Friends who knew the Montreal woman who was murdered in Mexico say she moved to the country to live out her dreams.

Renee Wathelet, 60, was stabbed to death in the apartment where she lived on Isla Mujeres, a small island about 10 kilometres off the shores of Cancun.

"It's such a sad day but you can only smile when you think of Renee. She was such a vivacious person and generous, wonderfully kind -- the kind of person that's unforgettable," said Michelle Sullivan.

Sullivan said Wathelet was an active blogger, and had set up several websites to recount her experiences.

On her blog, Wathelet wrote that she loved to look to the north while walking on the sand, and think of friends in back in Montreal.

One of those friends, Michelle Blanc, chatted with Wathelet every day through social networking websites or on the Internet phone service Skype.

"Everybody that had a chance to meet her was charmed by her tremendous kindness," said Blanc. "Renee was like the spirit mother to all of us."

Wathelet was a former financial advisor, who gave up a successful career to become a self-described nomad.


Police arrested 24-year-old Jose Joaquin Palacios Garaza Thursday morning in connection with Wathelet's murder.

According to Mexican media reports, local authorities said Wathelet was stabbed in the chest and neck more than 30 times.

Neighbours living near Wathelet's apartment called police Thursday when they heard screams and the sounds of fighting, then saw Garaza walking away carrying a knife.

Police found Garaza a short distance from the apartment, with his clothes covered in blood.

Several friends say that while Wathelet had recently befriended someone named Jose, the man under arrest is a different individual.

Final arrangements

Wathelet's friends say they will give everyone who knew her a few more days to grieve before deciding how to pay formal tribute to her in Montreal.

Meanwhile, her three children are in Mexico, and have plans to cremate her body and spread her ashes in the Caribbean Sea.

With files from The Canadian Press