Malaysian army to join search for British tourist

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Malaysian authorities insisted on Monday that they are committed to finding a Briton who went missing on a popular resort island six days ago, with an army helicopter sent to aid the search.

Mr Gareth Huntley, 34, went missing after a waterfall trek on Tuesday last week in the jungles of Tioman Island off Malaysia's east coast. A search has yet to find any trace of him, police told AFP.

"We have no leads. About 90 men are looking for him as well as search dogs. One helicopter from the army is about to arrive," said district police chief Johari Jahaya, who is leading the search.

Claims that police are not serious about the search are untrue, he added. The Londoner's friends have set up a "Find Gareth Huntley" Facebook page, saying they are "extremely worried" and urging faster progress in the search.

"We need to find him ASAP and put pressure on the Malaysian authorities, as they seem to be dragging this on without urgency, action and results," they wrote on the page.

But police top brass have defended the search, according to reports, and Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein confirmed on Twitter that he was assisting operations.

Mr Huntley had been a volunteer at the Juara Turtle Project, a conservation and research group. His mother Janet Southwell told BBC Radio on Monday she was "positive that with all this effort we are going to find him".

"It's a roller coaster of emotions. You know, it's despair one minute and hope the next and back again. He may be injured but we are going to find him and we will bring him out alive," she said from Malaysia.

French tourist Stephanie Foray, a 30-year-old civil servant, went missing on Tioman in May 2011. Her remains were found in August that year, buried in a cave. A Malaysian shopkeeper pleaded not guilty in May 2012 to murdering her after she refused him sex. The trial is ongoing. However, violent crime against tourists in Malaysia is rare.

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