A search of a Mexican jungle for an Australian mother who has been missing for nearly a year along with her estranged husband has revealed no trace of the couple.
Tahnee Shanks, 32, was last seen on May 2 last year when she checked out of the family’s Cancun hotel with her husband Jorge Luis Aguirre Astudillo and now three-year-old daughter Adelynn.
Little Adelynn was later found wandering alone and barefoot outside a Cancun church at about 9pm that day with no sign of her parents.
While Adelynn’s uncle Daniel and grandmother Leanne Shanks immediately flew from Queensland to retrieve Adelynn, who now lives with Daniel and his wife, there’s been no sign of her parents.
In January a heavily armed team including members from the State Attorney-General’s Office, Investigative Police, Quintana Roo Police, the National Guard and the Secretary of National Defence searched an area of the jungle near a housing unit in southern Cancun.
They believed the couple’s bodies may have been taken there and buried in clandestine graves.
Tahnee Shanks and her estranged partner Jorge Aguirre Astudillo remain missing in Mexico. Their daughter Adelynn was later found wandering the streets of Cancun alone
A search for the Australian mother (right) in an area of jungle in Cancun proved unsuccessful
A heavily armed team searched an area of a jungle in Cancun for the bodies of Ms Shanks and her husband in January but found no trace of them
Several hectares of the area were searched, with cadaver dogs also brought in, but no trace of the couple was found, a Mexican newspaper reported.
The search came after authorities received potential ‘new evidence’ in relation to their disappearance, believing Ms Shanks and Mr Aguirre Astudillo may have been taken to the jungle area and killed.
The white ute they were in was reportedly parked outside a house for 10 hours before they disappeared.
The Mexican publication Por Esto! said sources close to the investigation believed there could be other bodies of victims of crime groups buried in the area.
At the time of Ms Shanks’ disappearance, authorities said they were investigating two theories.
The first is that there was a domestic violence incident and Mr Aguirre Astudillo is on the run or in hiding.
Tahnee Shanks, 32, was last seen on May 2 last year when she checked out of the family’s Cancun hotel with husband Jorge Astudillo and now three-year-old daughter, Adelynn
In January a heavily armed team including members from the State Attorney-General’s Office, Investigative Police, Quintana Roo Police, the National Guard and the Secretary of National Defence searched an area of the jungle near a housing unit in southern Cancun
The alternative theory is that Mr Aguirre Astudillo was involved in criminal activity linked to Mexico’s notorious drug cartels and the disappearance is payback.
The family had travelled from their home in Merida to the tourist hotspot of Cancun on May 1 and then checked out of their hotel the next day.
Their white 4WD was spotted on toll road cameras just before 12pm heading back to Merida before making an abrupt U-turn.
A similar car was later found burnt out and was believed to have been the vehicle the family was travelling in.
But reports suggest that car may have been in relation to another kidnapping, and the one the family were travelling in has since been bought by another driver who isn’t connected to Ms Shanks’ disappearance.
Leanne Shanks is now hoping CCTV taken outside the church where Adelynn was abandoned may piece together what happened to her daughter.
She said she’d recently been granted permission to watch the footage, with someone from a missing persons organisation claiming they saw Mr Aguirre Astudillo and one of his relatives outside the church.
The pair’s white ute was captured on leaving a Cancun hotel on the morning of May 2. They travelled 20 kilometres towards Merida when the ute suddenly did a U-turn and headed back towards Cancun, before taking a detour off the highway
Texts from Ms Shanks to a friend show her describing the breakdown of her marriage
‘I’m willing to go back over (to Mexico) but the consulate can’t really look after me which makes it hard because I don’t even know where to start or if they (the police) will speak to me,’ she told the Courier Mail.
‘Is it criminal or is it domestic? We really still are none the wiser.’
Ms Shanks was due to return to Australia on June 22 last year, just weeks after she went missing.
Texts between her and a friend showed her expressing the breakdown of her relationship with Mr Aguirre Astudillo.
While she said he wasn’t physically abusive, she didn’t ‘want to wait’ for the emotional abuse and anger to turn violent.
In another WhatsApp exchange she revealed she’d locked herself in her daughter’s bedroom in a bid to escape her husband’s rage as he tried to kick her out of the family home.
The couple recently separated after Ms Shanks found out he had an affair and booked a flight to return to Queensland with Adelynn.
Ms Shanks mother Leanne (left) and brother Dan (right) rushed to Mexico to retrieve Adelynn when she was found wandering the streets. Adelynn now lives with them
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk