We are not taking Briton's disappearance in Tioman lightly: Cops

KUANTAN - The police are taking the search for missing Briton Gareth David Huntley very seriously contrary to what the foreign press are reporting, said Pahang police chief Senior Deputy Comm Datuk Sharifuddin Ab Ghani.

He said several foreign electronic media had reported that the police were not serious in the search for the 34-year-old man, which was not accurate.

He said the force had been actively leading the search and rescue effort since receiving word of Huntley's disappearance in Tioman.

SDCP Sharifuddin said Huntley had informed Juara Turtle Project employees of his plan to trek to the Lubuk Teja Waterfalls on Tuesday, but when he did not return, staff members of the turtle sanctuary had gone to look for him but to no avail.

"A police patrol team was told of Huntley's disappearance on Wednesday, and the police sergeant had taken the initiative to form a search party to look for him.

"The sergeant needed to be sure so he also checked Huntley's room, but only his clothes and laptop computer were found there.

"There are question marks here because there were no personal documents in the room. Huntley did not register his name at the guesthouse, too.

"The police only found out his name upon checking the Marine Department's registry. It appears that he entered the island on May 22," SDCP Sharifuddin told reporters here on Sunday.

He said the staff of the turtle sanctuary were advised to lodge a police report on Thursday, and a search and rescue operation was launched with participation from locals.

British media The Guardian had reported Huntley's mother Janet Southwell as saying that she had yet to receive any contact from Malaysian authorities, and that not enough was done in the crucial window after he had disappeared.

SDCP Sharifuddin said he had ordered Rompin OCPD Deputy Supt Johari Jahaya to notify the British High Commission immediately upon receiving the report of the missing man.

"That is our standard operating procedure in cases of missing foreigners. We did not have any of Huntley's documents even if we want to notify his family. The British High Commission has been told and it should take the initiative," he said.

SDCP Sharifuddin said 10 General Operations Force members with a canine unit with two personnel and a sniffer dog had been mobilised, alongside 20 police personnel and 11 Fire and Rescue Department staff.

"Three Civil Defence Department personnel and two Rela members as well as a guide from the Forestry Department are also part of the search team. There are also two marine police boats combing the waters around the island in case Huntley had gone down to the beach," he said.

"Accusations that the police are not serious and not concerned are simply not true. We are still in the process of looking for Huntley and we will also get assistance from his cellphone network service provider to trace his last known location," he added.

The Daily Mirror quoted Huntley's mother as saying that she feared her son might be injured and unable to move, and called for British Prime Minister David Cameron's help.

"We need boots on the ground, search teams and dogs so that we can bring our son back alive," she said, adding that not enough was being done in the search as the family wants "real help".

In her open letter, she urged Cameron to "make one phone call" to the country's leader "before time runs out".