Police find body of German tourist in Australian Outback

DARWIN, Australia (AP) — The body of a 62-year-old German tourist was found beneath a tree in the searing heat of the central Australia Outback on Thursday, eight days after she was reported missing, police said.

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

Her body was spotted by searchers in a helicopter under a tree far from hiking tracks and 3 kilometers (2 miles) west of Emily Gap in the East MacDonnell Ranges, police said.

The location had already been searched twice in a 16-square kilometer (6-square mile) targeted area but was densely covered with trees and foliage, Police Superintendent Pauline Vicary said.

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

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

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

Police 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 Jan. 1 at Emily Gap, 15 kilometers (9 miles) 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 Billen a lift in the area on Jan. 2. But the woman later told police she was mistaken and that she had encountered Billen two days earlier, on Dec. 31.

That would suggest Billen had headed out on a walk again in 44 degree Celsius (111 degree Fahrenheit) 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,” 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 223-kilometer (139-mile) 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 Billen. The search was restarted on Tuesday based on the new phone data.

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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