The Full Story Behind The Mysterious Disappearance Of Gareth David Huntley

Gareth Huntley, a charity volunteer from east London, went missing on the Tioman island in Malaysia 27 May.

Cover image via BBC

Gareth Huntley Was Dead For More Than Three Days When His Body Was Found

Gareth David Huntley

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Gareth David Huntley, the Briton whose body was found in the Mentawak River, Pulau Tioman last Wednesday, had been dead for more than three days when his remains were discovered.

Pahang police chief Senior Deputy Comm Datuk Sharifuddin Ab Ghani said the initial post-mortem report on the 34-year-old's remains revealed that he had died "at least three days and above" before he was found in the Mentawak River on June 4. He, however, said the cause of death was still undetermined according to the hospital and needed further investigation.

On foreign press reports, which insinuated that Huntley was murdered, SDCP Sharifuddin said the police were not interested in such speculations. "Our findings and process of investigation are all according to the law," he told reporters after launching a blood donation drive here on Tuesday.

He also discounted rumours of foul play, saying that the investigation into Huntley's cause of death had not found any criminal elements so far. "We listen to what the doctor tell us and looking at the scene of the incident, there are no criminal elements," said SDCP Sharifuddin.

Pahang CID chief Senior Asst Comm Mohd Zakaria had previously said the initial post-mortem on Huntley’s body revealed no injuries. He had, however, also said police were not ruling out foul play but that it was still early in the investigation.

Body Found On Pulau Tioman Confirmed To Be Gareth Huntley After DNA Test

Filepix show search personnel walking pass a poster of Huntley after he went missing

Image via The Star Online

The body of a man found in Sungai Mentawak, near the Lagoon Chalet at Kampung Juara, Pulau Tioman, last Wednesday, was confirmed to be that of Gareth David Huntley, 34, who was reported missing at the Lubuk Teja Waterfalls last May 27. Pahang police chief Sharifuddin Ab Ghani, in a SMS message to reporters here today, said the confirmation was based on DNA matching by the Chemistry Department in Petaling Jaya.

"After making comparisons on DNA profiles obtained, it was found that Janet Southwell, who donated a blood specimen for DNA analysis, is the biological mother of the dead person. "This means the body that was found (last Wednesday) is that of Gareth David Huntley," he said. Sharifuffin, however, did not state the cause of the victim's death.

Pahang CID chief Senior Asst Comm Datuk Mohd Zakaria Ahmad said police would wait for the post-mortem report before confirming the cause of the death. "That includes the toxicology report and other documentations. We will have to refer to them to find out the cause of death," he told The Star Online. SAC Mohd Zakaria said the British High Commission had been notified of the DNA test findings.

"From what I understand, the deceased's family members have already returned to their home country. The British High Commission will be handling the claiming of the body," he said. State police chief Senior Deputy Comm Datuk Sharifuddin Ab Ghani earlier confirmed that DNA test results showed positively that the blood sample from Southwell matched the specimen taken from the body.

Gareth Huntley Case: Police Deny News Reports Stating DNA Results Out On Body Found In Tioman

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Police have denied news reports stating that DNA test results have identified the body found in Pulau Tioman as that of Briton Gareth David Huntley. Pahang CID chief Senior Asst Comm Datuk Mohd Zakaria Ahmad said Friday the DNA test was still ongoing and no results were available yet.

A local news outlet had reported earlier in the day that DNA test results have confirmed that the identity of the body found on Wednesday was Huntley. Pahang police chief Senior Deputy Comm Datuk Sharifuddin Ab Ghani also said he did not make any such statement and would call a press conference once the DNA results were known.

Gareth Huntley Case: Body Found On Pulau Tioman Confirmed To Be Of Missing British Volunteer

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The body of a man found in the holiday resort of Pulau Tioman on Wednesday afternoon has been confirmed as missing Briton Gareth David Huntley, reports Astro Awani today. The confirmation was made after a DNA sample was taken from the body was found to be a match with the sample given by his mother, Janet Southwell.

However, the cause of death has yet to be ascertained because of the level of decomposition, Pahang police chief Datuk Sharifuddin Ab Ghani was reported as saying by the news portal. Huntley, 34, failed to return from a jungle trek on the island located off the east coast of Malaysia on May 27, leading to a manhunt and rising concern in Britain, including from Prime Minister David Cameron.

Gareth Huntley with girlfriend Kit Natariga

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“The cause of death is still undetermined, hence this case is still classified as sudden death at this stage, although we can’t rule out any possibilities of foul play,” Sharifuddin Ab Ghani, Pahang state police chief told The Telegraph. He added that “no outside wound appeared on the body”.

Gareth Huntley Case: Police Finds Decomposed Body In A Pond Near Where He Volunteered

The kayak storage area, where the body was found, has been sealed off with tape.

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The search for Gareth David Huntley has taken a tragic turn after a body, believed to be that of the missing Briton, was been found in a pond a few metres from a kayak storage unit near the Juara Turtle Project, Wednesday afternoon.

Rompin OCPD Deputy Supt Johari Yahaya reported the discovery but could not confirm if the body was that of the 34-year-old. The body was found facing upwards in the pond wearing shorts, shoes and socks, but no shirt. The face was unrecognisable due to decomposition.

The returning search party consisting of commandos, police, Fire and Rescue Department and Rela officers, stumbled across the body when they were returning to the base camp here at around 12pm. It was situated in a pond some 20m from a kayak storage unit within the compound of the conservation camp Huntley volunteered in. It was behind a row of cabins which had were occupied by rescue operators over the last three-days.

On 27 May, A British National Went Missing After Visiting The Lubuk Teja Waterfalls Near Tioman Island

Gareth Huntley, British citizen. 34-year-old.

Image via HELP US FIND Gareth David Huntley in Tioman

Gareth David Huntley, 34, was believed to have gone to the vicinity of the waterfalls alone about noon on that day. When he failed to return, his friends, accompanied by several villagers went to look for him in the jungles near the waterfalls.

His journey was only expected to take two hours, but he failed to return and meet up with friends. Gareth was volunteering at the Juara Turtle Sanctuary on the island and the British consulate is working with the Malaysian authorities. His possessions are still at the sanctuary and people who know him are becoming increasingly concerned.

On 29 May, A Police Report Was Lodged At The Tioman Police Station At 2.13PM

"The police have sought the assistance of the General Operations Force to conduct a search-and-rescue operation, with the aid of tracker dogs. We tried to trace the man through his handphone but failed as it is understood there is no coverage in the jungle," Police chief DSP Johari Jahaya said.

On 31 May, A Rescue Team Of About 20 People And A Dog Arrived In The Jungle To Try And Find Him

The local police have been criticised for not helping sooner

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A rescue team arrives in the Malaysian jungle to try and find a charity volunteer from east London who has been missing for four days. His brother Mark, who lives in Leeds, told BBC 5 live's Stephen Nolan programme that for days it had only been local people and Gareth's friends who were searching for him.

He added he wanted British authorities to "put more pressure on the Malaysian police force and search and rescue to do more to intensify the search".

Gareth's Brother Said His Disappearance Was Out Of Character As He Is Normally Good At Keeping In Touch

"For him to not turn up and still be missing at this point - he is not like that, he would have made contact by now," he added.

His parents are due to fly out to Malaysia later and they hope to arrive at the scene by Monday. It is feared he either broke his leg and was unable to get help or he was bitten by a snake.

Ms Southwell, from Bradford, said: "He was having a lovely time. He was due to start a new job next week in Singapore, life was very positive and he decided to have one last week's break before going back to Singapore to commence his new life."

She said he should have been back from his trek within two hours and he carrying water and wearing proper footwear. He had a phone but there is no signal in the area.

His Mother Janet Southwell Said She Is "Extremely Concerned" About Her Son's Welfare And Has Not Received Any Official Information On The Search

Gareth with his mother

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"He has been missing for four days now, and as yet I have had no contact from any official agency advising me as to the progress of the search," she explained.

She added: "At this stage I feel it is essential that the search be intensified as time is running out for Gareth, so I would really appreciate the support of the Malaysian authorities and the UK government with this."

The Mother Has Now Urged Prime Minister David Cameron To Put Pressure On The Malaysian Government To Help Find Gareth

Gareth's mother, Janet Southwell, from Bradford, has written an open letter to Mr Cameron urging him to speak to the Malaysian leader. She wrote: "I'm humbly asking you make one phone call to help my missing son."

Ms Southwell is due to fly out to Malaysia later and hopes to arrive by Monday. In her letter to Mr Cameron, she added: "Please do the right thing Prime Minister and make one phone call to the Malaysian leader to insist that they deploy real help to find Gareth before time runs out. "He is out there in the jungle and he needs help."

"We've been hugely heartened by the public's fantastic support so far but we urgently need firm action from the Government - not standard press assurances of 'working with authorities'. We need boots on the ground, search teams and dogs so that we can bring our son back alive. As our Prime Minister I write to you but as a mother too, I hope you'll help me."

Meanwhile, Gareth's Friends Who Were With Him On The Island Say That It's Impossible To Get Lost Because All The Mountains And Valleys Lead Down To The Sea

Gareth's friend Hannah Alice Grant, who is on the island, wrote in a detailed account on Facebook of the search, that the police were seen "swimming and messing around in the waterfall" instead of searching for him.

His friend Sophie Wilson said a British Army commander, who had lived on the island and knows the topography well, told them that it was impossible to get lost because all the mountains and valleys lead down to the sea. She said the search had been hindered by a lack of dogs or heat-sensing equipment. "Clearly he's lost but it's not complicated, it's a small area; we just need people to penetrate that dense jungle," she said.

Gareth Had Been Working At The Jura Turtle Project. Fellow Volunteer Charles Fisher Said A Group Had Gone To Search For Him After He Did Not Return

Gareth Huntley

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He said the group had checked various routes to the waterfall, 6km (3.7 miles) away, while a further search the next day had also proved fruitless.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: "We are aware that a British national has been reported missing in Malaysia since 27 May. "We are providing consular assistance to the family and are liaising closely with the local authorities."

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