Ecuador News

Expat’s death was a suicide, not a direct result of a home invasion, source says

An attorney familiar with the January death of an Italian expat in Malacatos in Loja Province, says his death was a suicide, not the results of injuries suffered during a home invasion.

Mauro Burzio

Mauro Burzio, an Italian writer, photographer and anthropologist, died January 23 in a Loja hospital, six weeks after a violent home invasion in which he suffered a serious head injury.

The attorney, who prefers to remain anonymous, says Burzio’s death was a suicide caused by the ingestion of medicine used to treat cancer in animals. The attorney says the cause of death was confirmed in an autopsy, adding that earlier reports that Burzio had died as a result of injuries suffered in the home invasion were incorrect.

According to the attorney, Burzio recognized the voice of one his assailants during the December 10 attack and provided police with the name. No arrests were made in the case, however, and the lack arrests upset Burzio.

The attorney said that Burzio had hired a private security guard, who was not present during the attack, and was apparently concerned for his safety.

Elinor Hansen, an acquaintance of Burzio, said that home invasions have been a concern of expats living rural areas of Loja Province for years. “Just after I moved to Vilcabamba, 10 years ago, there were two violent attacks on North Americans, one south of Vilcabamba and one near Malacatos,” she said. “After that, two expats I knew hired armed guards to protect their property. One even built a guard tower on his driveway,” she said, adding that she is aware of a number of other attacks over the years.

“It’s really sad,” says Hansen, who recently relocated to Cuenca. “It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world but many of the expats live in fear. The police say there are more attacks against foreigners there than any other place in Ecuador but they almost never make arrests.”

Obituaries in Italian newspapers reported that Burzio was a scholar of primitive cultures who had written about and photographed isolated communities in Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, and Australia. In particular, he was known for his popular book that retraced the journey of 19th century explorer David Livingstone in search of the headwaters of the Nile River.

  • Martica Leonard

    From what I’ve experienced in dealing with the police and the judicial system in Ecuador, the criminals have more rights than the victims. This is heartbreaking news, that a wonderful and prolific writer and scholar was so disheartened by police inaction that he committed suicide…truly, this is the dark underbelly of life in Ecuador, but sadly the reality of what we face here as strangers in a strange land.

  • McKenna

    Very, very sad to hear. Justice does not appear to have any teeth at all in Ecuador. That is the sad, sad reality.

  • Norbert Trokki

    I live in this country long enough to fully agree with Martica and McKenna. Jurisdical system is a joke based on who knows whom or simply on money. This, in my opinion, is the darkest side of Ecuadorian reality.

  • Jose Heinert

    And in the US, only the wealthy and influential get away with similar crimes. Of course, that is also the case in Ecuador and just about anywhere else. Impunity for the $$$$.

    • StillWatching

      Socialist BS

    • edgeof 2

      U got to be joking and or very naive if you have lived here for any length of time.

  • Nicholas Crowder

    Someone posted this information in another group a week or so ago. I responded to it and my post was removed from the group.

    It is important when reading stories, information etc to really try to question and analyze what is being said – and that includes anything I write.

    1. The article is the exact same information published on an expat forum…… it sounds as though Cuenca Highlife did some reporting or research on this. Maybe they did but it is still the same information from a Facebook forum.

    2. Who is the lawyer involved – he wants to stay anonymous, why? Is he representing the alleged assailants in the home invasion? Why is he involved?

    3. There is nothing mentioned that I can find in any official Ecuadorian source or newspaper. It was widely covered in Italian press and to date I have not seen any mention of suicide.

    4. A drug for cats that fights cancer? What was the drug. I did some extensive searches on the internet for any such drug that could be used for committing suicide in humans. I have not found any supporting evidence yet. However, the drug pentobarbital used primarily euthanasia for dogs and cats. There are known cases where humans have also used it for committing suicide (Mexico is often mentioned in press as a destination for suicide tourism out by those wanting to commit suicide, where the drug is easily obtainable.

    5. One writer noted in the original post in another group that it was somewhat insensitive to post that someone committed suicide without any proof. An attorney who wants to remain anonymous makes me wonder what is going on.

    6. A victim’s head injuries can lead to severe depression which some could argue may lead or not lead to committing suicide. It was reported the victim was quite upset over lack of police or fiscal involvement in the case.

    7. The truth seems to be something of us really don’t know. But I am suspicious of the claim of suicide by cat medication at least until I see some proof. It seems to me that it is convenient for someone to blame it on suicide. More questions need to be answered.

  • Dan

    I’m glad CHL posted the article since this sad story deserves wider coverage and, as you say, it has received very little in the local media. As you probably know, posts on gringo “groups” get very little readership (about 40 views per post on Ecuador Expats Facebook Page, for example), which is one of the reasons why the expat gossip network is so unreliable . At least here, it will get a 2,000 or 3,000 reads.

    As far as verifying the facts, several expats and this website — as I understand it — asked the anonymous attorney and the security guard to identify themselves (they are known in the Vilcabamba – Malacatos area) and offer more information. They declined.

    I agree that there are a lot of loose ends to the story, especially the claim for suicide and the use of the cancer med, but people who knew the victim confirm that he was very depressed before his death. Whether this was due to the head injury or other factors, no one knows.

    There may be some unreliable information in the article but it tells a different and probably more accurate story than the one being passed through the gossip channels. Hopefully, we will soon have the entire story.

  • Kenpojoe

    I disagree with the statement that criminals have more rights than the victims. What l have surmised is that the criminals or their lawyers either are too cosy with the police or they simply bribe them. As ex pats we are not used to this as in our society, the law stands for something. Here it stands for nothing

  • Nick

    “The article is the exact same information published on an expat forum” – You mean that expat forum that you constantly “borrow” content from for your own website? That forum?

    • Nicholas Crowder

      Nick, I think it was one of the vilca groups on facebook. Again, the original poster’s post was removed as well as my response so I cannot go back and look at it. I did not borrow or use that post to my site because I had some concerns about the veracity of some of the claims.

      Generally speaking If my site uses something from a social network, it is cited and also linked to the original source.

      This particular expat’s death was reported on my site from an Italian news website and was credited along to a translated link from Italian to English to the original website. Hope that helps.

  • StillWatching

    Nicholas, I have often dismissed and “dissed” your posts because I felt they were self serving tacit invitations that tout your services as a security consultant. You always seemed to promulgate fear to further your own interests. But I make a conscientious effort not to dismiss things based on source, but to consider them for the worthiness of their content. On that basis, I find your current post compelling.

    Basically, anonymous sources (including my own) that can’t be independently verified deserve skepticism. One thing I have always credited you with is using your own name in your posts and that is always admirable. As a scientist, I also admire the basic research you have done and I wish more people would take the time for similar efforts to back up their skepticism.

    As for your posts being censored I have to express my abhorrence for that. I don’t know where you posted the info or what you said, but if it was on the Expat Exchange, we both know what a tyrant Susan Schlesinger, the moderator is, so if it was on that site it would be no surprise. I am curious, however, what caused you to be cast into her doghouse from your previous perch as one of her favorites? I haven’t read that site in many years (it does become tired and irrelevant once you have lived here as long as I have) but she has created many enemies and she regards many posters on that site as enemies. Care to comment?

  • Gidget

    What a terrible and tragic thing to have happened. A truly wonderful man with incredible talent. I believe the cause of death being suicide is a complete fabrication and is a total cover up of the truth. Corruption is rife in Central and South American countries, as it is in the Middle East and locals are always favoured over ex-pats when it comes to the judicial system (if you can call it that). I was seriously considering retiring to Ecuador but reading about this incident, and many other ex-pat comments about the crime in Ecuador, has made me re-think my options.
    I wonder what happened to Maurio’s beautiful dog after his death? I pray it was re-homed and not left to roam the streets with all the other poor starving dogs that are neglected and left to die.

    • StillWatching

      Won’t you please reconsider your relocation plans? We sure will miss you down here.

    • Globetrotter

      Sadly, corruption exists in most of the world. Look at the US/UK political systems where only money rules!

      One thing IS true. The next decade will be the lousiest time in history to be an American traveler/expat.

  • Travis Peterson

    Maybe he overdosed because now he cannot any longer denounce the person who he knew did it, I just dont believe it was suicide.

  • Suz

    Seems to me the title of this article is a lie……his death IS very much a result of injuries sustained by a home invasion.

  • JRuth

    need to restore the right to bear arms and self defense—