One of Cambridgeshire's oddest traditions gets under way this morning...
Bradford Mum Fears For Missing Son
The mum of a man from Bradford 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 said after touching down in Malaysia to see the manhunt which has been launched to find her son Gareth Huntley: ''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 is at base camp, has spoken to officials on the ground and there are 103 people searching, with more potentially on the way. There are also multiple helicopters and speedboats out searching.
Mr Huntley, of Hackney in east London, who is originally from the Leeds-Bradford border, is on a sabbatical from his job in the City. His family believe he may still be alive but is injured and needs help. In Malaysia the international pressure from Mr Huntley's family and friends, who had feared there was a lack of action in spite of the public response, has turned into action on the ground. Search teams have expanded their search zones and are now sweeping the jungle, the Huntley family said in a statement. A unit of commandos from the Malaysian army have also arrived and are searching through the higher, harder-to-reach areas of dense forest.
Mr Huntley's parents, along with friends who are on Tioman island, have been asked to stay out of the jungle to allow professional search teams to work unhindered Missing posters have been distributed around the villages and resorts of the island and there is also an internet campaign directly tweeting anybody with a Twitter account who is on the island, encouraging them to ''Please help find Gareth, if you are able to''. This comes after Defence Secretary Philip Hammond was assured by Malaysian authorities that ''all available search assets'' are being used to try to find Mr Huntley.
Mrs Southwell said: ''We're trying to stay positive while the search intensifies. I need to offer a huge collective hug to everyone who has supported the campaign to find Gareth and particularly to the media and the British and Malaysian governments who have been so supportive.''
Kyle Neo Ky Fu, 34, a friend of Gareth who is on the island, said: ''I'm struggling, to be honest. The more time that passes, the harder it gets. You have to stay focused but it's so hard - we know he's out there and needs us, we just can't get to him. ''But the search operation is in full swing now, though. The authorities are taking it seriously.''
Mr Huntley had been working at the Juara Turtle Project. Fellow volunteer Charles Fisher said a group went to search for him after he did not return from the ''huge wilderness''. They checked various different routes to the waterfall four miles away that he might have taken, while a further search the next day also proved fruitless.
As he anxiously waits for more news, Mr Huntley's London-based brother Mark, 30, said: ''The key for us now is to remain positive. It could be that if we can keep people positive, it could make a difference. ''Everyone out there has been really good. If we can keep that going, then maybe the authorities will be kept positive and we will be able to keep their support. They have been very good and we would like more recruits to help with the search and to keep pushing this thing. ''Considering the situation, we are all positive. We know he is a very resourceful and intelligent person and if he can do anything to help himself, he will. ''There are many stories in the past of people being in the jungle for a long time but they have come out safely, maybe a bit hungry and physically not in good condition, but they are safe. ''We need people to go out there searching on the ground. He may be injured but he is capable to surviving.''
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