Police find body believed to be of missing woman from two weeks ago

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.

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

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

The group and 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.

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

Tran and Hockridge planned to head towards a highway, while 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 McBeath-Riley and Raya on Sunday, about 1.5km (0.9 miles) away from the car. 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”.

Tran told police he had separated from 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 Hockridge, police said, and they later found footprints believed to be hers.

On Tuesday, police said they feared 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.