The authorities in Madagascar have begun the sad task of reuniting the remains of tragic Cambridge University student Alana Cutland with her grieving family
The authorities in Madagascar have begun the sad task of reuniting the remains of tragic Cambridge University student Alana Cutland with her grieving family.
Alana, 19, plunged 3,700ft to her death on July 25 after opening the door of a Cessna 182 aircraft she was flying in and leaping out while suffering a suspected psychotic episode.
Her body was finally found yesterday by a team of 15 volunteers from local villages accompanied by three police officers in a woodland area in the remote north west of the Indian Ocean island.
Just 40 percent of her body was recovered, according to investigators.
‘Villagers have finally found Alana Cutland’s body after a fortnight of searching,’ chief investigator Spinola Edvin Nomenjanahary said.
‘We only found 40 percent of the body.’
Poverty stricken local people who had spent 12 days searching tirelessly for her body watched this afternoon as her remains were loaded on to an Army helicopter on a private airstrip at Anjajavy.
Alasna’s body was then flown to the nearby regional town of Maharangha where it was kept overnight.
Her body was finally found yesterday by a team of 15 volunteers from local villages accompanied by three police officers in a woodland area in the remote north west of the Indian Ocean island
‘Villagers have finally found Alana Cutland’s body after a fortnight of searching,’ chief investigator Spinola Edvin Nomenjanahary said. ‘We only found 40 percent of her body’
The body of tragic student Alana Cutland is believed to have been found in Madagascar nearly two weeks after she leapt to her death from a light aircraft
Images taken by a Madagascan air rescue team who searched forests and swamp land for the body of Alana
Police in Madagascar released a poignant photograph tonight showing two Army personnel removing the wooden box containing her remains from the helicopter at Maharangha airport.
Another photograph released by the police showed personnel working at the scene where her body was found in woodland at Mahadrodroka, about ten miles from the airstrip at Anjajavy.
Alana’s remains will be kept overnight in Maharangha before being flown at dawn tomorrow to the Army base beside the country’s man Ivato airport in the capital Antananarivo.
Villagers gave up their time for free to search for Alana, and even sacrificed one of their cattle
Chief Prosper admitted there were difficulties in the hunt, saying villagers were using machetes to cut through thick vegetation to get into the most inaccessible areas of the countryside
The tragedy happened as Alana was being flown by a Cessna taking her to Madagascar’s international airport at Antananarivo
The flight is being undertaken in the morning as the helicopter crew are not authorised to do the trip in darkness.
Alana’s body will then be taken for a post mortem and toxicology tests at the 621-bed Joseph Ravoahangy Andrianavalona Hospital in Antananarivo before being flown back to her family in the UK.
Police who are investigating the death of the teenager from Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, hope that the tests will reveal the level and type of medication in her body.
A search party walked for up to 15 miles a day to look for Alan’s body in forests, swamp land and the countryside (pictured) in Anjajavy
Alana’s body was found north of Mahadrodroka in an area of scrub and woodland. She had been flying back from Anjajavy Le Lodge where she was staying in a remote area in the north of the island (pictured)
One theory is that she may have suffered an extreme reaction, possibly to an anti-malarial drug or other medication she was taking. Local police chief Spinola Nomenjahary who is based in Maharangha has revealed that the anti-malaria drug Doxycycline was in her luggage, along with sleeping tablets.
There has been speculation in the past that the antibiotic Doxycycline has been linked to suicides and the sudden onset of depression.
While police in Madagascar have not yet officially identified Alana’s body from DNA tests, they are convinced it is her due to the colour of her hair as well as her shoes and clothing.
Alana had been working on a conservation project at Anjajavy Le Lodge resort, conducting research into crabs on the idyllic tropical beaches in the area. Statements from hotel staff given to local police have confirmed that she was behaving normally and was in ‘good spirits’ when she arrived at the resort on July 16 on a self-funded internship.
But her mental health quickly deteriorated and she began suffering from paranoid episodes, confusion and sleepless nights, even thinking that she could be jailed by Madagascar authorities if she failed in her crab research.
The student plunged to her almost certain death after opening the door of the Cessna carrying her as a passenger
British teacher Ruth Johnson, 51, from Banbury, Oxfordshire, who was sitting next to Alana reconstructed the scene for police
Alana’s parents Neil and Alsion Cutland, both 63, became increasingly concerned after fraught telephone calls with her and arranged for her to return home just eight days into her planned 42 day trip.
UK teacher Ruth Johnson, 51, of Banbury, Oxon, who had befriended Alana at the Anjajavy Le Lodge hotel agree to travel with her and look after her.
The pair were just five minutes into their flight on the Cessna from Anjajavy airstrip to Antananarivo when Alana suddenly pushed forward the seat in front of her to reach the door handle and opened it.
The pilot desperately tried to shut the door, but Alana launched herself out and half her body was left hanging out of the plane. Mrs Johnson who was sitting next to Alana held on to her leg for up to two minutes while screaming, ‘Come back, come back’.
Alana had been working on a conservation project at Anjajavy Le Lodge resort, conducting research into the population of crabs on the idyllic tropical beaches in the area
Images of the village in Anjajavy where search teams scanned the area in the bid to find Alana’s body
Alana flew to Madagascar on July 16 to study crabs in the Anjajavy area, and at first appeared normal and in good spirits, according to staff at the hotel
But the teenager finally slipped from her grasp as the plane rocked from side to side and she plunged to her death. Around 400 local people from six villages and 15 police officers started searching the next day for her body, combing a 40km square area which included swamps, a lake, dense forest and scrubland.
The villagers refused to give up saying they had to continue the search as they had an obligation to safeguard guests at the hotel where many of them are employed.
They also insisted they wanted to find her body as a gesture of humanity, saying it was part of their Malagasy culture that the remains of a dead person should be reunited with loved ones.
Chief Prosper at Anjajavy village in northern Madagascar, where Cutland, 19, stayed during her research trip to the country
They then set off to continue their search before returning just before sunset to feast on a stew made from the meat of the 15-year-old female zebu
Some of the local people walked up to 15 miles a day without being paid, hacking through thick vegetation in their quest, with some being barefoot as they cannot afford shoes.
After searching fruitlessly, the villagers finally decided to hold a so-called Joro ceremony on Monday on the advice of their elders to appeal to their local God called Zanahary for help. It involved sacrificing one of their precious zebu cattle on the Anjajavy airstrip where Alana took off on her fateful flight.
Around 100 villagers all stood in silence and turned east beside the runway so they could face the direction of the sunrise which represents the arrival of new life in Malagasy beliefs.
They then set off to continue their search before returning just before sunset to feast on a stew made from the meat of the 15-year-old female zebu which was called ‘Black and White’.
Alana was staying at the Anjajavy Le Lodge hotel (pictured) which runs the conservation project she was working on