Rio De Janeiro: Mystery deepened over the fate of an Australian backpacker who vanished 11 days ago in Brazil, with police fearing he may have drowned swimming to an uninhabited island while high on drugs. Rye Hunt’s May 21 disappearance in Rio de Janeiro, host of the Olympic Games in August, has baffled police and his family, which launched the #findrye social media campaign to boost the search. Police said yesterday the 25-year-old from Tasmania was last spotted by a fisherman on tiny, uninhabited Contunduba island near Rio.
Reports emerged late yesterday in British and Australian media outlets that he had been found alive on the island, but the family issued a statement saying it had not been given the news from official sources. Rio police told AFP in a statement that they were “continuing to work to try and locate the missing Australian citizen.” Officer Ellen Souto said in a televised press conference earlier yesterday that the fisherman who briefly saw Hunt said the backpacker “had been injured by (cuts from) sea shells and said he had arrived on the island by swimming.”
“We searched all around the island … but found no one,” she said. She said Hunt had been taking synthetic drugs and was suffering a psychotic episode in which he had become dangerously paranoid. Hunt and a fellow Australian backpacker been partying in Rio for several days, and the drugs they were taking caused them to behave erratically, police said. The pair went to the Rio’s Galeao International Airport to try to fly to Bolivia, the next stop on their tour of Latin America. They had been meant to fly days later and when they got to the airport they argued and separated, police said.
Hunt was seen on airport security footage, wearing a green Boston Celtics basketball shirt and a dark hat. He took a cab back to the city alone and rented a short-let apartment in Copacabana, a tourist-friendly area that will host several Olympic events. The apparent drug-fueled swim took place soon after. Although the search continues, Souto indicated rescue services already fear the worst. “We are monitoring … all unidentified corpses,” she said. Hunt’s uncle and his partner were due to arrive soon from Australia to meet Brazilian police and consular officials, the family said in a statement on their Facebook page.
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