Croatian police say a body recovered from a cove near Dubrovnik is
unlikely to be that of missing Australian backpacker Britt Lapthorne.
spokesman Ivan Kukrika told reporters the high level of decomposition
meant the body was probably not that of the 21-year-old, who went
missing in the coastal town in the early hours of September 18.
“It shouldn’t be the person we are searching for,” Kukrika told a press conference.
“For sure we can almost tell that it’s not Britt because it’s in a high state of decomposition.
“We can’t even tell if it’s male or female.”
An autopsy will be carried out at 10am tomorrow (1900 AEDT Tuesday).
if the police had had any contact with Ms Lapthorne’s family, Kukrika
said they would only speak to them when they knew for sure the identity
of the remains.
“We have ruled that we are not contacting the family until we have something for sure,” he said.
local fisherman alerted police just after 11am local time (2000 AEDT
Monday) after he saw the body floating in water a few hundred metres
west of the city centre.
Police recovered the remains a short time later and took the body to the local morgue.
Lapthorne’s father Dale flew into Dubrovnik from Melbourne on Friday to
join son Darren in the coastal city to search for the 21-year-old while
Ms Lapthorne’s mother Elke remained in Melbourne.
Lapthorne’s boyfriend of six months, Simon Imberger, also travelled to Dubrovnik to join the search.
Early on Monday police confirmed that they have recovered a body.
Mr Lapthorne was informed and reports siad he was devastated by the news.
The discovery was made a few hundred metres west of the city centre, in front of a popular local swimming spot and two five-star hotels, the Libertas Rixos and the Bellvue.
A police boat transported the body to the main port of Gruz, where they loaded a stretcher with a body bag on it into a van that then went to the local morgue.
Just a couple of hours before Mr Lapthorne had emerged from a meeting with police expressing hope that his daughter would be found alive.
After meeting the senior detective investigating his daughter’s disappearance, Mr Lapthorne said he had a lot of confidence in the specialist officer, known as detective Antonio.
“I’ve certainly come away with a warmer feeling today,” Mr Lapthorne said.
“I feel a little bit better today, I’m not walking away with this knot in my stomach that I’ve felt previously … I have a lot of confidence in detective Antonio.”
Lapthorne said the detective, based in the capital Zagreb, appeared to have done his homework on the case.
“There was a reassurance, I really felt he was pretty well on top of it,” he added.
One of the key problems in the investigation is the amount of time it is taking for information to filter through from other backpackers who saw Ms Lapthorne on the night she vanished.
Dubrovnik police are blaming Interpol, saying they have to respect protocol, while a number of the backpackers have been contacted by the family and the media via Facebook.
“They certainly don’t like the Facebook style of tracking people down, but Facebook is pretty good at tracking people down and there are a number of people that are still being sought for interviews and questioning,” Mr Lapthorne said.
“This part of it is going slowly and it seems to be more Interpol-related and that’s frustrating.”
Mr Lapthorne said the family had not hired a private investigator, contrary to earlier reports.
He remained critical of the Australian Federal Police (AFP), saying he only met today the officer they posted to Dubrovnik nearly a week ago.
The AFP said the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was providing consular assistance to the Lapthorne family via the AFP liaison officer’s daily meetings with Croatian police officers.