The nightmare facing missing Australian backpacker Britt Lapthorne’s family deepened when Croatian police failed to inform them they had recovered an unidentified body off the coast of Dubrovnik.

Instead, her father Dale, older brother Darren and boyfriend Simon Imberger learned of the discovery through the media before breaking the news to her mother Elke in Melbourne.

As the body was being pulled from the Bay of Boninovo, near the town centre where Ms Lapthorne vanished early on September 18, Dale Lapthorne said he spoke with one reporter who advised him to call the police.

When he did, police told him there was nothing to report, but a short time later, another journalist told Lapthorne the body was “possibly Britt”.

“They could have called us and told us,” he said of the police.

He added that the only information coming from police was that an autopsy would be performed on Tuesday and that the remains were unlikely to belong to Ms Lapthorne because they were too badly decomposed.

“The body is quite badly decomposed, which appears to be inconsistent with somebody who has been missing for the time Britt has,” Lapthorne said.

Police also asked Lapthorne for his daughter’s dental records and a DNA sample.

“I’m totally numb,” Lapthorne told reporters.

“We’re just totally drained and exhausted.”

His wife later echoed his sentiments in a statement.

“I am emotionally and physically exhausted after a very distressing night with the news out of Dubrovnik,” Mrs Lapthorne said.

“My family and I simply need to sleep and regroup for what we know will be a difficult next 24 hours.”

Police spokesman Ivan Kukrika said authorities would only contact the family when they knew the identity of the remains.

“We have rules that we are not contacting the family until we have something for sure,” he said.

But the lack of communication was another blow for the Lapthornes, who have continually been shut out of the investigation into the disappearance of their daughter, who was last seen at the Latino Club Fuego nightclub.

Despite the Australian Federal Police sending an officer to Dubrovnik nearly a week ago, Lapthorne met him for the first time yesterday – before the remains were found.

“His parting gesture with me today was like, ‘it was nice to meeting you and I wish you all the best,’ that was the feeling I had, although I believe he was stationed here for an indefinite period,” Lapthorne said.

“I was really quite disappointed.”

Lapthorne said he was grateful to the Australian embassy in Croatia for providing two staffers who had been a “great support” and were “trying their hardest” in difficult circumstances.

“We’re not in the loop,” he said.

A fisherman alerted police shortly after 11am local time on Monday when he saw the body floating in waters just west of the walled citadel.

Police recovered the remains near a popular local swimming spot and in front of two five-star resorts a short time later.

As the drama unfolded, Lapthorne, his son and Imberger sought a brief escape.

“We hibernated a little,” Dale Lapthorne said.

“We went out of Dubrovnik. Simon, Darren and myself, we thought we’d just get some time to ourselves.

“We went and walked and we actually had a bit of a laugh and we all agreed it was very therapeutic.”

Asked what had brought smiles to their faces at such a difficult time, Lapthorne said thoughts of his daughter in happier times.

“She was always a character,” he said.

“To have a little bit of a laugh and light relief was good for us and we all agreed it was a good thing to do, a more positive thing to do than sitting up in the room and moping and being distressed.”