Thursday, Feb 22 2024
All Cities
Choose Your City
'The 3am stop at a remote station miles from home is a moment you will remember for the rest of your life.'

Two years on, US mother offers $10,000 reward for evidence of 'murder' of her son in Siberia

By 0 and 0 and 0
02 April 2018


Dana Madsen Calcutt and her son Colin Madsen. Picture: social networks 

The reward comes from Dana Madsen Calcutt whose attempts to reopen the official investigation into her son’s death have met with failure in Russia. 

'Colin would have been 27 on the 18 February - and it has been over two years since I last saw him.  

'I think it would save others in Siberia if we could find and prosecute these murderers of innocents.’

When Madsen, the stepson of a respected British microbiology professor, suddenly went missing in this mountainous region, it was only a local shaman who accurately foretold his tragic fate. 

The American would be found dead more than a week after he vanished, predicted this diviner of good and evil spirits.

This proved true - the body of the linguistics student who had been studying at a Russian university in Irkutsk was discovered under a tree, flat on his back, in the shadow of spectacular 2,412 metre Love Peak (or Peak of Love) which he had been due to climb with three friends on 27 March 2016, the day he disappeared.

Another shaman was certain - several days after Colin vanished - that he was still alive: it transpires this is possible, too. 

In this mystical region - where Buddhism and coexists with modern-day shamanism - the police and Investigative Committee, equivalent of the FBI, quickly decided that forensic evidence established wannabe UN diplomat Madsen's death was due to him freezing to death. 

Colin Madsen 

'Colin would have been 27 on the 18 February - and it has been over two years since I last saw him.' Picture: social networks 

He had wandered out of the log cabin he shared with his friends in the middle of the night following a cannabis session, got lost on the mountain, they decided.

They were in the resort village of Arshan in the Sayan Mountains, five time zones east of Moscow.

What follow, according to the family, is a grotesque abuse of justice. 

Rigorous US forensic tests, commissioned by his grieving family after Madsen’s body returned to America, indicate the 'warm hearted' talented linguist was struck in the head, his wrists bound and that he was suffocated. 

Last year Colin's stepfather Professor Mick Calcutt,  who teaches at the University of Missouri, and his wife, the victim's mother, Dana Madsen-Calcutt, 57, called on Putin and US president Donald Trump to intervene to force out the truth. 

Their efforts fell on deaf ears but they refuse to give up. 

First hiking in Siberia

First hiking

Colin in Arshan

Colin in Arshan

Colin Madsen was several times hiking in Arshan area. Picture: social networks 

'The report indicates that Colin did not die on the spot where his body was found and he had sustained injuries to the wrists and hands that appear he was bound, and a blunt weapon injury to his head,' said the academic. 

'It is clear he was murdered, there is no doubt whatsoever.'

Dana flew in from the family home in America four days after he went missing. 

She now says: 'I really, truly feel he was murdered while I was there.'

The grieving couple 'feel the police were involved in a cover-up of the death.'

The secret of what happened to Colin lies here among the picturesque lavender-scented slopes of this Soviet-era thermal spa village almost 1,000 metres above sea level.

Foreigners are few here, and Russian local tourists sit in cafes with smoking shashliks - Russian barbecues. 

We came here with one of Colin's friends on the trip, Dmitry Emelyanov, 31, a sales representative, who returned to Arshan for the first time since these horrific events. 


House in Arshan

House in Arshan

House in Arshan

The four men were sharing the primitive shack - with a stove and six beds - ahead of their hike. Pictures: The Siberian Times

That night the student had been 'his normal self, calm, funny and confident', he said.

If ever there was a conflict, Colin tried to resolve it and 'always saw the good in everyone'.

'He loved life and wanted to discover everything.'

He had made a wide circle of friends in his three years studying in Siberia.

'I was the last person to hear Colin's steps,' he said. 

The four men were sharing the primitive shack - with a stove and six beds - ahead of their hike.

They went to sleep at 2am, and were due up at 5am for a bracing wash in the ice cold waters of the tumbling Kyngarga river.

Guest house

Police search


The three scoured the area all day, putting up missing person notices.  

'Colin came back from the outside toilet and I heard him closing and locking the door,' insisted Dmitry. 'I saw him sitting on his bed. That was it.' 

Lucas Fagre, an American student also studying in Irkutsk, fell asleep first, then Russian gift shop owner Pavel Tarasov, 31.  

'I remember Colin's belongings on his bed - a backpack, hoodie and vest,' said Dmitry. 

'We went asleep and the three of us heard nothing.'

He said: 'Either Colin never fell asleep, or he went out again before going to bed. 

'Possibly to the toilet again, or just to get some fresh air. I woke up in three hours and Colin was missing. 

'I got Pavel and Lucas up, and we started to search for him.'

Crime scene

Crime scene

The place where Colin's body was found.

The three scoured the area all day, putting up missing person notices, but then the first odd thing happened: they could not raise the police in Arshan or elsewhere in the district for 13 crucial hours.

When the police eventually arrived, they were not interested in searching for the missing Westerner and instead held friends for some 19 hours, without sleep, food, water - or lawyers. 

'We were expecting the police to help us hunt for Colin,' he said. 'But we were wrong. The police accused Colin of committing suicide and being an alcoholic and drug user.'

One interrogator named Yuri Erenbtuev from the Investigative Committee - equivalent of the FBI - was especially 'aggressive and intimidating'. 

'We were then accused of murdering Colin - and raping his dead body.'

The police decided - falsely - that the men were gay.


Private possessions


No personal belongings were stolen.

'It was beyond them to understand that a group of men might come to Arshan for something as normal as climbing, bringing books with them - and without vodka,' he said. 

'In fact, we HAD been before - with girls. Colin had been to Arshen previously in a group, bringing a girl called Anna with him. 

'They searched our belongings, found tea, and accused us of using drugs. 

'They found books, and accused us of being gay, because 'normal' straight men do not come here with books and without vodka or girls.'

In all this time, the police did not activate a search for Colin. 

Instead the two Russian friends - and later Lucas - were forced to undergo a lie-detector test and asked if they had murdered or beaten their friend. 

They were threatened with 'torture' and told they would be made to wear masks and inhale gas if they did not 'speak properly'.

Dana Madsen Calcutt

Dana Madsen Calcutt had arrived in Arshan then to help the search. Picture: Arigus TV

But the friends all passed the polygraph check, and also underwent drugs tests which showed they were clean, as was a screen later on Colin's body in the US.

'We are left thinking, were they really interested in proper searches for Colin before his mother arrived four days later?'

A law enforcement source critical of the police operation said: 'Did they already know Madsen was dead, or gone forever? Why were they not searching?'

Only a handful of rescuers were deployed - and the friends even paid themselves for a motorised hang glider to conduct an aerial search. 

His route took him over a small clearing in woods where Colin's body would later be found: but he saw no sign of the student.

When Colin's distraught mother arrived on 1 April, instead of showing her how they were actively searching for her missing son, a police interrogator quizzed her on his sexuality, leaving her in tears.  

'I knew Colin would not be found alive after I talked to him. He was spitting with hatred and contempt as he thought those men should not be staying together without girls or alcohol,' she has said.

As if this, even if true, somehow justified him vanishing - or worse.




The secret of what happened to Colin lies here among the picturesque lavender-scented slopes of this Soviet-era thermal spa village. 

'This obsessive interest meant the cops didn't search for Madsen or check other versions of who might have been responsible for his disappearance or murder,' said a local source. 

Dana said: 'He kept trying to get me to say Colin liked boys and wondering how much money he spent per month and where it came from. When I was exhausted and in utter disbelief, I told him Colin had a girlfriend at home - and I saw pure fear.'

It was on 4 April that Colin's body was eventually found, just a mile from the village, some 500 ft higher, and a distasteful picture of the find was immediate leaked to a Russian news website. 

No personal belongings had been stolen.

Russian experts noticed 'traumas' on his body but denied these were a cause of death, a finding disputed by US experts hired by Colin's family. 

Hypothermia victims are usually in the foetal position: Colin was stretched out on his back.

'The night he disappeared was mild, I wore only a T-shirt at 5am ,' said Dmitry. 

The Russians said he probably got lost in the mountains. But he had lived in Irktusk for three years and knew them well, and even acted as a guide.

'We don't think he died here,' he added, showing us the site. 'He was placed there to be found, as part of a cover-up into his death.'

Police station

Local police station. Picture: The Siberian Times

The forensic findings in the US suggest Colin died less than eight days before he was found, and that he had not long lain at this site of dry fallen leaves and grass.

Even the Russian findings cannot fix the time of his death. 

Colin's discovery came soon after the arrival of a crack team of investigators from Moscow, who locals are convinced were in fact not police but officers from the powerful FSB, Russia's security service once headed by Putin. 

Yet there is no official record of either top Moscow investigators or the FSB being present even though one of Colin's friends was interviewed by a Lubyanka agent for two hours.  

So what happened? The local shamans seem reluctant to say. 

Friends and family of Colin rule out that he went out in the night ill-dressed to hike alone.  

'He wouldn't do that,' said another acquaintance. 'He was too responsible. He had no enemies.'

'We don't definitely know what happened to him,' said Lucas. 'I don't think we ever will.' 


Colin wearing pendant

'One of key evidences is a pendant that Colin was wearing on his neck.'

Clearly, he went outside, and locals offer several options. 

One theory is that he heard a noise and went to investigate, disturbing one or more intruders, heavy drinkers, or drug addicts or even a local criminal gang able to buy off the police, who either hurt or killed him for unknown reasons.

Another is that the reason police did not respond for so long was a major crime-fighting operation six miles away. 

'It could that be Colin, walking out at night, was mistakenly swept up in this search by police, and something went wrong, and the cops covered their traces,' said one source.

'Whatever happened, it looks like he was kidnapped or otherwise held alive between his disappearance and his death, and that body was then placed under this tree.'

Peak of Love

Peak of Love


Love Peak (or Peak of Love) which he had been due to climb with three friends on 27 March 2016, the day he disappeared.

Arshan is awash with CCTV cameras, and locals say 'must have picked him up as he wandered around in the village'.

Dmitry said: 'I think the FSB guys came here and quickly understood what happened - probably just by checking all the CCTV footage.' What they saw or learned was too explosive and damaging to divulge. 

But there was another troubling aspect. Lucas had tried to go back to his studies in Irkutsk after Colin's death. 

Then suddenly he said the Russian state 'fixed its eyes on me'. He left Russia after taking advice from the US embassy.

'I left Russia out of fear that I would be detained,' he said. 

'I got a ticket back to the States and was on a plane within 24 hours.'

Lawyer Andrey Grivtsov, a former investigator of serious cases for the Investigative Committee, said the probe was not carried out properly. 

The reason why Colin Madsen's body was found here with his trousers lowered was not established, he said.

Nor why the corpse was missed by a search party which evidently went to this location in the aftermath of his disappearance. 

Colin Madsen

Colin Madsen

Colin Madsen

'Whatever happened, it looks like he was kidnapped or otherwise held alive between his disappearance and his death, and that body was then placed under this tree.'

'It was not established why there are some injuries on Colin's body,' he said.

'Additional analysis to understand if they could have formed because of a single fall or only because of multiple hits was not conducted.' 

No proper checks were conducted to establish how the level of drugs allegedly found might have impacted on Madsen's behaviour - or not. 

The accused senior investigators of wanting to close the case but conducting it 'in a low-quality manner' that did not lead to its completion. 

'This doesn't particularly surprise me because it is how they normally work,' he said. 

Russian-based US lawyer Glenn Kolleeny was quoted in the Russian media as saying: 'The likely cause of death is strangulation.

'That's what marks on neck and face and petechial haemorrhage show.

Colin Madsen and his friend hiking

'I think it would save others in Siberia if we could find and prosecute these murderers of innocents.’

'In my opinion, the Investigative Committee is intentionally trying to protect the guilty in Colin's murder. 

'One of key evidences is a pendant that Colin was wearing on his neck. It wasn't on the deceased at the place where the body was found. It was not indicated in the on-site inspection report.

'However, investigators returned it to the mother along with his passport and wallet. It shows that siloviki (security services) were either directly involved in murder or were related to the murderers who passed the pendant. 

'The autopsy in Russia was conducted in such a way that other experts would not be able to establish the cause of death.'

However, efforts of the family and their supporters have failed to convince the Russian authorities to reopen the case. 

Now they hope the reward will bring a vital extra clue to enable new legal action. 

Comments (11)

Colin’s case has been reopened. There is sufficient evidence reflecting homicide. Hopefully, a new gripuo of officials and judge determine appropriate course of action and justicewill prevail, not only for Colin and his family, but for the residents of Arshan and surrounding area.
Gina Gilliland, Atlanta, Mo
03/01/2019 11:40
I'm russian. Some (NOT all) of russian police is corrupt. Those guys will be worse than outlaws as they feel to be protected - outside of the law = outlaw. I had experience with them. Unfortunately, you should expect anything from them.
R, United Kingdom
12/12/2018 22:20
Why are Russian authorities so homophobic? The fact they derided those boys about not having alcohol and girls raises some eyebrows... this could be some sort of hate crime, maybe some drunk villager had seen them together without "girls and alcohol" and was enraged by homophobic thoughts and killed this young man over thinking he was in fact gay..... a very strange case one that definitely involves someone from that village.
John , Seattle WA USA
28/09/2018 06:02
So if he was smoking weed why did his drug test say clean? I dont doubt he was smoking with his friends because it is very normal for his age group.

Yes, it looks like murder and inept police who are lazy to actually investigate properly.

Could be a native indigenous Siberian who did this because they do live in the area and might want to rob a foreigner. Maybe he dropped his wallet at the outhouse or something, went back out to search for it and met up with the killer. This mỉght explain why they didnt steal it because he had dropped it on the ground.
Michael, USA
22/05/2018 03:54
There must be someone that can help. Someone who wishes this type of behavior to stop; to do the right thing for their country and it's peoples. Please contact me at If you can help me the 10,000 USD is yours, if you can provide names and we can get a conviction. Maybe, someone has the CCTV footage? We can help make Siberia a better place if we can stop the corruption and evil. Write to me. It will be confidential. This is what Colin would have wanted. He loved Siberia so much and loved its people. I am asking you that are reading this to put yourself in my shoes. What if it was your son and your family. I know that people of Siberia are good. Colin always thought that there is inherent good in all. PLEASE step forward and stop this shameful act of aggression and barbarism. Siberia deserves better than this.
Dana Madsen Calcutt, USA
16/05/2018 03:47
Congratulations on a very well written, clear and comprehensive article of what is known of the kidnapping and killing of Colin Madsen. I pray for justice for him and for his family who have suffered so greatly. Thank you for reporting on this tragedy.
Patricia Beavin, St. Louis, USA
07/05/2018 01:24
I can’t even fathom losing a child, let alone with SO many questions left unanswered.. with so many doubts that no one can rationalize. It’s hard enough letting a child study abroad, to let them leave the nest. Yet he became a part of that culture, loved that culture and made it his own... and ultimately it killed him. How does a mother move passed this? How does our country turn a blind eye? Because it was one obscure person that vanished? He wasn’t an obscure person! He touched every life that he was around. For good!! There’s no many that haven’t made a difference in this world. He did. He is gone. No longer to touch lives. There HAS to be answers for this!!
Brandy , Usa
05/05/2018 08:24
I am never giving up. This behavior must be shamed and stopped. We must all work to demand this pretrial detention and corruption of the police to force "confessions" for a bonus is unethical and unsuitable for sustaining a population of good people. If you have any advice let me know. Thank you to The Siberian Times for their undying support of truth and goodness.
Dana Madsen Calcutt, USA
05/05/2018 05:08
Dana, didn't give up
George, Moscow
09/04/2018 20:23
Thank you for this well written article in memory of Colin Madsen and as a reminder that his murder remains unsolved. The people of the region and to all those living in and around these remote regions who have suffered at the hands of corrupt police officials as Colin loved the culture and people. I imagine Americans reading this find it unbelievable that torture for a confession is plausible, but it happens often in these regions. . Colin was an international student vacationing in Arshan who in only a few months from his death would have received his degree from Moscow Linguistic University. If this can happen to him it can happen to other innocent victims who travel to Lake Baikal. The loss of an incredibly loved son is unimaginable , but not knowing the truth is even harder. There must be someone who witnessed something..Preventing a similar fate and focusing the light on stopping the corruption and revealing the coverup of those involved is what his family deserves.

Gina Gilliland, Atlanta, MO
08/04/2018 06:45
Thank you for sharing this update and I am very sorry to hear that it remains an unsolved murder. I also understand a mother's forever love for her child and unrelenting determination. Please release the CCTV footage and I hope that all those involved in this crime are brought to justice no matter where they are in the world.
Pamela K Tetarenko, League City, USA
06/04/2018 20:03

Add your comment

We welcome a healthy debate, but do not accept offensive or abusive comments. Please also read 'Siberian Times' Privacy Policy



Add your comments

The views expressed in the comments above are those of our readers. 'Siberian Times' reserves the right to pre-moderate some comments.

Control code*

Type the code

* obligatory



The Bank of Russia official exchange rates of foreign currencies