Mystery around British backpacker death
THE desperate search for a missing British backpacker who vanished from her hotel in Guatemala has come to a tragic end.
Searchers found missing woman Catherine Shaw's jacket and her puppy "shivering and alone" on a volcano, a short hike from the Mayachik eco-hotel, where the 23-year-old was reported missing in the early hours of March 5.
It led to the discovery of a body which has now been identified to be Ms Shaw.
A spokesman for the Lucie Blackman Trust, which supports British nationals in crisis overseas and had been assisting with the search, confirmed the news on Facebook.
"We are now able to confirm that the body found in the search in Guatemala is that of missing Catherine Shaw," a spokesman said.
"Thank you to everyone who has helped in the search.
"Our thoughts are with Catherine's family, who we will continue to support as they need."
According to reports, police are yet to confirm if the death was accidental or if Ms Shaw met with foul play.
Catherine, of Witney, Oxfordshire in the UK, had been staying in the San Pedro, Lake Atitlan area of the central American country with a friend.
The 23-year-old was last seen on CCTV leaving her hotel in San Juan La Laguna, near Lake Atitlan, barefoot and with the puppy just before 5.30am on March 5.
The woman reportedly left her phone and passport in her hotel room before departing for the hike.
A spokesman for the Lucie Blackman Trust said it had "been confirmed" that Catherine "did leave the Eco Hotel in Mayachik near to San Pedro and San Juan" at 1.37am on March 5.
But, the backpacker returned at 3.19am, and "left again for the last time at 5.23am, heading in the direction of the lake".
"At this point she had a puppy with her but no other possessions," the spokesman said.
Initial reports said that she was filmed on CCTV wandering out of the Guatemala hotel carrying a musical instrument, said to be a hand drum - or "hang".
However, the Lucie Blackman Trust clarified that the instrument "was left behind and has been located".
Prior to the discovery of Ms Shaw's body, the trust said that searches resulted in her "puppy (being) recovered alone, shivering at the highest lookout of Indian Nose, a volcano overlooking Lake Atitlan, San Pedro and San Juan between 5am and 6am on Friday morning.
Indian Nose is one of the most-hiked mountains on the lake, from where visitors can enjoy the sunrise and see the volcanic chain of Guatemala, according to Lonely Planet.
Almost 3000 metres high, it's also called Rupalaj K'istalin, and it takes about 1.5 to two hours to hike from the base of San Juan La Laguna to the top.
Resources including helicopter with infra-red technologies, drones, divers and canine search and rescue teams had been deployed during the frantic search.
A fundraising page was also set up to help the family with mounting search costs.
Catherine's father travelled to Guatemala to join the search and was to be met by British Embassy officials on arrival.
Her parents had been reported as being "desperately worried" after their daughter abruptly left the hotel without telling her travel buddy.
In a Twitter video, her dad Tarquin and mum Ann said: "Your friends, your family are all really worried about you, please come home sweetheart."
Catherine had been travelling since September last year and had previously visited Mexico and California.
All her belongings, including her passport and mobile phone, were left at the hotel, and her friend raised the alarm when she woke in the morning of March 5, and saw she wasn't there.
A worker at the hotel where Catherine was staying said staff tried to fathom why she had left alone in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
"The cameras show she was with her friend Elena for about an hour opposite a bungalow and then she played the musical instrument she left with after Elena went to bed," the worker said.
"The instrument she was playing was a Hang and people who had seen her with it earlier described it as having a black case. You can't see on the CCTV what Catherine was wearing.
"San Juan la Laguna is very safe and quiet and we don't suspect at this stage anything bad has happened to Catherine.
"We just think she's got lost somewhere and hope she can be found as soon as possible."
The worker added: "Catherine was sharing a room with about four or five other people. She had checked in with Elena and my understanding is Elena checked out on Tuesday morning.
When asked if anything untoward had happened before the British backpacker vanished from the hotel, the worker said: "We didn't notice anything. Everything seemed normal."
Italian Elena Consolini played the drums with her for a while but said her friend had given away her belongings in the days before she disappeared.
She posted on Facebook: "Saw her really sad with not much power. In the past week she got rid of a lot of her stuff.
"Nothing material matter anymore. No stupid stuff. Nothing. Just being in the moment."
In a statement released through the trust at the weekend, at the start of the search, her parents said they had been "desperately worried" since her disappearance.
"She has always been really good about keeping in touch and informing us of her whereabouts and activities," they said.
"So this is unusual behaviour which gives us great concern for her safety. Please help us to find her."
In a video, her mother urged her daughter to get in touch as they needed to know she was happy and well, while her father described her as of slim build, and about 170cm tall.