Searchers for missing woman find 'items of interest'

Stephanie Simpson disappeared in Mt Aspiring National Park last weekend. Photo: supplied
Stephanie Simpson disappeared in Mt Aspiring National Park last weekend. Photo: supplied
The search for a British tramper missing near Makarora has been narrowed to an area of "extremely challenging terrain" after items of interest were found.

Stephanie Simpson (32) disappeared in Mt Aspiring National Park last weekend after telling friends she planned to hike to Brewster Hut and then move on to Blue Pools.

Police announced today the search had been narrowed to the Pyke Creek area, which consisted of "extremely challenging terrain".

A spokeswoman confirmed to the Otago Daily Times searchers had found "items of interest" which had informed the decision to narrow the search area.

LandSAR staff, two dog teams, Alpine Cliff Rescue staff from Fox Glacier, and a canyon search and rescue team from Wanaka were assisting with the search today.

Due to the difficult conditions in the area and the necessity for specialist crews, police said they did not need any additional volunteers.

"However, we would like to thank those members of the public who have offered assistance."

Brother-in-law Sam Hazelton earlier told The New Zealand Herald Ms Simpson's family in the United Kingdom were "hoping upon hope" that she will be found.

"You can't imagine, it's pretty awful. The hardest thing, I think, is just the not-knowing.

"Everybody's just hoping. You go to bed thinking: 'What can we do?'

"And then you wake up, or keep checking your phone to get an update...the hard thing is the delay and then nothing comes."

Ms Simpson, from Essex, was reported missing about 8.45am on Monday, 10 February when she failed to keep an appointment.

Police earlier said they wanted to hear from anyone who stayed in the Cameron Flat area on Friday, February 7 and saw or spoke to Ms Simpson, or anyone who may have seen her on the track from Fantail Falls to Mt Armstrong, or in Makarora Valley.

Anyone with information should call 105 and quote file 200211/4896.

It is believed Ms Simpson headed out to Mt Aspiring National Park after work on the Friday and was expected to return on Sunday.

She was carrying a day pack and did not take a search and rescue beacon with her.

Mr Hazelton wanted to thank everyone involved in the ongoing search.

"We want to give a huge thank you to everybody, whether it's friends, volunteers, the specialist teams.

"We appreciate the unbelievable efforts that are gong on and the work that's going into this and we can't thank them enough."

- ODT and NZ Herald

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