Australia outback: Body found in search for missing woman

Media caption‘We’re all grieving and exhausted’: Sister of Claire Hockridge speaks

Australian police searching for the final member of a group who became stranded in the outback more than two weeks ago have found a body.

The body has not been identified but it is believed to be Claire Hockridge, Northern Territory Police said.

Ms Hockridge, 46, had been travelling with two others when their car got stuck in a riverbed on 19 November.

Her partner Tamra McBeath-Riley, 52, and friend Phu Tran, 40, were found alive earlier this week.

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Northern Territory Police

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Claire Hockridge (right) and Tamra McBeath-Riley became stranded on 19 November

The group – all Australians – and Ms McBeath-Riley’s dog, Raya, had been travelling from Alice Springs to go on a hike when they became bogged in the Hugh River.

They had stayed by the car for around three days in an unsuccessful attempt to free it, before splitting up to find help.

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They had used up all their supplies of water, as well as some vodka drinks, biscuits and beef noodles they had in the car.

Mr Tran and Ms Hockridge planned to head towards a highway, while Ms McBeath-Riley stayed in the area, thinking her dog would not survive a long walk.

Police despatched helicopters to search for the trio. They spotted Ms McBeath-Riley and Raya on Sunday, about 1.5km (0.9 miles) away from the car.

Mr Tran was found on Tuesday by a farmer who was performing checks on his vast property, about 12km from the vehicle.

Supt Pauline Vicary, from NT Police, said the pair had managed to find groundwater to drink, describing their survival as a “miracle”.

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NT Police

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Phu Tran was found alive on Tuesday

Mr Tran told police he had separated from Ms Hockridge two days earlier after they reached a fence on the property. He chose to follow the fence line, after which he encountered the farmer.

His account had narrowed the search for Ms Hockridge, police said, and they later found footprints believed to be hers.

On Tuesday, police said they feared Ms Hockridge had “limited to no water supplies”.

Food and water sources are scant in Australia’s remote desert outback, and temperatures regularly exceed 40C (104F) during the day.