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Family of missing British woman pursuing jungle search

KOH RONG, Cambodia (AP) — The brother of a British woman who disappeared after attending a late-night beach party on a Cambodian island said Wednesday her family is planning to hire a private team of professional searchers to comb the jungle for her.

Harry Bambridge, the brother of 21-year-old backpacker Amelia Bambridge, said he "absolutely" believes there is a chance his sister is still alive. She was last seen Oct. 23 on the island of Koh Rong off the coast of southwestern Cambodia.

The brother is one of at least three family members who have come to the island to join the land and sea search. The police chief for the Cambodian province said earlier Wednesday that he fears she has drowned, but that searches for her will continue. The provincial governor has vowed to search until the case is resolved.

Harry Bambridge told reporters that his family wants to conduct more searches inland, which has thick jungle. "We had use of a dog today which proved beneficial and gave us some more hope," he said. "And also, we are looking to hire a private jungle search team."

Koh Rong, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) offshore, covers an area of about 78 square kilometers (30 square miles). Bambridge said his family finds the lack of information about where Amelia went "suspect."

"You know, it's a party. It's not that busy. There's plenty of staff there. One minute she's there and next she's gone. And no one seems to know right now," Bambridge said. He said he believes there is a chance she was abducted, a possibility his father raised earlier.

"I totally believe that someone knows what's happened to her. And, you know, it's just a matter of finding some information that's going to tell us more about what's happened." Preah Sihanouk provincial police chief Maj. Gen. Chuon Narin said he couldn't rule out the possibility of murder, but that he doubted it because the island had not experienced any murder or robbery cases. He speculated that she might have drowned, but said the authorities would reach a final conclusion only when the search was competed.

"From my first preliminary conclusion she may have drowned in the sea because we have found her belongings on a rock very close to the edge of the sea," he said. Her bag with money and a cellphone was found there, and her passport was found in the hostel room where she had been staying.

Bambridge conceded that his sister could have been lost at sea. "We know there are strong currents here," he said. "I ask this to Thailand, all the neighboring countries, to all the fishermen, to please if they stumble across a body ... let us know."

Police chief Chuon Narin said six people called in for questioning by police over the previous few days were released Tuesday evening without any charges filed against them. Officials said they were questioned because of a complaint by Western visitors that they had acted badly toward female tourists.

Associated Press writer Sopheng Cheang in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, contributed to this report.

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