Malaysian hostage Bernard Then's body may have been found

KOTA KINABALU - A headless body, believed to be that of slain Malaysian hostage Bernard Then Ted Fen, has been found.

The body, recovered late Monday on Jolo Island, has been sent to Zamboanga City for identification.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command spokesman Major Filemon Tan Jr said soldiers from the Philippines' 501st Infantry Brigade recovered the body at Sitio Lungon-lungon at Parang on Jolo island at about 11pm.

He said the body was found buried in a shallow grave on a hilly jungle and was in an advanced state of decomposition.

Major Filemon said the soldiers were earlier patrolling the area for gunmen when they chanced upon what looked like a freshly-dug grave and decided to dig it up.

Southern Philippines anti-kidnapping activist Prof Octavio Dinampo said the body would undergo DNA testing to ascertain if it belonged to Bernard.

"The Philippines authorities are coordinating with the Malaysian Embassy in Manila," he told The Star in a telephone interview.

He said the body had been brought to a mortuary in Zamboanga City where a head, believed to be that of Bernard's, was recovered shortly after his beheading by Abu Sayyaf captors.

Octavio said Abu Sayyaf gunmen leader Al Habsi Misaya had demanded a 10mil Peso (S$820,000) payment for information on where Then's body had been buried. The demand was ignored by Philippines authorities.

Bernard was reportedly beheaded by his Abu Sayyaf captors at about 4pm on Nov 11 and the Philippines military said it was due to a breakdown in negotiations over his release.

Malaysian negotiators, with the help of Filipino emissaries, had been working to secure the release of the 39-year-old engineer and Ocean King seafood restaurant manager Thien Nyuk Fun, 50, since their kidnapping from Sandakan on May 15.

Thien was released on Nov 8 after an alleged payment of about RM3mil (S$980,000) was made.