Malcom Is Missing Screens at the Capitol Sunday

In Local, Upcoming Events

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
If a loved one goes missing, the panic grabs your gut.

If your loved one is missing in Mexico – as Port Hope resident Brooke Mullins discovered – the panic bleeds into chaos and hopelessness that can go on for years.

It’s not that the authorities put forth little to no effort to help her find her father Malcom Madsen.

“It got to the point where they were purposely not co-operating,” Mullins said.

The documentary detailing her story Malcom Is Missing will be televised on CBC Gem in January and November 20th on the Documentary channel, but you can get a preview at a special screening on Sunday, November 13, at Port Hope’s Capitol Theatre.

Malcom (the one-L spelling is correct, she said – he would get annoyed when people would use two Ls) was described in the press release as “a curious combination of guarded and suspicious, yet oddly naive and trusting.”

He went to Mexico Oct. 13, 2018. The place where he stayed had inconsistent Internet, so it wasn’t uncommon for him not to be able to reach anyone for a few days at a time. But when there was no word by November, she was concerned. She attended the Northumberland Hills Hospital Foundation gala on Nov. 3, but was on a plane to Mexico the next day.

Contacting the police, she found them – to put it diplomatically – unhelpful. They expected to be paid directly to do their job and expected payment for evidence, and even then their efforts amounted to very little.

Mullins was able to ascertain that Malcom had been at a Puerto Vallarta bar on the evening of Oct. 27, 2018 with his Mexican girlfriend. When they left together, it was the last time the 68-year-old Madsen was seen alive.

Mullins was assisted in her efforts by a wonderful team that included a couple of her father’s friends, a very capable lawyer (whom she acquired after two terrible ones) and Malcom’s favourite taxi driver Jesus.

She recalled how important it was to Malcom to have a driver he could trust, whose company he could enjoy, who spoke English. Jesus Francisco Romero Partida filled the bill to perfection. Since Malcom’s disappearance, he has been part of so many efforts made on his behalf, right down to military and police efforts and cadaver-dog searches.

“Jesus stepped up and has done so much for me, he is a close friend of mine now,” Mullins said – “my eyes and ears.”

He is one reason she can now say, “even with all the terrible stuff I have witnessed in the last few years, I have seen much more good and kind people stepping forward.”

This includes a new district attorney, Juan Jose Mejia from Guadalajara, who has stepped up looking to stem the corruption in that office.

“I really have faith in this man. It seems he wants to help me, to help Malcom. I have hope with this man.”

It seems astonishing that this much struggle could be boiled down to a single paragraph, but that’s how Robert Osborne – who directed the film with his partner Jari – heard the story. They were working in Vancouver, and stumbled across the paragraph in a newspaper.

“All it said was, “Canadian woman fighting Mexican authorities,’” he recalled.

“It didn’t give any name or details – just about the fact that this woman had been fighting against the Mexican authorities to find her father.”

Osborne hit the Internet and found Mullins’s Facebook page Justice For Malcom. Scrolling through the friends listed, he discovered one with whom he once worked in the journalism department at Toronto Metropolitan University. He reached out and asked to be put in contact with Mullins.

“I got off that phone and turned to my partner and said, ‘This is a great story. This is a story that will resonate with Canadians.’

“I kind of knew that because I have done a few stories years ago for W5 looking at people who got tangled up with the Mexican justice system. If you get involved, if you somehow get tangled up, you are in deep trouble.”

The Osbornes shot a pilot that CBC loved – and then COVID-19 struck and the project stalled.

“Initially, nobody knew how they were going to be able to work during COVID, how travel was going to happen, what kind of production insurance would be available, what would happen if your crew members got sick,” he recalled.

But the CBC stuck by the project, confirming the Osbornes’ conviction that this was a bigger story than its surface facts.

“Brooke is a brilliant spokesperson for this. Her candor is what gives this documentary a massive amount of soul,” he stated.

“It’s a story about – kind of a combination of our government’s indifference to Canadians who get into trouble overseas, the corruption of the Mexican system and what you might think if you ever have the misfortune to get tangled up in that. It’s one person’s fight against the system.”

A look at the studies and reports that have been done show that it’s not a unique story. Osborne says it has happened to thousands of Canadians, Americans and Europeans. Statistics show that 100,000 people go missing in Mexico each year, and 95% of violent crimes are never solved.

“It happens constantly, and there are two reactions that are most certain,” he said.

“One, the Mexican justice system won’t give a flying you-know-what.

“Two, our government will do virtually nothing beyond the token minimum that they can. I don’t know what those consulates and embassies are for, but they are certainly not for bailing Canadians out when they get in trouble.”

Osborne recalled the relatively high-profile case of Brenda Martin from Trenton. She moved to Mexico and got a job as a cook for a wealthy Canadian businessman. The businessman was wealthy from scamming Americans, Canadians and Mexicans. The Mexican authorities swooped down on him, arresting and detaining Martin as well, who had nothing to do with the cons.

“She sat in jail for years – I think two or three years – without ever being charged, and our government did nothing for her,” he said.

Martin’s story had a happier ending. Osborne got involved with it through W5, it blew up into a big controversy, the Mexicans speeded things up to put her on trial and convict her, and the Canadians arranged to have her transferred home to finish her sentence.

Thanks to the film, Malcom’s story is also resonating. Osborne has put it out in a few select film festivals and is gratified with the feedback – including the news that it won Best Feature Documentary at the LA Crime Film Festival.

While there are no warnings from Canadian or Mexican governments about the kind of situation Malcom found himself in, Mullins sees the potential for many such future tragedies.

It’s not necessarily just the tourists who are at risk in this way, she said, but the elderly or retired people who move there on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. They may not know the language well, they are vulnerable – and like Malcom with Jesus – they connect with local people.

Jesus was a stroke of great fortune, but sometimes these Canadians connect with friendly local tradespeople or begin dating approachable younger men and women.

“They are taking advantage of the system, and the police don’t do anything,” she said.

“I think it is very important people who are thinking of moving there realize – if you move there and, God forbid, something goes wrong, you are 100% on your own and so is your family. Global Affairs isn’t going to help you, nobody is going to help you. Most of the police don’t want to help you.”

The screening comes just as Osborne is finishing the first draft of the book he was asked to write about the case, also called Malcom Is Missing.

Sunday’s screening at the Capitol (20 Queen St.) begins at 7 p.m., with doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $5 each, available at the Justice For Malcom Facebook page and also at the door. It’s not a money-making affair, Mullins noted – revenues are meant to cover the costs of the venue.

Though if she could, she would love to start a charity for people in her position who have come before her and will come after.

“I have connected with so many friends who haven’t gotten as far as I have. They don’t know what to do, they don’t have the finances and they aren’t familiar with the locations.

“When you think – your loved one goes missing in a country that has a bad reputation, and you are expected to go down there and look for them.”

In her own case, Mullins estimates she has spend hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“I would like to think if police had done their job from the beginning, I would have never have had to do that. I am lucky I could pull it together.”

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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