A missing British backpacker who has been found dead in New Zealand was swept away in a creek while out hiking, police believe.
Stephanie Simpson, 32, from Essex, was reported missing Monday after she failed to return from a weekend trek before her remains were found Friday afternoon.
Police say they found her body in a canyon at the bottom of Pyke Creek, an area of Mount Aspiring National Park close to where she was last seen.
Officers were able to narrow down the search after a rescue worker in a helicopter spotted her pack and boots close to the creek earlier in the day.
The body of 32-year-old Stephanie Simpson, from Essex, has been found in the Mount Aspiring National Park in New Zealand, four days after she was reported missing
Miss Simpson had gone hiking in the national park and was last seen near Brewster’s Hut on Saturday. She was reported missing Monday when she failed to turn up at her job in Wanaka (bottom right) on Monday. Her body was found close to the area where she was last seen
She is thought to have removed her pack and boots and gone into the water in Pyke Creek before being washed downstream, Stuff.co.nz reports.
Her body was found in a canyon at the bottom of the stream in ‘close proximity’ to her pack, police added.
The discovery came just hours after her family had arrived in the country to help with search efforts.
The pack was spotted earlier in the day by a man in a helicopter, and the sighting was confirmed by reviewing drone footage from the previous day.
Creeks in the area tend to swell in the afternoon, Kirkwood added, as ice from the mountaintops melts in the sun.
This can create a stronger current meaning that previously safe areas become dangerous, perhaps explaining why she got into difficulties.
An official cause of death has not been given, and the death has been referred to the coroner for further examination.
Kirkwood urged people hiking alone to carry a locator beacon or a device that allows their movements to be tracked, and to keep it within reach at all times.
He added: ‘The search was extremely challenging at times, especially in consideration of the terrain, and the work of all involved is to be commended.’
Miss Simpson’s body was found in a canyon at the bottom of Pyke Creek, a riverbed close to Fantail Falls (file image) where she had told friends she would be hiking
Sam Hazelton, Miss Simpson’s brother-in-law, said she often went hiking at the weekend and had decided to take a working holiday in Wanaka because of the number of trails there
Miss Simpson moved to New Zealand last year after travelling in Australia, and decided to base herself out of the town of Wanaka, where she worked for a gardening service to earn money whilst adventuring in the local area.
Sam Hazelton, her brother-in-law, said she had chosen the region for its access to hiking trails, and that she would go hiking and camping most weekends.
It is thought she was hiking alone when she went missing.
Speaking to Sky News before her body was found, he described her as ‘very competent and physically fit.’
‘She is relatively experienced in outdoor activities and has already completed a number of hikes,’ he said.
‘She is such a fun-loving, kind, determined and adventurous woman, we are asking anyone who might know anything to please get in touch with police.’
She was last in touch with relatives via a Whatsapp group on Thursday when she mentioned going for the hike, Mr Hazelton said.
She also mentioned her plans to friends in Wanaka the following day, before heading straight to the national park after work.
They say she planned to hike out to Fantail Falls and Brewster’s Hut, before going to Blue Pools and then on to Makarora Valley.
Police had launched a hunt for Miss Simpson using dogs, helicopters and drones following her disappearance, before finding her boots and pack on Friday (pictured, missing posters along the trail where she was last seen)
The final time she was seen was on Saturday by fellow hikers near Brewster’s Hut.
She was reported missing by boss Doug Peddle on Monday morning after she failed to turn up for work.
Police launched a search using helicopters, dogs and a drone with thermal imaging before tracking down her remains.
The park on New Zealand’s South Island is described by the country’s Department of Conservation as a ‘wonderful mixture of remote wilderness, high mountains and beautiful river valleys.
‘It is a walker’s paradise and a must for mountaineers.’