Body of missing girl found on Borneo mountain

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The Independent Online

Search teams have found the body of missing British teenager Ellie James, who had been lost on Southeast Asia's tallest mountain for seven days.

The discovery put a tragic end to a week of intenstive searching for James, 17, of Cornwall, who went missing on the mist­shrounded slopes of 4,101­metre Mount Kinabalu during a descent with her family and other British trekkers.

"The body has been found," Park Warden Abdul Wahab Siman told The Associated Press. "It was about 10.21am this morning. We are sure it is her."

The weather was bad and rangers said that the body would have to be carried for several hours to a clearing where a helicopter could land and fly it to a local hospital, where James' parents could formally identify and recover her remains.

Hampered by days of high wind and tropical storms, about 70 rescuers had taken heart Monday after finding footprints and clues helping them to zero in on an area where they believed James might still be found weak, but alive.

They concentrated their search in an area about six kilometres wide near the foot of the mountain, well down the slopes from the peaks where she had last been seen a week ago.

James had tied plastic bags to trees to mark her trail for search teams, and her parents reported that she was familiar with jungle survival techniques.

But the area was bereft of food, and experienced mountaineers said that James would have found little nourishment besides plant shoots and rain water.

Temperatures had dropped to a few degrees above freezing during her ordeal and the mountain was lashed by rain and winds gusting up to 118 kilometres per hour over the weekend. Search aircraft were grounded much of the time.

Mount Kinabalu, on Malaysia's northern corner of Borneo island, is known to the indigenous Dusun people as the "abode of the dead" and a white cockerel is sacrificed annually to appease its spirits.

The girl and her two brothers, their parents and a group of other British trekkers climbed the mountain last week and began their descent the following day.

On the way down, the children's father, Bruce James, 54, and mother, Claire, 49, realized the girl and her brother Henry, 15, were missing and alerted rangers. According to the boy, who was found six hours later, his sister told him to stay put while she went to seek help.

In 1994, 18 British soldiers on a training exercise were lost but eventually rescued on the peak.

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