Backpack Briton murdered in China

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The Independent Online

A British woman has been stabbed to death while backpacking with her boyfriend on a popular tourist route in China. She was robbed and then murdered, her grieving family said last night.

The body of 30-year-old Shirine Harburn, an experienced traveller, was discovered on Thursday by a tourist on Paomao Mountain in the Western Sichuan province.

The Chinese police are investigating, said a Foreign Office spokesman, who added that, according to reports: "She was stabbed 12 times with a small craft knife, and her body was then moved, but there is no evidence of sexual assault."

She was last seen two days earlier. One report said she had gone off walking in the mountains alone, leaving her boyfriend Colin Horsfield behind in a nearby village. It is understood they had agreed to meet up later in the day.

"They were both very experienced travellers. We are deeply shocked to hear of her sudden death," said her family last night. "She died in a place she thought was beautiful, while living her dream to travel again."

Ms Harburn is the second British backpacker to be murdered in recent weeks: Tim Prentice, 38, from Bristol, was bludgeoned to death and dumped in a river while trekking in Nepal. Such murders are relatively rare though as independent travellers, off the beaten track for lengthy periods, they are more vulnerable and less likely to be missed.

Caroline Clarke and Joanne Walters, both 22, were murdered in Australia. They disappeared in April 1992 after leaving Sydney to go fruit picking and their bodies were found five months later at a spot nicknamed Executioner's Drop.

In 1996, Linda Vockins, 35, was raped and beaten to death in the Philippines. She had avoided travelling in Thailand because her family feared for her safety.