police authorities.  But the police have a reputation for incompetence at best and corruption at worst.  I have never heard of anyone in Mexico being tried or convicted of a crime against a tourist or a ship employee on shore leave.  There are several web sites discussing the reluctance of Mexican police to get involved in investigations in cases like this, such as Mexican Vacation Awareness.  And some of the local police in Mexico have even been accused of participating in crimes against tourists.

Many naysayers reading this blog will say "it could happen anywhere."  Others will say "what is a cruise line to do?"  Well we know what Royal Caribbean is doing – sailing to Mexico as if nothing happened.  And pretending the Mexican police will solve a crime against a young woman from Poland victimized in a remote location in a dangerous country. 

Numerous news sources are reporting that the body of crew member from Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas was recovered from the ocean near Cozumel. 

Allure of the Sea - Cruise Ship - Crew DeathPolish national Ms. Monika Markiewicz, age 32, was employed by Royal Caribbean as a musician.  She disembarked from the Allure on Friday and did not return to the cruise ship.  The cruise ship then left Cozumel and sailed back to Miami.   

Her body was recovered on Saturday.   

An autopsy determined the cause of Ms. Markiewicz’s death was "drowning" but noted that she suffered a blow to the head.  According to the Canadian Press, Royal Caribbean spokesman Cynthia Martinez said the information the company had received indicated "she was the victim of a violent crime, and did not drown accidentally."  "Tragically, we recently became aware that the crew member was a victim of a violent crime while ashore in a remote area in Cozumel," the statement said.

Royal Caribbean has had many deaths in the last two months.  Last week, a crew member was killed and the safety officer injured during a fire drill aboard the Allure’s sister ship Oasis of the Seas.  A passenger’s husband filed suit over his wife’s death on the Brilliance of the Seas.  Three Monika Markiewicz - Cozumel Mexicoweeks ago, a passenger fell to his death from the Liberty of the Seas.  Two months ago a young cook was found dead on the Oasis of the Seas.  

This most recent death comes at a time when some cruise ships have pulled out of some of the ports in Mexico, citing concerns with crime.

Are you a crew member aboard the Allure?  If you have information about this incident, please leave a comment below. 

February 8, 2011 UpdateMexico, Cruise Ships & Crime Against Women

February 9, 2011 Update:  There are a number of articles which are confusing the names of the Royal Caribbean crew member, Ms. Markiewitz, with a cruise line passenger who also died in Mexico after leaving the cruise ship last Friday.  The Latin America Herald Tribune identifies the cruise passenger as Ms. Samantha Page Thomas.  This newspaper also indicates that Monika Markiewicz was also known as "Monica Warshal." 

February 10, 2011 Update:  A newspaper in Mexico also identifies the passenger and contains a strange explanation of events.  A press conference of the Mexican prosecutor is available on line.  Warning, the video contains graphic post mortem images of Ms. Thomas as well as a photograph of Ms. Markiewicz  face down in the water when she was found.  The prosecutor is quoted as saying that they were also reviewing the cruise ship’s surveillance camera imges to see who the crew member was seen leaving the ship with or whether she may have gone overboard. 

A Mexican man was arrested today in Ms. Markiewitcz’s death. Nelson Perez Torres, 24, who worked in a restuarant in Cozumel, reportedly confessed to hitting Monika Markiewicz in the head with a rock and then throwing her into the ocean.

Read our updated article:  Alleged Killer of Royal Caribbean Crew Member in Mexico Arrested – Family Maintains Son is Innocent

Resources:

Mexican Vacation Awareness

 

Photo credits:  

Top – Runekrem Flickr page

Bottom – AP Photo/Angel Castellanos