New Zealand police find body of missing British hiker

SYDNEY (Reuters) – New Zealand police on Friday found the body of a British backpacker who went missing in the South Island after the area was hit by heavy rain and floods.

The body of Stephanie Simpson, 32, who had not been seen since she went for a hike last weekend, was found in an area called Pyke Creek, West Coast Search and Rescue sergeant Mark Kirkwood said in a statement.

“Police extend their condolences to Stephanie’s family at this tragic time,” Kirkwood said.

“The family are understandably grieving and they have asked media to respect their request for privacy.”

Flash floods and torrential rain hit the South Island last week, leaving several hundred tourists stranded for days and forcing many residents from their homes.

It was not clear if Simpson’s hike at the Mount Aspiring National Park, home of one of New Zealand’s highest peaks, was affected by the rain. Her death will be referred to the Coroner, Kirkwood said.

“The search was extremely challenging at times, especially in consideration of the terrain,” he said.

Thousands of hikers visit New Zealand every year to explore its mountains and wildlife.

In 2016, a Czech women spent nearly a month alone in a warden’s hut on a remote trail on th4e South Island after her male partner was killed in a fall.

Questions were raised last year about New Zealand’s reputation as a safe, easy-going holiday destination after a 22-year-old British woman backpacker was murdered by a man she met on a dating app. A jury convicted the man in November and he is to be sentenced on Feb. 21.

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