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'How did this happen?' Canadian couple stranded in Turks and Caicos after passports stolen

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A celebratory trip has turned into a nightmare for a Mississauga couple stranded in the Turks and Caicos Islands after their Canadian passports were stolen during a break-in at their rental property.

Jessica Botelho and David Parreira travelled to the islands on Feb. 10 to celebrate her mother’s 70th and aunt’s 60th birthdays with 26 other family members. They were scheduled to return to Toronto one week later on Feb. 17.

But one day after they arrived there was a break-in at the two-bedroom apartment they were sharing with Botelho’s cousin and spouse that resulted in the theft of a number of items, including their passports.

“When we came home, it was very evident that the place had been ransacked,” Botelho told CTV News Toronto in an interview.

“And when I walked into my bedroom, basically, there was glass all over the floor and a rock, so you know, they smashed the window, got in and took whatever they could.”

A Canadian couple says their passports were stolen after their Turks and Caicos rental property was broken into. Now, they're struggling to get home. (Supplied)

Botelho said cash, phones, and other valuables were also stolen. The passports of Botelho’s American cousin and spouse were not taken. Parreira’s phone was also left behind.

“Initially, there's that feeling of violation. You're just like, wow, how did this happen? And then the initial concern was, are we still in this apartment alone or is somebody in here with us?” she explained.

The couple reported the incident to the police to investigate and the Canadian consulate to access emergency travel documents.

Last Tuesday, Botelho said, they filled out the necessary forms under the supervision of a consular official in Turks and Caicos, got new passport photos, paid $700 for what’s called a temporary passport, and spent $150 in courier fees to send those documents to the High Commission of Canada in Jamaica.

The couple said they had heard nothing from the consulate until Monday, when they were told that one of their passport references was invalid and that the waiting game would likely continue. At this point, the couple tells CTV News Toronto that they've been informed their passports are ready to be shipped out from Jamaica, but have yet to receive them.

“With the way that the process has gone. I really don't think we're getting out of here before next weekend,” Botelho predicted.

Since Feb. 17, Botelho estimates that the money they have spent on unplanned accommodations, combined with the value of the goods stolen, totals north of $8,000 – and they’re still burning cash – while the rest of the family returned home.

“Having to say goodbye to my mom. She was visibly emotional,” Botelho said.

Jessica Botelho and David Parreira are pictured among family members during their trip to Turks and Caicos. The couple says their Canadian passports were stolen after their rental property was broken into. Now, they're struggling to get home. (Supplied)

Global Affairs Canada confirmed to CTV News Toronto in an email that it is providing consular services to two Canadian citizens in Turks and Caicos but did not disclose their names due to privacy reasons.

The couple says they managed to book the next direct flight into Toronto on Friday – avoiding a stop in the U.S. and the potential border issues that may arise there – though it remains unclear if they will have their necessary travel documents by then to board.

Botelho explained that the property manager of the apartment they were staying at has provided them with accommodations that will run out on Thursday. In the meantime, she said they are anxious to get home and paranoid that they may experience another break in – to the point they are sleeping with the property’s landscaping machete in the bedroom.

“And then that paranoia turns into just a feeling of defeat and frustration with not being able to get a hold of people,” she said. "We're in a beautiful place. It could be worse. I think there's just this feeling of defeat when it comes to Canadian authorities."

CTV News Toronto has reached out to the Royal Turks and Caicos Island Police for a comment on the break-in, but has not received a response. 

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