Gareth Huntley: British backpacker wasn't murdered and didn't have his throat slit, say police


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The Independent Online

Police investigating the death of a British backpacker in Malaysia have denied reports that he was involved in a fight shortly before he went missing in the jungle, and that his throat had been cut.

Reports over the weekend suggested that police were investigating the possibility that Gareth Huntley, from Hackney, east London, had been murdered on Malaysia's Tioman Island, off the south-eastern coast of the country's mainland.

The body of the 34-year-old, who disappeared on the island on May 27 after embarking on jungle trek, was discovered near a sea turtle conservation camp where he worked as a volunteer.

Investigators had initially suggested Mr Huntley had got lost in the dense jungle, but said the location of his body made that unlikely.

It was discovered in a pond just yards from a kayak storage shed at the Juara Turtle Project adjacent to a row of cabins used by rescue teams during the search.

Police in the country said yesterday that they were investigating claims the 34-year-old was involved in a fight before he went missing. It was reported that he may be have been murdered, and there were claims that his throat had been cut.

But a senior police officer on the island has denied the suggestion, local newspaper the Malaysia Star said.

Senior Assistant Commissioner Datuk Mohd Zakaria Ahmad said: "I was in Pulau Tioman on Saturday and I interviewed several witnesses myself. What they told me contradicts what the foreign reporter wrote. That report is inaccurate."

He told the newspaper that police were not ruling out foul play, but said the investigation was in its early days.

He said a post-mortem examination had revealed no external injuries.

The cause of death has not yet been established. 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.