As early as 1842, American writer Herman Melville raved about the beauty of Nuku Hiva, the largest of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia and described its inhabitants as tattooed cannibals. Fast forward 170 years. A German visiting the island has gone missing, and human remains have been discovered in an extinguished campfire. The worst is feared.
The man, Stefan R., 40, has been sailing around the world with his partner, Heike D., 37, since 2008. He had been missing for a week when police found the campfire in a remote valley. Among the ashes were human bones, teeth, some fabric from clothing, buttons, and melted metal. According to the state prosecutor of French Polynesia, José Thorel, the remains are in all probability those of the missing German. The results of DNA testing are expected in the coming week.
Although confirmation is still pending, Germanys Bild has already published the news that the remains are those of Stefan R. and that he was eaten by a native. The alleged cannibal is even presented in the tabloid with a picture and full name.
Polynesian authorities confirm they are looking for a local hunter who was known to have accompanied the two Germans to the remote Hakaui valley. The missing mans partner returned from the excursion, but it is unclear what happened. According to the Dépêche de Tahiti, the hunter threatened the woman, sexually molested her, and tied her to a tree.
Just days before his disappearance, Stefan R. had written on Facebook: "After six weeks in the Marquesas well set sail for the Tuamotu atolls." Then, just hours after a last post on the social media site, he set off on the mysterious hunting excursion inland. His partner is still on Nuku Hiva.
The allegations of cannibalism have upset some of the 2,700 residents of the island who insist the practice has in fact long ceased.
"It was the act of a single person, but the whole population of the Marquesas is being tarred with the same brush," Mayor Benoit Kautai told Les Nouvelles de Tahiti. The region fears the negative impact the case could have on tourism.
Read the full story in German by Titus Arnu
*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations