Tragic backpacker family ‘in limbo’


Published: Friday 5th June 2015 by The News Editor

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The mother of a British backpacker who was found dead in the Malaysian jungle a year ago has said she has been “in limbo” since his death.

Janet Southwell said she still does not know how Gareth Huntley died, after his body was found in a pond on Tioman Island on June 4 last year.

Hundreds of Mr Huntley’s friends and family members gathered in Leeds today for his funeral.

Mrs Southwell said the delay in holding her son’s funeral – which could not be arranged until after post-mortem examinations had taken place – meant she has been unable to grieve properly for her son.

She said: “It’s a year yesterday since he was found. It’s been a horrendous year, it’s so difficult to function and get on with normal everyday things.

“I have not been able to grieve yet. Normally a funeral will take place within a couple of weeks then you can grieve, that just hasn’t happened.

“I’m in limbo. I’m totally in limbo, my life’s been on hold for a year.”

Mrs Southwell added: “I don’t believe it still. We didn’t believe it at the time, even when he was found, it’s hard to get your head around the fact that somebody’s gone when you haven’t seen them.

“A year down the line, emotions are right back to where they were when they told us they’d found him.

“I have dread in my heart today and a numbness too. It’s such a conflict of emotions, I’m not able to fully describe how I feel because I’m not sure I know how I feel.

“We just have to do our best for Gareth and be strong as we can be and make the best of the day.”

Mr Huntley disappeared on May 27 last year during a trek to a waterfall on the island, which is off the south-eastern coast of Malaysia’s mainland.

His body was discovered in a pond just yards from a kayak storage shed at the Juara Turtle Project where he had been volunteering, adjacent to a row of cabins used by rescue teams during the search.

Mrs Southwell said post-mortem examination results, from Malaysia and the UK, were inconclusive and she is hoping to get some answers about her son’s death at an inquest in Malaysia later this month.

She said: “It just seems to be a slow, drawn-out process, we don’t seem to be making much progress.

“We need to push people and re-ask questions and everything seems to be taking so very long.

“It’s frustrating, it’s distressing, it just prolongs the agony that we still have no answers.

“We do want to know what really did happen, whether we will ever find out. I will keep on until I cannot physically do any more to find out. I will keep asking questions of everybody.”

Mr Huntley, of Hackney, east London, who is originally from Apperley Bridge, Bradford, was on a sabbatical from his job in the City.

His family mounted a high-profile campaign to intensify a search for him after he failed to return from his trek.

Published: Friday 5th June 2015 by The News Editor

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