Newspaper article Tweed Daily News (Tweed Heads, Australia)

Search for Backpacker Britt

Newspaper article Tweed Daily News (Tweed Heads, Australia)

Search for Backpacker Britt

Article excerpt

BRITT Lapthorne was doing what thousands of other Australians do every day when she disappeared from the historic Croatian tourist resort of Dubrovnik.

She bid farewell to her boyfriend of six months, Simon Imberger, hopped on a plane and headed for Europe to see the world.

It's a familiar scenario.

The 21-year-old, widely regarded as being mature beyond her age, had the trip planned before the couple started going out and Mr Imberger, 33, encouraged her to spread her wings - she might resent it later if she gave up her trip.

"She didn't want me to drive her to the airport, she was going to find it hard enough to say goodbye," Mr Imberger said.

"So I had to drive her early in the morning the day that she left, to her friend's house and her friend took her to the airport."

That was on June 30.

Ms Lapthorne headed to Germany to see brother Darren, a professional road cyclist there.

She celebrated her birthday in Paris with her parents, Dale and Elke, who returned to Melbourne in late July, while Ms Lapthorne set out on her own, heading to Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and the Balkans.

In Prague, she met and became firm friends with fellow Australian Tara Reynolds, 32, and the pair travelled together for three weeks.

After heading back to her London base, Ms Reynolds was devastated to hear of Ms Lapthorne's disappearance.

Ms Reynolds returned to Dubrovnik, where she met up with Darren Lapthorne and launched a Facebook campaign to try and find her.

Meanwhile, the family in Australia began an outspoken campaign of their own, pressuring the Croatian and Australian authorities to act after becoming frustrated by what they believed was a delayed response.

Ms Lapthorne was last seen at the Latino Club Fuego nightspot in the early hours of September 18.

Mr Imberger recalled speaking to her on the phone the day before.

"It was a normal, everyday conversation," he said.

"She was happy, she was having fun.

"We just talked about how much longer her funds might last her and, talking about that, it reminded her that she had to go and confirm the booking for her return in mid-October. …

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