Mother of missing man urges Cameron to ask Malaysian PM for help


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The Independent Online

The mother of a British man missing in the Malaysian jungle has urged David Cameron to “make one phone call” to the country’s leader “before time runs out”.

Janet Southwell said “real help” was needed to find Gareth Huntley, who has not been seen since he went on a trek to visit a waterfall in Tioman Island, off the South-eastern coast of the Malaysian peninsula, on Tuesday morning.

The 34-year-old from Hackney, east London, told friends at the island’s Juara Turtle Project, where he was volunteering, that he would back in two hours, but failed to return.

Mr Huntley’s family claim that while local people have been “brilliant” in going deep into the jungle to search for him, Malaysian police and officials have been slower to act.

Family and friends fear Mr Huntley may now be running low on water supplies after getting lost or injured while walking to or from the Lubuk Teja waterfalls. They are urging the Prime Minister to pressure the Malaysian authorities into intensifying their search.

Janet Southwell was last night flying from Heathrow to Tioman Island to help find her son. Shortly before boarding her aeroplane, she said: “What we are going through is horrendous. You feel hopeless, helpless. We are not giving up on Gareth. He is a very determined, as well as compassionate, young man. But, even with water supplies, time is running out for him.”

In her letter, she told Mr Cameron: “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, Gareth.

“Please do the right thing 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 need boots on the ground, search teams and dogs so that we can bring our son back alive.”

The Tioman Island where he disappeared

Ms Southwell, from Leeds, said: “The locals were out, very quickly, looking, searching as best they could, but from what we understand the police response was incredibly slow.”

Mr Huntley, a University of Leeds graduate who works in commercial insurance, relocated to Asia in late 2013. He was due to start a new job next week in Singapore, where he was also due to be reunited with his Australian girlfriend, Kit Natariga.

Ms Southwell said: “It’s totally out of character for Gareth to go missing, he just would not do it. He knows there are too many people who care and love him.”

Charles Fisher, Mr Huntley’s fellow volunteer on the Juara Turtle Project, said a group of friends went to search for him after he did not return from the “huge wilderness”.

Mr Fisher added: “On the afternoon of the second day the police were informed – they sent a couple of members of the police force along to have a look but didn’t go far or look very much – they were just sort of assessing the situation.

“We’ve been hoping the state police will do a proper search but nothing has happened yet.”

Malaysian police said yesterday that they were trying their best to find Mr Huntley. Johari Jahaya, the head of police for the Rompin district, said a tracker dog unit and an eight-member fire and rescue team were helping locals with the search.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We are liaising closely with the local authorities and providing consular assistance to the family.”