Human bones found in Cambodia could be missing backpacker Eddie Gibson | Cruise Mekong River

Human bones found in Cambodia could be missing backpacker Eddie Gibson

Eddie Gibson

Eddie Gibson disappeared aged 19 in October 2004 when he last made contact with his mother saying he was looking forward to coming home. Photograph: PA

The family of Eddie Gibson, a teenage backpacker who disappeared in Cambodia in 2004, have received conflicting reports about whether human remains found in the border region where he went missing might be his.

Gibson, from Hove, was 19 when he took a break from the course he had just started at Leeds University, in Asian and Pacific studies and international management, to travel around Cambodia.

His father, Mike Gibson, said the family was waiting “with bated breath” for more news. The Gibsons have determinedly kept the search for him active, repeatedly visiting, making an appeal on local television and offering a £10,000 reward for information – all to no avail.

The possible breakthrough follows the discovery of bones close to a lake near Poipet, the border town that is believed to have been his last stop in Cambodia.

His father, Mike Gibson, said: “On Monday, we were phoned by a private investigator who has a presence in Cambodia and who investigates children who have gone missing. He was notified by border police at Poipet that there had been some human remains found near a lake on the border between Cambodia and Thailand, on the Cambodia side. Over the last couple of days, they have secured it as a crime scene and they have been able to get more bones, including a skull, and they are assembling the skeleton.”

But reports in Cambodia say a joint investigation by the national police and provincial authorities has ruled out the remains belonging to Eddie. The Cambodia Daily newspaper quoted provincial police chief Kheng Soum, who said the body belonged to an Asian person. Gibson, who had earlier said the family was waiting “with bated breath” for more news, described the reports as worrying.

His son’s dental records are being sent to Cambodia in the hope that they may identify the remains. A pair of underpants was found with the bones, possibly the Calvin Klein brand which he wore. The family has also been told that arm bones may have an old break, as Eddie had.

The family believe he was murdered for his travelling money: he may still have had several thousand pounds in cash at the time he disappeared. They last heard from him in an email on 24 October 2004, when he told his mother he was really looking forward to coming home on 1 November: they went joyfully to meet a flight from Bangkok, but he wasn’t on it and was never heard from again.

Poipet is a popular crossing point into Thailand for backpackers, but the Tripadvisor website currently carries a warning of numerous scams and the risk of being robbed. Lonely Planet reports that a recent facelift has helped it to partially overcome its status as “the armpit of Cambodia”.

In 2006, four officers from Sussex police spent 10 days in Phnom Penh working with the Cambodian police. They interviewed people who had met Gibson during his travels, visited hotels he had stayed at and travelled to Poipet, but they found no trace of him.

In 2009, on the fifth anniversary of his disappearance, his father travelled to Cambodia to make a new appeal for information, saying it was inconceivable that nobody knew what had happened to him.

His father said. “We do hope it is Eddie so we can bring him home and bring an end to all this not knowing what has happened to him. It’s a strange feeling and, if it’s not him, then it has just relived the whole thing and added to the torture.”

DCI Jeff Riley of Sussex police said: “We are aware of the finding of human remains in Cambodia that are currently being examined to see if they could belong to Eddie Gibson. We are continuing to support the Gibson family, as we have since Eddie went missing, and will help them and the Cambodia authorities through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in any way we can to find out what has happened to him.”

Four years after he disappeared, his mother, Jo Gibson Clark, said on his family: “It tears you inside out … Before this happened, I didn’t think about that dark side, that anything bad could happen, because it happens to other people. But we’re normal, average people, and it has happened to us, and it sticks you in a dark hole.”

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World news: Cambodia |

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