A small-town grocer who lost both of his daughters on a disastrous vacation to Thailand earlier this month has accused Thai authorities of covering up the true circumstances of their deaths.
Carl Belanger, who will bury Noemi, 26, and Audrey, 20, on Saturday, made the accusation during an emotional interview with QMI Agency on Tuesday.
A maid found the sisters' bodies in their hotel room on June 15 on Phi Phi island, a popular tourist location south of Bangkok.
The sisters were students at Laval University in Quebec City. They worked at their father's grocery store in their hometown of Pohenegamook, about 200 km northeast of Quebec City.
Thai officials speculated the women likely died of food poisoning, but Carl says the Thai autopsy and the actions of hotel staff were suspicious.
He told QMI that it took too long to discover the bodies and to examine them, and he said police didn't keep him informed about their progress.
"The authorities say they found the bodies 12 hours after their death. According to our calculations it was 48 hours," he said in French.
Subsequent reports indicated hotel surveillance video shows a man leading the women to a room.
A source says police in Thailand are looking for two Portuguese men who were guests at the hotel, but that both have since left the country.
Despite his grief and frustration, Belanger praised the work of Canadian Embassy officials who he said repatriated his daughters' bodies quickly.
The bodies were examined at a laboratory in Montreal and have since been given back to the family. Autopsy results have yet to be released.
Belanger admits he had concerns about his daughters' trip to Thailand and Vietnam despite the fact Noemi was an experienced traveller. He said he expressed his worries to his daughters the last time he contacted them.
"I was dreading Thailand," he said. "(I told them) they should end that trip."
He said Noemi had studied in China for three months. She also took a psychology course in Paris and had also travelled to Mexico, England and all across Canada.
The young women spoke with their parents every second day during their trip to Thailand.
"The week of the tragedy, the last contact we had with them was Monday night," he said. "After that, no more news. My wife kept saying, 'Carl, this is bothering me.' Then we received word of their deaths Saturday morning."
His voice cracking, he read Audrey's final letter in which she praised her parents.
"First off, we take a moment to thank you for having brought us into this world in Canada, for giving us good values, for giving us the passion to travel, and especially to just for having been our parents. "
Audrey ended her letter with words of love that have comforted the grieving family.
"I love you very, very much, say hi to the family for us."