The search for Gareth Huntley, who has been missing in the Malaysian jungle for almost a week, has now been narrowed to a three-kilometre radius. The 34-year-old wildlife volunteer and Hackney resident disappeared on 27th May, after embarking upon a 6km jungle trek to a waterfall on the Tioman Island.
Huntley had been working at the Juara Turtle project and had promised friends that he would join them on a snorkelling expedition later that day. However after he failed to return from the 2-hour trek, his friends raised the alarm. Last week, Huntley’s family voiced concern over the lack of rescue effort from Malaysian authorities.
Huntley’s mother Janet Southwell, who arrived in Malaysia yesterday to join the search, has made a desperate plea to Prime Minister David Cameron to put pressure on the Malaysian government for more immediate action.
A spokesperson for No. 10 confirmed to the BBC that Cameron has indeed spoken to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak about the search. This Tuesday, the seventh day of the search, progress was made as a team of 33 commandos, police personnel and Rela and Fire and Rescue department officials departed this morning for an extensive search of a more narrow area of the jungle.
“We have some clues that he might be in the area so we are only going to focus our search on these two-map squares today,” said Rompin police chief DSP Johari Jahaya, who is leading the search. The 3km radius area is around 10km northeast of the Lubuk Teja waterfall where Huntley had planned to trek to.
Jahaya has revealed that the search has been the longest and most difficult they have ever had for a missing person on the island. “Normally, it wouldn’t have taken this long. Although the conditions of the search area are challenging with dense jungle and a lot of slippery rocks, our team is willing to risk going to these dangerous places to find him…Maybe he has fallen off a steep area and is unable to move,” he said. Meanwhile, back home, a social media campaign has been launched to raise awareness and keep hope alive for Huntley’s family and friends.
A Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/findgareth) dedicated to the cause has over 8,000 followers and has been updated regularly since his disappearance. A mass appeal to Apple has also been made after discovering that Huntley’s iPhone had been receiving messages until a few days ago.