Authorities in Australia's Northern Territory (NT) have found the body of a German tourist reported missing on January 8. Workers at Desert Palm Resort, where 62-year-old Cologne resident Monika Billen had been staying, notified police three days after the woman failed to check out and board her January 5 flight to Darwin.
Authorities searched for the woman for two weeks before initially halting their efforts. The search, however, was resumed after police were given information by telephone carriers. That information allowed authorities to narrow the area of their search, for which they used aircraft and drones.
In a statement, NT Police Superintendent Pauline Vicary said that the search "has required extensive work, interpreting data from both international and national phone providers, but the outcome assisted in narrowing down the search parameters and eventually locating Ms. Billen. It is deeply upsetting that we have to tell her family this sad news, but we are relieved to be able to provide them with answers."
Death under investigation
Police on Thursday were investigating Billen's death and had erected a crime scene around the tree where the body was found to determine whether there are any suspicious circumstances, a police spokeswoman told German news agency dpa.
"The cause of death has to be determined and police will prepare a report for the coroner," the spokeswoman told dpa on Thursday.
Billen's family had sent a heartrending letter to the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) begging for any assistance locals could provide to locate the woman one day before her body was eventually found.
In the letter, the family wrote, "We have been consumed with worry ever since we heard of Monika's disappearance, especially because we know her as a very responsible and capable person." They feared that she may have been the victim of foul play.
Little protection against sweltering heat
Billen's body was found under a tree near the popular hiking area of Emily's Gap outside Alice Springs, in Australia's Northern Territory. The area is known for its deep gorges, rocky ravines and sweltering heat, which often reaches more than 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
Billen, an avid traveler and hiker, mentioned the heat in a December 31 e-mail to her family, the last they received: "In the heat, I take more or less extensive walks in the surroundings of Alice Springs in central Australia. Somehow the heat fits well with the landscape … I took a picture from the [Olive Pink] botanical garden lookout hill, which is near my accommodations and offers plenty of shady places to sit, dream and read."
Police said Billen was only carrying a cashmere scarf with her as protection from the heat.
law,js/msh (AFP, dpa)