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Backpacker's death while hiking abroad was accidental

An inquest into the death of 23-year-old British backpacker Catherine Shaw has found that she died accidentally while visiting Central America.

Catherine Shaw was a yoga teacher from the village of Long Hanborough near Witney in Oxfordshire. Oxford Coroner's Court heard that she died after falling from a mountain hiking trail in Guatemala as she headed up to the summit to watch the sunrise.

The inquest was told that she had been hiking alone and had removed her clothing before slipping off the trail.

The coroner Darren Salter confirmed that a post mortem examination found that she had died from 'multiple injuries', including haemorrhaging resulting from a traumatic brain injury.

Some friends had reported her disappearance earlier this year on Thursday 7th March and said the last time that she had been seen she was in the town of San Juan La Laguna, on the shores of Lake Atitlan.

Catherine Shaw's disappearance sparked a major search with helicopters and sniffer dogs. Her friends set up a Facebook page to spread the word, and her parents released a video appeal.

However, a few days later, on Monday 11th March, police announced that Ms Shaw had been found about 100 metres from the Indian Nose trail in Guatemala's south-western highlands. Police said that her body had been found naked and in a state of decomposition near the viewpoint.

There was speculation about foul play, but during the inquest the coroner said there were ''no suspicious circumstances or third party involvement'', and that it was likely that she had been dead for ''four to six days''' before her body was found.

A mountain trail in Guatemala

At Oxford Coroner's Court the yoga teacher was described as "a very spiritual person, who very much enjoyed being surrounded by nature".

Her father, Tarquin Shaw, who attended the inquest with his wife Ann and his daughter Catherine's godmother Trish, - said that Catherine was ''quite capable'' of having removed her own clothing.

He said: "It's unusual for a 23-year-old to not be body-conscious...

"She believed in what she was presented with. She was confident and it was quite refreshing to see in a youngster. She was very comfortable in her own skin."

"Catherine was a vivacious, friendly, kind and adventurous person who made friends all over the world. She loved mountains, waterfalls, sunrises and sunsets."

– Family statement read out in court

Her family also issued a statement thanking everyone involved in the search for their daughter and those who had shown support.

Catherine's short-term plan had been to explore a volcanic area before travelling to a festival in Colombia.

  • Watch this report from Cary Johnston