Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Police 'investigate claims' backpacker Gareth Huntley was in fight before he went missing in Malaysian jungle

Gareth Huntley, who went missing in the Malaysian jungle.
Gareth Huntley, who went missing in the Malaysian jungle.
Janet Southwell with her son Gareth Huntley who has not been seen since he went on a trek to visit a waterfall in Tioman Island, off the south eastern coast of the Malaysian mainland.

Police are reportedly investigating claims British backpacker Gareth Huntley was involved in a fight shortly before he went missing in the Malaysian jungle.

Mr Huntley, 34, disappeared on May 27 when he went on a trek to a waterfall on Tioman Island, off the south-eastern coast of the country's mainland.

A body found on Wednesday, close to where he was living, has since been confirmed to be that of Mr Huntley.

Mohammad Zakaria Ahmad, a senior police official leading the investigation on Tioman Island, told the Sunday Telegraph he was investigating reports of a fight involving Mr Huntley shortly before his disappearance.

"These are rumours but we are looking into them", he said.

Mr Huntley's body was found in a pond just yards from a kayak storage shed at the Juara Turtle Project where he had been volunteering.

It was discovered behind a row of cabins used by rescue teams during the search.

Mr Huntley's mother, Janet Southwell, had given blood to hospital staff for a DNA comparison following the discovery of the body.

The cause of death has not yet been established.

In a statement following his death, Mr Huntley's family said "no words can describe the void he will leave".

They said: "We would like to thank everyone who came together in the last week to do everything in their power to help find Gareth. You have been extraordinary and we are deeply touched and deeply grateful.

"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.

"Gareth lived every minute of his life as fully as he could; never without a smile and always with others in his heart. You will never leave our hearts Gareth."

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "Malaysian police have now confirmed that the body found on Tioman Island is Gareth Huntley.

"The Foreign Office will remain in close contact with the Malaysian authorities and our staff continue to support Gareth's family at this tragic time."

Pahang state police chief senior deputy commissioner Datuk Sharifuddin Ab Ghani said earlier this week that the body was decomposing and was found clothed in shorts, socks and shoes, but with no shirt.

An iPhone was also found nearby but there was no sign of any personal documentation.

Mr Huntley, of Hackney, east London, who is originally from the Leeds-Bradford border, was on a sabbatical from his job in the City.

His family mounted a high-profile campaign to intensify a search for him after he failed to return from his trek.

Ms Southwell travelled to Malaysia following her son's disappearance after Prime Minister David Cameron spoke to Malaysia's prime minister, Najib Razak, about the search effort.

More than 100 people were involved in the search until the body was found on Wednesday.

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