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About me

I was 17 when my 25-year old brother, Chris, was brutally and inexplicably murdered in 1978. I can still recall the sense of paralysing shock that ricocheted through my family the day we received confirmation from the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office that two tortured corpses found off the Guatemalan coast were those of Chris and his girlfriend Peta.

My parents, Audrey and Charles Farmer, went to unbelievable lengths to try to establish what had happened to them and bring their killer to justice and they succeeded in securing some crucial evidence. However, with their suspected killer (Californian citizen, Silas Duane Boston) proving to be highly elusive; the victims, two British citizens; the maritime murder occurring in Guatemalan waters; no scene of crime evidence, the case very quickly went cold. The crime was deemed too complex for any law enforcement to solve and no country was prepared to pick up jurisdiction.

Penny Farmer

Life, of course, moves on and eventually papers over the cracks of loss and bereavement but the pain and the nagging perplexing question of why they were killed, and in such a horrific way, was never far from the surface. They were forgotten but not by their respective families. Their brutal and inexplicable murders were to haunt my family for almost four decades.

It was in October 2015 that the thought came to me from out of the blue to use the internet to track down their killer and his two sons (whom we knew to have been on the boat at the time of their deaths). It was this that was to ultimately lead to the arrest in Sacramento of psychopathic serial killer, Silas Duane Boston, who had spent a lifetime of robbing, raping, murdering and evading law enforcement.

Chris and Peta were, like myself, born and raised in Manchester. Whilst they chose Birmingham University to study, I chose Lancaster University to read English Literature before moving to London to study for a Postgraduate Certificate in Journalism at City University.

I learnt my trade as a reporter on a North London local newspaper before the appeal of attending lavish press functions and styling photo shoots lured me into fashion and beauty journalism. I was appointed Health & Beauty Editor for a national women’s magazine in 1986. After meeting my husband, Ben, we moved out of London to the green fields and dreaming spires of Oxfordshire to raise a family and I became a freelance journalist and public relations consultant.

As the investigation progressed, being a trained journalist, it seemed natural that I should write a book about the catastrophic event that devastated my family. My primary aim was for the book to be a lasting testament to Chris and Peta and their all too brief lives but with gap years and foreign adventures now so commonplace I felt it held relevance and currency for today’s generation. If this story makes just one person think before they place themselves in a potentially vulnerable situation, in the company of a stranger, then it will have been a story worthwhile recounting. Certainly, there can be few more isolated places than a lone boat out at sea. Literally, no one can hear you scream.

I give thanks to my now 93-year-old mother, Audrey, and my older brother Nigel, whose memory banks I frequently raided and for the loving support of my family. My ‘lived-in’ home is rarely empty thanks to my now three grown-up children (Alexandra, Charlie and Freya) who regularly come and go, my mother who lives with us, plus an eclectic menagerie of visiting partners, friends and animals. Not to mention my own four-legged companions - my faithful golden Labrador Mungo, Tinker the rescuee Jack Russell and the latest addition - Rolo, the mischievous Fox Red Lab puppy.

Making headlines in the UK

BBC World Service Outlook
BBC World Service Outlook >
14th September 2018

Dream Holiday that Ended in Tragedy

This Morning
ITV This Morning >
9th August 2018
The Mail on Sunday
The Mail on Sunday >
2.6K shares / over 1000 comments
29th July 2018 Download PDF
BBC1 - North West Tonight
26th April 2019

View the gallery

How I retraced Chris and Peta’s footsteps in Central America for the making of the BBC Paradise podcast.

Finding my brother's grave 40 years after his murder