It’s fall in Oxfordshire, England, and Penny Farmer has been out walking in the idyllic local countryside. On her return, she sits down at her computer and enters a name that has haunted her for almost 40 years. And incredibly, a result pops up for Silas Boston – the person she holds responsible for her brother’s untimely death.
Chris Farmer and Peta Frampton, who had been a couple since a young age, decided to take the trip of a lifetime. Peta, 24, was beginning a legal career, while Chris, 25, had just qualified to become a doctor. And to celebrate their achievements, they planned to travel around the world.
Late in 1977 Chris and Peta flew thousands of miles across the world to Australia. From there, they explored islands in the Pacific before making their way to Los Angeles, California. Next, they ventured southeast to Mexico and then on to the Central American nation of Belize.
Along the way, Peta wrote letters home relating all of their amazing adventures. And back in Manchester, England, her mother – whose home was opposite that of the Farmers – would share the couple’s happy tales. Meanwhile, Chris would telephone his family to keep them up to date with the couple’s exploits as well.
On July 18, 1978, Peta penned a letter to her mother, explaining that the couple had abandoned their original intention of traveling by bus back to Mexico. In Belize, they’d met an American man known as “Dwayne,” who had offered to take them to Honduras on his small boat.
Apparently “Dwayne,” whose actual name was Silas Boston, had traveled to Belize from Sacramento by motor vehicle with his young sons, 12-year-old Russell and Vince, 13. There, he’d established himself as a tour operator, offering trips for visitors wishing to experience life on the paradise islands off Belize.
Clearly, Peta was not expecting an eventful trip. “I don’t think there’s any more news,” she wrote. “Nothing much happens on a boat.” But after that letter, Chris and Peta’s families received no further word from the couple. And when two months passed without any contact, Chris’ father reached out to the authorities in Belize.
Eventually, Belize City’s harbormaster replied confirming that Chris and Peta had been on board the boat, which was named the Justin B, when it had left port – but not when it had returned. Moreover, they had never used the visas that they’d purchased for entering Honduras. Concerned, the couple’s families contacted the U.K. Foreign Office, and an international investigation began.
In October 1977 Boston was tracked down in Sacramento. But although he was questioned by a British official, he claimed to know nothing about Chris and Peta’s whereabouts. And despite the fact that his responses raised suspicion, little could be done without evidence of any crime.
Finally, in January 1979 a private investigator stumbled upon a horrifying lead. Apparently, the previous July, a group of fishermen had pulled the corpses of a European couple out of the Caribbean Sea close to Guatemala. The bodies had reportedly been tied to engine parts in order to prevent them from floating to the surface.
As a result, Chris’ and Peta’s families naturally began to fear the worst. And on February 1, 1979, their suspicions were confirmed. With the help of dental records, authorities in Guatemala were able to confirm that the remains belonged to the British couple.
The two families were convinced that Boston had been involved in Chris and Peta’s deaths. But by the time that detectives in Manchester, England, requested that Sacramento police question Boston, he and his sons had disappeared. Meanwhile, it emerged that Mary Lou, the suspect’s third wife, had also vanished in mysterious circumstances.
For almost four decades, the Farmers and the Framptons attempted to get on with their lives. Chris’ younger sister Penny, who was a teenager at the time of his disappearance, embarked on a career as a journalist, starting a family of her own. But the mystery surrounding the young couple’s deaths continued to haunt her.
Of course, the world changed a lot during those years, and the internet had made it far easier to track down anyone, anywhere in the world. And one day in 2015, Penny realized that she might be able to use this new technology to get to the bottom of what had happened in Guatemala back in 1978.
Determined, she typed the name Silas Boston into Facebook – and was amazed when she scored a direct hit. Apparently, a carer in Boston’s California nursing home had created a profile for the 74-year-old, innocently hoping that some old friends might get in touch. Instead, they allowed Penny to track down the man she believed had murdered her brother almost four decades earlier.
According to Penny, Boston’s profile picture – showing the elderly, bearded man clad in sunglasses, a baseball cap and denim shirt – made him look every inch the serial killer. And amazingly, she was also able to track down Boston’s sons Vince and Russell on social media. But even though she sent each of them a message, she didn’t receive any responses at first.
Penny subsequently contacted Greater Manchester Police and asked them to reopen the investigation. And in a staggering turn of events, they were informed that a detective in Sacramento was also reinvestigating the disappearance of Boston’s third wife. Then, less than two weeks after Penny first contacted him via social media, Vince made a startling statement to the California authorities.
Reportedly, Vince claimed that there was a long-standing rumor within the Boston family that Silas had murdered his third wife. And not only that, but Vince also testified that he had witnessed his father murder Chris and Peta on the Justin B back in 1978. Shockingly, he also said that he had told British police about the crime in 1982 – but they had apparently been unable to locate a case file.
Finally, in March 2016 Chris’ family were told the full extent of the horrific crime that had taken their beloved brother and son from them. Apparently, he had attempted to defend Russell from an angry Boston, causing the older man to channel his rage towards the couple instead. Eventually, they were beaten, stripped and tied up before being dropped in the ocean to drown.
Nine months later, Boston was arrested on suspicion of murder. But as the Farmers waited for the case to go to trial, they received one final blow. Having refused to be treated for a medical condition, Boston died before a sentence could be passed. Now, Penny hopes that her book, entitled Dead in the Water, will keep her brother’s memory alive.