Fears grow as British backpacker Stephanie Simpson goes missing in New Zealand
11 February 2020, 14:52 | Updated: 11 February 2020, 18:51
Concerns are growing for a "friendly and bubbly" British backpacker who has gone missing while hiking in New Zealand.
Stephanie Simpson, 32, believed to be from Basildon in Essex, was reported missing at around 8:45am local time on Monday, New Zealand Police said.
She told friends she planned a challenging four-hour hike in Mount Aspiring National Park on the country's South Island over the weekend.
However, an alert was raised after she failed to turn up to a landscaping job on Monday morning, with her friends not hearing from her since Friday.
A helicopter team was sent to look for the British backpacker overnight, with The Fox Glacier Alpine cliff rescue team, a search dog and handler, and Wanaka LandSAR volunteers all joining in efforts to find her across a 24km area.
It is currently not clear whether she was trekking alone.
The Foreign Office confirmed they are helping the family of a British woman who has been reported missing in New Zealand.
One of her close friends told the New Zealand Herald that Ms Simpson is "strong, fit and capable" and has previously worked outdoors so "she knows what she's up to."
She explained that the 32-year-old had arrived in the country alone from Australia last year and had been living in Wanaka - roughly an hour's drive from Queenstown - since July.
"She's a really beautiful, kind-hearted person. She can make friends in an instant, she's awesome. She's just here to tramp and see the country," the friend added.
"It wouldn't surprise me if she did just rock up tonight and there's been a little something that's happened and she just needed to take an extra day."
A spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: "We are supporting the family of a British woman who has been reported missing in New Zealand and are in contact with the local authorities.”
Ms Simpson's former running club, Leigh on Sea Striders, issued a statement saying Stephanie is "a dear friend to many of us."
The club's chairman Mark Dobson added: "She is in our thoughts and prayers and we send our support to her family and our thanks to the emergency services who are working so hard to locate her."
It comes after two bodies were recovered from a nearby river on Friday and Saturday following heavy rain and flooding in the area.
A state of emergency was declared in Southland last week, with roads being closed and houses and farms being flooded.
A spokesperson for New Zealand Police said: "If anyone was on the track over the weekend who stayed in the Cameron Flat area on Friday and may have spoken to Stephanie, or anyone who may have seen her on the track from Fantail Falls to Mt Armstrong, or in Makarora Valley, please let Police know on 105."