Janet Southwell, the mother of British backpacker Gareth Huntley, believes that her son’s disappearance and death in Tioman Island last year is “suspicious.”
In an interview held outside the Coroner’s Court in Kuantan, Pahang, where an inquest is being held into Huntley’s death, Southwell was quoted as saying, “I don’t believe he got lost. I don’t. I can’t. I think it’s suspicious.”
The British backpacker was then a volunteer with Juara Turtle, a turtle conservation project in Tioman Island. He went missing on May 27, 2014 after setting out along an overgrown jungle trail to a waterfall on the island.
The 34-year-old Huntley, whom Southwell described in court as outgoing, “incredibly fit” and “healthy,” is believed to have gone jungle trekking on the 27th of May last year.
According to Malaysian Insider, the friends who worked with him initiated a search for him seven hours later following his failure to return to join them for a planned snorkelling dive.
His body was found on June 4 in Kampung Juara, with the help of a 154-strong research group consisting of commandos, police, Fire and Rescue Department, Rela members.
Malaysian police last year said they could not rule out the possibility of foul play in Huntley’s death, while a village chief in the area where Huntley’s body was found said locals believed something sinister had happened to the Briton.
“I am not sure what actually happened but after three days of searching, the locals believed Huntley was not lost in the jungle. Police should know because they are experts. There are rumors that Huntley had been involved in a fight with another foreigner,” Ab Razib Ab Awang said in the interview with The Daily Telegraph.
Razib was then referring to reports that Huntley had been found with his throat slit.
Pahang Criminal Investigation Department chief assistant commissioner Mohd Zakaria Ahmad later on said that police were investigating the possibility that Huntley had been killed.
However, he added that the initial autopsy had not found any clear injuries on the body which might indicate foul play.