Malaysian police confirm body found in Tioman is British tourist Gareth Huntley
A body found on Tioman island is that of British tourist Gareth Huntley who went missing last month, police said Saturday, in what his family called a “devastating” blow.
Zakaria Ahmad, head of crime investigation in the eastern state of Pahang, said DNA tests showed that the body discovered on the island on Wednesday was that of the 34-year-old.
“We already received the confirmation from the chemistry department that the DNA of the deceased belongs to Gareth,” Zakaria told AFP.
British media are also reporting that Malaysian authorities are investigating claims that Huntley was involved in a fight and may have been murdered.
Local tour guides have also claimed that Huntley's body was found with his throat slit.
British tourist Gareth Huntley (above) went missing on Tioman island on May 27. Photo: AFP
Huntley’s family, who had pressed the authorities to find the young man after he went missing on a jungle hike, said they were heartbroken by the news.
“There are no words that can capture the devastation we feel right now; no words that can capture the kindness, warmth and spirit that Gareth exuded; no words can describe the void he will leave in all of the lives he touched,” the family said in a statement.
Zakaria said the cause of death had not yet been determined, pending further laboratory test results and investigation.
The partly decomposed body was found on the banks of a small stream some 100 metres from a sea turtle conservation site where Huntley had worked as a volunteer.
DNA samples were taken from Huntley’s mother, Janet Southwell, who travelled to Tioman together with Huntley’s girlfriend a week ago to press the authorities to find him.
Huntley’s friends also set up a Facebook page, publicising the hashtag #FindGareth, to urge on the search after they claimed authorities were dragging their feet.
Huntley disappeared on the popular resort island off the east coast of Malaysia on May 27, leading to a major manhunt and rising concern in Britain, including from Prime Minister David Cameron.
Speculation so far has centered on whether Huntley had suffered a fatal mishap in the island’s rugged hills.
“We are still investigating,” Zakaria said, adding police had informed British High Commission officials of the positive identification.
Cameron’s office said he discussed the case with his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak on Monday and offered British assistance.
Violent crime against foreigners in the Southeast Asian country remains relatively rare, although a French tourist was found dead on the island of Tioman three years ago.
Stephanie Foray’s remains were found buried in a cave three months after she went missing in May 2011.
A Malaysian shopkeeper is standing trial over her murder. He has pleaded not guilty to charges he killed her after she spurned his sexual advances.
- AFP, Daily Mail, The Telegraph