Body of British tourist discovered in Outback

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Australian police investigating the death of a British tourist in the Outback believe she may have got lost while trying to walk 12 miles back to her hotel at night.

Ethel Hetherington, 52, of Great Broughton, Cockermouth, Cumbria, was last seen on Monday night at a bar near Uluru, formerly Ayers Rock.

Her body was found shortly after 10am yesterday by a group of Aboriginals about 14 miles east of the Mutitjulu Aboriginal Community, a centre at the base of the rock. Northern Territory Police believe Mrs Hetherington visited the centre and became disorientated while trying to walk back to her hotel at Yulara.

Superintendent Colin Smith, of the southern division, said: "Inquiries have uncovered that she may have travelled out to the community by vehicle with other people shortly after 10pm.

"She may have thought she was walking back towards the resort but in fact she was walking in the wrong direction, away from Yulara. Initial examinations suggest she may have done a considerable amount of walking. There are no obvious signs of foul play."

Supt Smith said it was "very unusual" to attempt a walk of this distance through the desert. Temperatures can soar to almost 40C (104F) in the full heat of the day.

Mrs Hetherington, who was married with children, had been travelling across the Northern Territory with her cousin and her cousin's husband.

Police had launched an air and land search involving Aboriginal trackers in a bid to trace her. Supt Smith said trips out to the community were not common and officers were investigating why and with whom she may have travelled.

He added she had been drinking in the bar and it was not possible to tell how much alcohol she had consumed.

The cause of death has yet to be established.