• April 14, 2024

Couple Attacked by Machete-Wielding Intruders While Staying at Airbnb

 Couple Attacked by Machete-Wielding Intruders While Staying at Airbnb

When Vianey Souquette and Ross Lonsdof arrived in Tulum, Mexico, they were thrilled to be spending three weeks in paradise.

The San Antonio, Texas, couple had booked an Airbnb near the beach, for $441 a night, in a spot described in the listing as “a safe and central area.” They felt secure knowing the property owner was a “superhost,” and visitors to the tourist-heavy destination were known to be well-protected by authorities.

However, the dream getaway quickly turned into a terrifying nightmare, when Souquette and Lonsdof were attacked by machete-wielding intruders who slipped in through an unsecured rear entrance. In a new lawsuit they filed over the hellish 2021 ordeal, the two say they have since been diagnosed with PTSD, severe depression, and anxiety, and claim the incident has put a “severe strain on their decade-long relationship.”

Tulum is among the trendiest “eco-chic” spots along the Riviera Maya, a sun-drenched stretch of coastline in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. It was once a sleepy fishing village so far off the beaten trail that infamous Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar maintained a bolthole there—now refashioned as a glossy hotel with rooms going for $1,000 a night. In recent years, Tulum has become “the Williamsburg of Mexico,” according to The Cut.

It’s now a destination “so popular with the fashion crowd… that it almost feels like Fashion Week,” The New York Times reported in 2012. “While Teva-wearing backpackers look for sea turtles and New Age naïfs look for nirvana, the fashion obsessed don’t have to look at all to find one another. They are everywhere, artfully dressed down in high-peasant style.”

Once they arrived at their rental, Souquette told The Daily Beast she and Lonsdof noticed the back fence didn’t close properly, and the locks on the back door and sliding door were broken. So, as required by Airbnb policy, they called and left a message for Airbnb’s “Neighborhood Support Team,” and reported the issues. Souquette and Lonsdof also contacted the host himself, who promised to take care of things right away.

The male voices Souquette said she heard coming from the small fenced-in courtyard behind the house were the host’s workers, who maintained all of his properties in the area, he explained.

“He says, ‘Don’t worry. They’re not going to bother you,” Souquette told The Daily Beast. “They’re just back there to get supplies… And I said, ‘Well, I don’t feel comfortable with it. I don’t know who they are.’ Especially because that sliding door didn’t seem very secure. But he assured me we had nothing to worry about; that he would make sure that they didn’t come and go while we were there.”

On July 20, 2021, about 10 days into their stay, the couple woke up in the morning with plans for a “lazy day,” Souquette said. She took a shower and came out, wrapped in a towel, to make the two of them some breakfast while Lonsdof washed up. As Souquette finished cooking eggs, she said she heard—to her annoyance—the courtyard gate swing open.

“That kind of got me upset, because I thought he wasn’t going to let anybody in here anymore, she said. “I don’t know why I did it, but I put my head to the door, like, ‘What was that noise?’ And the moment I did that, the door swung open.”

A man with a knife grabbed Souquette as a second man entered behind him, shoving Souquette deeper inside the residence, she said.

“I just thought I saw my life passing me by,” an emotional Souquette recalled. “And I said to myself, ‘If I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die fighting.’”

Souquette was too shaken up to recount specific details, but their federal lawsuit, filed March 15, fills in some of the blanks.

On security camera footage, which Souquette’s attorney Tyrone Blackburn shared with The Daily Beast, a pair of masked men can be seen bypassing the broken back fence while a third man disables a second camera with a length of pipe and remains outside as a lookout. The two attackers then enter the Airbnb by “easily opening an unlockable back door and sliding door, both of which Plaintiffs had reported to Airbnb several days earlier,” the complaint states.

Souquette let out a bloodcurdling scream, heard clearly in the security footage, as the intruders made their way inside, ripped off her towel, and assaulted her, according to the complaint. Lonsdof heard Souquette’s cries and rushed out of the shower, “naked and covered in soap,” the complaint continues. The startled duo tried to tackle Lonsdof, one of them getting him in a bear hug while the other took whacks at him with a machete, the filing states. It says Lonsdof attempted to wrestle the machete away from the men, causing all of them to fall to the floor.

“During the struggle, one of the assailants began grabbing Mr. Lonsdof’s penis and genitals,” according to the complaint, which says this move was “presumably [meant] to stop him from fighting back.” “When this tactic failed, they began striking and jabbing him in the groin and anus with the object used to disable the surveillance camera. Mr. Lonsdof recalls feeling immense pressure near his rectum. Eventually, Mr. Lonsdof was able to wrestle the machete away from one of the assailants and chased them out of the Airbnb rental.”

Souquette, who is Mexican-American, told The Daily Beast that Lonsdof started to chase the attackers as they bolted out the back door, but that she shouted for him to let them go because “the first thing that pops to your mind is [that they’re connected to a] cartel.” Her mother recently bought property in the area, and Souquette said she worried about her becoming a target if she were to make too much noise over the break-in. Still, they called the police to report the attack, which, according to Souquette, only made her more nervous about potential retaliation.

The couple packed up and evacuated inside of three hours, driving straight to Cancun and checking into a pricey gated resort on which Souquette said she insisted, for security’s sake. And that’s when Airbnb finally called Souquette back about the broken gate and locks at the house in Tulum, she said.

Side-by-side photos of a police officer taking a report from Vianey Souquette and Ross Lonsdof and a picture of the Airbnb where they were staying.
The local police didn’t inspire much confidence in Vianey Souquette after she and her partner were attacked at their Airbnb (r), she said.

She and Lonsdof managed to get flights back home to Texas shortly after midnight the next day, costing “ridiculous amounts,” according to Souquette, who suffered cuts, bruises, and a tooth chipped badly enough to require cosmetic dentistry. Lonsdof received lacerations resulting in significant scarring to his chest, arms, and legs, the complaint states. The same property where the attack took place was made available for rent immediately after Lonsdof and Souquette left town, she said.

“I’m just livid,” Souquette said. “How would you like to know, maybe a group of women, or two or three young girls rent it, not knowing that a woman and her boyfriend had been assaulted days before?”

In the lawsuit Blackburn filed on behalf of Souquette and Lonsdof, he notes that Airbnb “does not conduct formal inspections of all listings as a standard practice.” By failing to vet each property prior to it being rented, the company “exposes renters like Ms. Souquette and Mr. Lonsdof to foreseeable risks of harm,” the lawsuit states.

“The thing is, Airbnb is reactive, not proactive,” Blackburn told The Daily Beast.

Airbnb declined to comment.

“Like I said, it’s like our lives just flashed in front of us,” Souquette said, “and the negligence between the owner and Airbnb is so outrageous to me. And I’m furious.”

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