Friday 19 July 2019

Tourist's body found in Australian outback amid extreme heat

Monika Billen was missing for eight days

Tourist Monika Billen (62) was found dead in the Australian outback amid extreme heat. PIC: Northern Territory Police
Tourist Monika Billen (62) was found dead in the Australian outback amid extreme heat. PIC: Northern Territory Police Newsdesk Newsdesk

The body of a tourist has been found beneath a tree in the searing heat of the central Australia Outback, eight days after she was reported missing.

Desert Palms Resort staff in Alice Springs reported guest Monika Billen (62) missing on January 9 but her last reported sighting was on January 1, a police statement said.

The German tourist's body was spotted by searchers in a helicopter under a tree far from hiking tracks and 3km west of Emily Gap in the East MacDonnell Ranges, police said.

The location had already been searched twice in a 16-square kilometre targeted area but was densely covered with trees and foliage, Police Superintendent Pauline Vicary said.

Police worked with Ms Billen's German mobile phone provider to narrow the search to the targeted area over the past two days, Ms Vicary said.

When asked why it took eight days to find her, Ms Vicary said the search involved "a lot of technology and information and extensive work, interpreting data" and using outside experts.

Ms Billen's extended family in Cologne has been told the news, police said.

They do not believe the death was suspicious and a coroner will investigate the cause of her death.

The last reported sighting of the keen hiker was on January 1 at Emily Gap, 15km east of Alice Springs.

Security video showed her leaving the Desert Palms Resort that morning.

There was confusion last week when a woman told police she had given a dehydrated and disoriented-looking Ms Billen a lift in the area on January 2.

But the woman later told police she was mistaken, and that she had encountered Ms Billen two days earlier, on December 31.

That would suggest Ms Billen had headed out on a walk again in 44C heat a day after she had appeared dehydrated.

"It was 44 degrees that day and other factors such as the heat radiating off the road makes it even hotter," Ms Vicary told reporters.

Deaths and injuries occur around Alice Springs during the southern hemisphere summer, with walkers heading out in extreme heat.

Police rescued a 60-year-old hiker last weekend on the 223km Larapinta Trail which heads west from Alice Springs.

The woman was found injured and dehydrated on the same day rescuers called off a search for Ms Billen.

This time last year, a 33-year-old Californian man died after talking a wrong turn while hiking the Larapinta Trail.

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