A Greek coroner has concluded that a British scientist whose disappearance sparked a massive search on the island of Ikaria was killed when she fell into a deep ravine.
Natalie Christopher, an astrophysicist and keen athlete, was likely to have died instantly, said the country’s leading state pathologist after examining the 35-year-old’s body at the scene of the fall.
“There are many findings … and they are consistent with a fall from a height,” Nikos Karakoukis told the media in the first official assessment of the incident.
The coroner, who flew to the far-flung Aegean isle by helicopter on Thursday, said all evidence, including examination of the site, led him to the conclusion that Christopher had died in an accident.
But he said that only an autopsy and toxicological tests would shed full light on the cause of death.
The body of the Briton, who went missing on Monday, was transported to Athens late on Thursday. Forensic scientists are expected to complete the postmortem in the coming days. Until the pathology report was fully concluded, investigations would continue to be part of a criminal inquiry, the Greek police force spokesman Theodoros Chronopoulos insisted. Homicide detectives from the Greek capital also inspected the site.
“We are aware of the coroner’s remarks but we are still not in a position to entirely rule out everything,” he said. “We are, for example, still examining the possibility of her having been pushed by someone else.”
The ravine was barely a mile away from the hotel where the Anglo-Cypriot, who lived permanently in Cyprus, had been holidaying with her 38-year-old partner. He woke to find she was not in the room they had booked for a weekend away on the island. He discovered she was out jogging after calling her mobile phone. When she failed to return from the run he reported her missing.
Police said although investigations were ongoing, the Cypriot was not considered a suspect.
Tributes poured in for Christopher, a respected peace activist who dreamed of reuniting Cyprus. President Nicos Anastasiades was among those who expressed sorrow, calling her death “an unjust loss of a young scientist and active citizen who had her whole life ahead of her and much to give”.
The island’s leading bicommunal group, Unite Cyprus Now, described Christopher – who had brought young Greek and Turkish girls together seeking to empower women in both communities through sports – as an inspiration. “Cyprus has lost one of its best,” it said of the Oxford-educated graduate.
More than 40 police officers, escorted by teams specialising in phone tracking technology, firefighters, volunteers and coastguard officials participated in the operation to find the scientist. When, two days later, she had still not been found, police deployed sniffer dogs and dispatched a helicopter equipped with infrared cameras to Ikaria.
Volunteer rescue workers who found her body said part of it was covered by a large boulder that appeared to have dislodged from the ravine – and which the rock climber may have clung on to as she tried to scale up or down the cliff face. The scientist’s mobile was clearly visible, its screen smashed in the fall.
Vangelis Kriaras, a volunteer, told local TV rescue workers he had come close the site “at least twice before” since Christopher went missing, but because of its impassibility had failed to spot her. It was only when one volunteer walked through the gorge that her body was discovered.