Aiden Webb: Body of missing backpacker found in Vietnam

Bluebell Baughan and Aiden WebbImage source, Bluebell Baughan
Image caption,
Aiden Webb, pictured with girlfriend Bluebell Baughan, was an Anglia Ruskin University drama graduate

A British backpacker has been found dead in northern Vietnam, nearly a week after he was last seen.

Aiden Webb, 22, from Norwich, set off to climb the Fansipan mountain alone on Friday. He fell and hurt himself and his phone stopped working the next day.

His body was found by rangers near Sin Chai village at 12:50 local time (06:50 BST) on Thursday, the head of the Hoang Lien National Park told the BBC.

He was travelling with his girlfriend who raised the alarm after he got lost.

A local official said it was hoped Mr Webb's body can be recovered on Friday, but the area is difficult to reach.

Mr Webb, an experienced climber, had started his ascent of the 3,100m (10,300ft) high mountain - Vietnam's tallest - at about 06:00 and planned to climb it in a day.

He had gone to Vietnam with his girlfriend Bluebell Baughan, 24, of White Notley, Essex, and she was in contact with him by phone from the nearest town of Sapa.

Ravine fall

Image caption,
Mr Webb was trekking alone on Fansipan mountain when he fell down a ravine, his girlfriend said
Image source, Bluebell Baughan
Image caption,
Aiden Webb had set off to climb Vietnam's highest mountain on his own on Friday
Image source, Bluebell Baughan
Image caption,
Mr Webb's father said on Wednesday that his son had sent his girlfriend a photo of his location

She said he fell into a ravine and told her he had cut his arm open on a rock, hurt his knee and lost his way off the trail.

They were in contact all night and last spoke at about 06:00 on Saturday when it was agreed she would raise the alarm. His phone then stopped working.

Nguyen Quang Vinh, head of the Hoang Lien National Park in Lao Cai province in the north-west of the country, told the BBC Vietnamese Service: "It is very sad that we found the British tourist body today at 12:50.

"The position is quite near the location that his girlfriend gave us, in Sin Chai village."

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
A border guard spoke to a TV reporter while searching through dense jungle

Before his body was found a member of the rescue team, a Lao Cai border guard, told a local TV station they had been searching the area with dogs.

"They only found a footprint which we managed to match with a shoe left by the missing man," he said.

"Then we had to stop the search as it became dark."

Image caption,
Trever Webb flew to Vietnam to help search for his son and said he would not leave without him

Mr Webb's father Trever and his uncle Michael arrived in Vietnam on Tuesday to join the search.

On Wednesday, he told the BBC that hopes were fading of finding his son alive but he had gained permission to use drones to scour the area, saying the family was "desperate".

The equipment was due to arrive on Thursday.

His girlfriend said she had been frustrated by the British Embassy's response as they were running out of time to find him alive.

"We're just not getting the necessary equipment out here to help us find Aiden," she said on Wednesday.

Timeline of events

Image source, Bluebell Baughan
Image caption,
Aiden Webb was "fit, strong and healthy", his father said

April: The backpacker sets off travelling with girlfriend Bluebell Baughan

3 June: The experienced climber starts his solo ascent of Vietnam's highest mountain, the 3,100m-high (10,300ft) Fansipan at about 06:00. He falls, cuts his arm open, hurts his leg and loses his bearings

4 June: He talks on his mobile phone to Ms Baughan and they agree she should call rescue teams for help. His phone then stops working.

5 June: His father Trever Webb and uncle Michael fly from the UK to help for the search

6 June: Ms Baughan tells of her concern for her boyfriend, saying it's "cold and wet"

7 June: Rescuers say they fear he's wandered into a valley with a large waterfall and fallen in

8 June: His father gets permission to use drones in the search for his son and says he will not leave Vietnam without him

9 June: Aiden Webb's body is found by park rangers in Sin Chai village at 12:50 local time

Local media outlets have said Mr Webb's body was found close to the mountain's newly-opened cable car line, at around 2,800m (9,186ft) above sea level.

The former City of Norwich School pupil was thought to have climbed along its route towards the summit.

It has also been reported he had packed lightly with some food, a flashlight and a phone charger.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Vietnam TV reported a 150-strong party had been looking for Mr Webb and had started scouring trails along streams and the cable car line

Vietnam's main news programme Chuyen Dong 24 reported a 150-strong search party had extended its mission into routes along streams and the vicinity of the cable car as they were the most likely trails for him to have chosen.

He was not found at the last co-ordinates he sent to his girlfriend's phone.

Mr Webb recently posted on his Facebook page he had got lost trekking on a mountain in Vietnam in preparation for Fansipan Mountain.

Days before he went missing, he also posted he had completed his first "official" free solo climb and was both congratulated and scowled at by locals afterwards.

He continued: "I'm actually a very safe climber and know my limits."

An online fundraising page set up to help the family pay for a search mission in Vietnam raised more than £6,000.

Mr Webb and Ms Baughan were halfway through their four-month long trip when he went missing.

Fansipan is known as the Roof of Indochina. Organised hikes to the top usually take two to three days.

The couple were staying in the nearest town, Sapa, five-and-a-half miles (9km) away.

Image source, Bluebell Baughan
Image caption,
Bluebell Baughan and Mr Webb were two-and-a-half months into a four-month trip

Tributes paid

A number of tributes have been paid to Mr Webb, praising his adventurous spirit and sense of fun.

Head teacher Jim Nixon, of the City of Norwich School, said he will be remembered for his "cheerfulness, positive attitude, creativity and willingness to do well".

He also said how he had already showed his "love of challenge and the outdoors" on a school trip to the Lake District.

Anglia Ruskin University, where the couple both studied, issued a statement saying it was "deeply saddened".

"Our thoughts are with Aiden's family, friends and girlfriend Bluebell, who is also a former student, at this very difficult time," they said.

"He was a popular and hard-working student, known for his wonderful sense of humour."

The manager of Superdry's Cambridge branch, where Mr Webb formerly worked, posted on Facebook: "A great lad who everyone liked."

The Foreign Office has released a statement and said its staff had been supporting his family and friends.

"Vietnamese authorities have this morning confirmed they have found a body in the same area that British national Aiden Webb went missing," it said.

"A formal identification of the body has not yet been conducted."

In 2001, a 17-year-old schoolgirl died after falling 500m (1640ft) off a path on the same mountain.

Amy Ransom, who lived near High Wycombe, had been part of a school party accompanied by two local guides.

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