UPDATE: Mum of missing Bradford jungle trekker Gareth Huntley arrives in Malaysia

Janet Southwell with her missing son Gareth Huntley

Janet Southwell with her missing son Gareth Huntley

First published in News by

The mother of a backpacker missing in the jungle for nearly a week has said the fear over his safety is something "I wouldn't wish any mother to go through".

Janet Southwell was speaking after arriving in Malaysia to see the manhunt which has started to find her son Gareth Huntley.

She said: "This is an incredibly tense and stressful time... It is vital that the intense jungle search continues and we hope everyone can pray with us for Gareth's safe return."

The 34 year-old backpacker has not been seen since he started a trek to a waterfall in Tioman Island, off the south-eastern coast of the country's mainland, last Tuesday morning.

Mrs Southwell said she is staying positive in the hope that she will be the "friendly face" he needs when he comes out of the jungle.

In a brief call home to her son, Mark, she said she was at base camp, had spoken to officials on the ground and there were 103 people searching, with more potentially on the way. There are also multiple helicopters and speedboats out searching.

His mother, from Bradford, said she wants “to be here when they find him”, as international agencies continue the search for clues.

Mr Huntley, who is on a sabbatical from his job in the City, has not been seen since he went on a trek to visit a waterfall in Tioman Island, off the south-eastern coast of the country's mainland, last Tuesday morning.

"I want to see the area for myself, absolutely, get a feel for where he's lost, where he's missing. I just want to be here when they find him," said his mum.

"I think he will want to see a familiar face when they find him. I'm obviously very concerned. It's going to be a good outcome, so I just have to focus on that."

She added that if possible she would like to join the search.

Mr Huntley, a former pupil at Woodhouse Grove School in Apperley Bridge, had told friends at the headquarters of a nearby charity project, where he was volunteering, that he would return by 2pm the same day but failed to come back.

The British Government has stepped up attempts to find the 34-year-old, who is originally from the Leeds-Bradford border, while Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has been assured that "all available search assets" are being used.

Mr Huntley's family have praised the "fantastic" attempts to find the trained accountant.

His younger brother, Mark, said the family was keeping positive as a result of efforts to find him.

He said: "We want to personally thank David Cameron and Philip Hammond for their reassurances. It is a very big positive for us. We are, of course, very grateful to the Malaysian people and the authorities for their work too. Everyone has been fantastic.

"We are told that local people went out to look for Gareth as soon as he was first described as missing - so without them there would not be a search mission.

"What we need now is for that work to continue and to find my brother."

Mr Huntley's girlfriend, Kit Natariga, arrived on the island yesterday.

She said efforts to find Mr Huntley were a tonic to the anxiety, but admitted time to find him was "running out".

She added: "It's really tough coming on to the island, we're in a bit of a helpless state. We cannot give up... time is running out."

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