A British man who was last seen trekking on Malaysia’s Tioman Island has been missing since May 27. Gareth Huntley, 34, headed out on a trek to see a waterfall on the jungle island and never returned, immediately alarming friends and family. Huntley’s loved ones launched a media blitz to pressure the Malaysian government to prioritize the search for Huntley after local authorities were criticized for an initial lack of action.
Huntley was volunteering at the Juara Turtle project when he decided to visit the nearby waterfall. The trek should have been a short one, taking no more than a couple of hours. The Guardian reported that Huntley had plans to go snorkeling with friends when he returned that afternoon. The path to the waterfall is said to be well-marked, but it also runs through dense jungle that could reportedly prove difficult and even perilous to navigate. Friends and family expressed concerns that he might have been injured or gotten lost in the dense forest.
Huntley’s family and a fellow volunteer criticized local police for not immediately initiating search efforts to locate the missing man. The initial search parties included mainly locals and volunteers until Huntley’s loved ones began the media campaign to raise awareness of his disappearance and pressure the government to take action. On May 31, family and friends issued a press release stating they had learned that very little was being done in the way of an official search party despite assurances the authorities were providing resources and assistance. After the campaign gained the attention of British Prime Minister David Cameron and Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond, the Malaysian government claimed it was ramping up its search efforts with a helicopter, patrol boats, a canine team, and additional manpower, according to information provided by a family member. Heavy rains in the area have made the search more difficult.
Huntley’s mother and girlfriend flew to Malaysia to aid in the search and bring him home when he is found. His mother, Janet Southwell, told the BBC, “Gareth’s quite a resilient character, he’s a determined young man and I’m feeling really positive that with all this effort we are going to find him. He may be injured but we are going to find him and we will bring him out alive.”
Huntley’s family and friends are encouraging people to share the story, as they believe keeping Gareth in the news will keep pressure on both the British and Malaysian governments to prioritize the search.
Updates on the situation can be found at the Find Gareth Facebook page and on Twitter using the hashtag #findgareth. The social media campaign has attracted attention far and wide, with actor and comedian Stephen Fry tweeting to raise awareness.
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) June 3, 2014