THESSALONIKI, Greece — A missing British tourist may have been mauled to death and devoured by wild animals while hiking between archaeological sites in northern Greece, authorities said Tuesday after a woman’s gnawed body was discovered in a remote hilly area.
Police say the human remains were found Saturday near the village of Petrota, 285 kilometers (180 miles) east of the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki. Near them, authorities found a passport for Celia Lois Hollingworth, 63, whom the British embassy in Athens had reported missing in the area Friday.
“We believe that the body belongs to the missing woman, but can’t say so for sure until the remains have been identified,” a police official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity since the official was not authorized to discuss the case.
Coroner Nikos Kifnidis said the cause of death is still unclear as parts of the woman’s body are still missing. An autopsy will be performed Wednesday. Kifnidis told the AP that the skeletal remains he saw had been stripped of their flesh.
“Evidence is still being gathered,” he said. “The remains I saw were just bones, there was no soft tissue … A first estimate would be that she was devoured by animals.”
But the precise causes of the woman’s death were unclear.
“We are examining all possibilities — either an attack by wild or domesticated animals or a criminal act,” police spokeswoman Ioanna Rotziokou said. “We can certainly say it (the body) was a shocking sight, but we don’t know exactly how it got into that state.”
Hikers in the Greek countryside often face fierce shepherd dogs and strays near inhabited areas can also be aggressive. Wolves roam remote parts of the country and have been reported in the Petrota area.
Police said Hollingworth was reported missing to English police, who notified the embassy in Athens, by her brother in England.
Police said she had taken a taxi from the village of Maroneia, which has an ancient site, to another ancient site at Messimvria, near the sea 30 kilometers (19 miles) away by road, closer on paths. She was reportedly sighted later in the day in a coastal area between the two sites. The remains were found in the hills further inland, toward Petrota.
Britain’s Foreign Office was providing consular assistance to her family.