Malaysian authorities will perform an autopsy on Thursday on a body found on a resort island, to determine if it is the remains of a British tourist who went missing nine days ago.
Gareth Huntley, 34, failed to return from a jungle trek on Tioman Island off the east coast of Malaysia on May 27, leading to a manhunt and rising concern in Britain, including from Prime Minister David Cameron.
Rescuers found a body on Wednesday on the banks of a small stream near a conservation and research site, the Juara Turtle Project, where Huntley had served as a volunteer.
Sharifuddin Ghani, the police chief of Pahang state where Tioman is located, said the body was in reasonable condition but that the head had partly decomposed as it was submerged in water.
“We have yet to determine whether the body is Gareth David Huntley,” he said.
Asked if the body could have washed downstream, since searchers had earlier looked in the same spot without finding anything, he said, “It’s possible. But we will do the investigation.”
Sharifuddin said it was “difficult to say” if there were any injuries to the body, and that that would be determined in the autopsy. He did not say when the results would be made known.
Malaysia has deployed dozens of rescue personnel in recent days after Huntley’s family and friends urged authorities to step up the search, with some travelling to the country and setting up a Facebook page to publicise the case.
Cameron’s office said he discussed the case with his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak on Monday and offered British assistance in the search.
Malaysia’s government has been stung by international criticism over its response to missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370, with many relatives of the 239 people aboard saying it was too slow and not transparent.
In a previous case on the popular resort island of Tioman, French tourist Stephanie Foray went missing in May 2011. Her remains were found three months later, buried in a cave.
A Malaysian shopkeeper pleaded not guilty the following year to charges that he murdered the woman after she spurned his sexual advances. His trial is continuing.
Violent crime against foreigners in Malaysia remains relatively rare.