Stephanie Simpson: Fears grow for British hiker missing in New Zealand
‘She’s a really beautiful, kind-hearted person... she’s just here to [hike] and see the country,’ friend says
A manhunt has been launched for a British hiker who disappeared over the weekend after setting out in the mountains of New Zealand.
Stephanie Simpson, 32, told friends she planned to head into the Mount Aspiring national park on Saturday - 40km northwest of the town of Wanaka where she has lived since July.
But on Monday morning she failed to show up to her landscaping job, prompting a hunt by new Zealand police who have since deployed a helicopter to survey the region.
Her car was later found along the route, with search dogs deployed to hunt along the hiking track she is expected to have walked.
Ms Simpson is the third traveller to have gone missing in the southwest region of New Zealand's South Island after heavy rain caused rivers to swell and damaged a number of trails.
On Friday the bodies of two hikers, a man and a woman, were pulled from the Makora river, close to where Ms Simpson was believed to have been walking. Both have been identified and their next of kin have been informed.
The UK government is in contact with local authorities, and is currently supporting the family of the hiker, who is originally from Essex.
A close friend told the New Zealand Herald that her decision to head out into the mountains was just “another weekend” of hiking for Ms Simpson.
"She's strong, she's fit, she's capable. She's worked in the outdoors, she knows what she's up to." she said, adding, “She's a really beautiful, kind-hearted person. She can make friends in an instant, she's awesome.
“She's just here to [hike] and see the country."
A Foreign Office spokesperson 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.”