Family of missing Briton hail effort of searchers

Gareth Huntley went missing while on a hike to a waterfall. Picture: Getty
Gareth Huntley went missing while on a hike to a waterfall. Picture: Getty
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The family of a Briton missing in the Malaysian jungle have thanked those involved in the “fantastic” international search mission.

Backpacker Gareth Huntley, who is on a sabbatical from his job in the City, has not been seen since he went on a trek to visit a waterfall in Tioman Island, off the south-eastern coast of the country’s mainland, on Tuesday morning. He told friends at the headquarters of a nearby charity project where he was volunteering that he would return by 2pm the same day but failed to come back.

The British Government has stepped up attempts to find the 34-year-old, who is originally from Yorkshire, while Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has been assured that “all available search assets” are being used to find the trained accountant.

Mr Huntley’s younger brother, Mark, said the family were keeping positive as a result of efforts to find him.

He said: “We want to personally thank David Cameron and Philip Hammond for their reassurances. It is a very big positive for us.

“We are, of course, very grateful to the Malaysian people and the authorities for their work too. Everyone has been fantastic.

“We are told that local people went out to look for Gareth as soon as he was first described as missing – so without them there would not be a search mission.”

Mr Huntley’s girlfriend Kit Natariga has arrived on the island, while his mother, Janet Southwell, has arrived in Singapore from England and was due to head to the island today.

Ms Natariga said efforts to find Mr Huntley were a tonic to the anxiety, but admitted time to find him was “running out”.

She said: “It’s really tough coming onto the island, we’re in a bit of a helpless state. We cannot give up … time is running out.”

An Foreign Office spokesman said: “The Defence Secretary, who is in Malaysia, has spoken to the Malaysian defence minister to confirm that all available search assets are used to find Gareth Huntley.

“He was assured that the Malaysian authorities would do all they could to locate him and had already deployed significant assets including dogs, boats and a helicopter.”

Mr Huntley’s mother said on Saturday that “real help” was needed to find her son

In a direct plea to Mr Cameron, she said: “As a father, you know that we’d do anything for our children and so I’m humbly asking that you make one phone call to help my missing son.

“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.

“As our Prime Minister I write to you but as a mother too, I hope you’ll help me.”

Mr Huntley’s close friend, Kyle Neo Kai Fu, who is on Tioman Island, initially said the efforts to find the man were “laughable” and “sickening”.