British Cypriot scientist Natalie Christopher was crushed by a boulder when she fell into a 65-foot ravine after the rocky path she was running on collapsed, it is claimed.
The 34-year-old astrophysicist was found dead on the Greek island of Ikaria yesterday after being reported missing on Monday following a morning jog.
Her body lay covered in several large rocks a half-mile from the hotel in Kerame village where she and her Cypriot boyfriend had been staying, reports said.
The 38-year-old spoke to Dr Christopher on the phone one and a half hours into her run, when she told him, ‘I can’t go fast, I’ll be back slowly, don’t worry’, but was declared missing after failing to return.
‘We have to await the report from the coroner, which will take two to three days, in order to have the answers. This is crucial. At this point we don’t know how she died,’ he told The Daily Telegraph.
Investigations are centred around whether she slipped into the ravine – which is barely visible from the footpath – or if she was attempting to climb or descend the terrain.
Dr Natalie Christopher, 34, was discovered half-a-mile from her hotel at the bottom of a 65ft ravine, Greek media reported yesterday (pictured in her Oxford University days)
The fitness fanatic’s phone gave out a signal which revealed her location to rescue teams, according to local media
An ambulance leaves from a location where police said Dr Christopher’s body was found
Search teams scour the rocky landscape of the Aegean island yesterday close to where Dr Christopher’s body was found
Dr Christopher was a keen runner and her boyfriend says she went out for a jog on the Aegean island of Ikaria on Monday morning – her body was found half-a-mile from her hotel in Kerame where the search was focused
Police eventually found her body using phone tracking technology after the device mysteriously ‘switched on’, according to local media, raising the possibility she tried to call for help from the ravine before dying.
The body, found by a volunteer firefighter, was said to have bites from wild animals.
The coroner is expected to determine if they occurred before or after her death.
He was able to scale the precarious cliffs in the Kafigi region and the site had been cordoned off last night to preserve her body and the terrain for examination.
Dr Christopher’s body remained overnight and forensics teams from Athens are expected to carry out their on-sight investigation today, according to local reports.
Specialist murder detectives had earlier travelled to Ikaria to take over the case, according to reports.
The detectives regularly deal with disappearances and their presence on the island doesn’t necessarily mean they suspect a murder, police sources said.
It had previously been reported the police were investigating bloodstains found on a bedroom pillow. Dr Christopher’s partner attributed these to a nose bleed she’d had the night before her disappearance, Skai reported.
Meanwhile, the hotel maid claimed she’d heard voices the night before Dr Christopher went missing and though the couple might have slept in separate beds.
The exact cause of death of the Nicosia-based academic has not yet been determined.
Friends of Dr Christopher were too distraught to speak. Members of a Cyprus running club called and emailed each other after the report emerged.
Two members of the Cyprus Trail Runners, including her close friend Carmen Macheriou, had flown to the island of Ikaria to join in the search.
Other volunteers also flew from Cyprus to join police and firefighters engaged in the search.
Her boyfriend had earlier told local media she had gone out for a morning jog when he woke on Monday. He called her once and she picked up, but a few hours later he got no response and police were summoned.
Her sister Jena Christopher wrote on Facebook yesterday: ‘If you have her phone number please DO NOT call her. As this will drain the battery and the police are trying to use her phone to find her location.’
Authorities and residents gather near the location where police said the body of Cyprus-based astrophysicist Dr Christopher was found in a 65ft ravine
Rescuers head through the shrubbery on the rocky landscape of Ikaria as they looked for Dr Christopher
A Facebook post this afternoon from a running club Dr Christopher belonged to revealed her friends’ grief
At around 9 pm on the eve of her disappearance, she posted photos from a trip to Seychelles Beach where she spoke of her interest in climbing
Dr Christopher’s friends paid tribute to her joyous outlook on life and her compassion
Friend’s tribute to ‘one of a kind’ runner, astronomer, triathlete and nature lover
A running colleague of Natalie Christopher posted a heartfelt tribute to her last night calling her ‘ one of a kind’
Christelle de Jäger from the Cyprus Trail Runners wrote on the club’s Facebook page: ‘Trail runner, astronomer, triathlete, climber, nature lover, peace activist, feminist and animal protector – Natalie Christopher was all of these and more.
‘One of the most intelligent people we have ever met, she had a passion for life, and lived it to the full, with unbounded joy.
‘When she was trail running, we could always hear her coming. She would whoop with delight through the forest, and laugh and shriek and squeal like a child as she danced down rocky hillsides, as light as a gazelle on her feet.
‘She would ooh with wonder at the sky above, and then aah about the beauty of small blue orchid in the crevice of a rock.
‘A cat lover, Natalie could never resist taking in yet another abandoned, wounded kitten. There may not have been room in her house but there was always room in her heart. She travelled with cat food in her car so that she could feed any hungry animals she saw. And when she once found a dog run over and abandoned, she cared for the dog too, paying for vet costs from her limited income, and making sure it eventually found a good home in the UK.
‘When she put on her astronomy hat to talk about black holes and galaxies to audiences of laypeople, her passion for her subject inspired us to want to know more about the universe we live in.
‘Most importantly, on our still divided island, Natalie was loved and respected by people from all over Cyprus – north, south, east and west. She truly loved her country and wanted to bring Cypriots together from across the ‘divide’.
‘Despite not being a natural early riser, Natalie somehow found time She was one of a kind, and the island has a huge, impossible-to-fill hole on it now.
‘She really did change lives, and she will never be forgotten.
‘We hope Natalie is now running among the stars and planets she loved so much – whooping through the milky way and leaping over moonbeams.’
It is understood police had considered shutting down a phone mast on the neighbouring island of Fournoi yesterday as they sought a clear signal from the Oxford-educated physicist’s phone.
Fire crews, coastguard, residents and even a naval helicopter with thermal imaging were drafted in during the colossal effort to find Dr Christopher.
Her boyfriend told Protothema News yesterday that she told him that she was jogging up a hill in a rocky part of the island, and promised that she would be careful.
‘I can’t go fast, I’ll be back slowly, don’t worry,’ he claims she told him.
But when she hadn’t returned by 11am he got worried and informed the hotel owner who then called the police.
The hotelier told Greek papers he had put Dr Christopher’s boyfriend up after police closed off the couple’s hotel room.
Before arriving on the island of Ikaria Dr Christopher posted a photo of her bathing in waters at Lemonakia Beach on the neighbouring island of Samos
The astrophysicist worked as a researcher with the European University Cyprus in Nicosia, she studied at Oxford (Linacre College) and graduated with a Masters in Physics from Durham University (University College) in 2007
Dr Christopher’s social media accounts documented her active lifestyle including snowboarding
Her 38-year-old partner reported her missing after he tried to call her when she failed to return on Monday morning
The hotel where the 34-year-old British astrophysicist was staying before she was found dead in a ravine
‘He is a very good lad, he’s from Cyprus. He’s lost it, he has panicked, he cannot believe it,’ the man told Greek media yesterday.
He described Dr Christopher and her partner as ‘a nice little couple’ and said there had been no signs of strife between the pair.
In her last Facebook post on Sunday at around 9pm, Dr Christopher shared pictures from a day trip at Seychelles Beach, about an hour’s drive of where she had been staying.
She wrote: ‘Beautiful spot for swimming and deep water solo . . . had so much fun here today! Realised later there are bolted routes here too, would love to come back again to climb. Any takers?’
The couple were scheduled to head home to Cyprus, where they both work, on the day of her disappearance.
Dr Christopher worked as a researcher with the European University Cyprus in Nicosia.
Dr Christopher had spoken of a desire to begin teaching astronomy, visiting schools across Cyprus to inspire the next generation.
She also launched the Cyprus Girls Can campaign to get women and girls, of all ages and abilities involved in sport, a campaign that was shortlisted for the EU Sport Award.
Dr Natalie Christopher, 34, who was born in London, went missing on the Greek island of Ikaria while out jogging on Monday morning
Her boyfriend told the local press he had called her to see where she was when he woke up and she had told him: ‘I can’t go fast, I’ll be back slowly, don’t worry’
The Greek island of Ikaria (pictured) is located 10 nautical miles south west of Samos and is named after the Greek legend of Icarus
Dr Christopher taking part in a running competition – she was extremely active and ran sports camps for Cypriot girls
Her online profile says: ‘Asides from studying the beautiful Universe we live in, she loves running. In fact, she doesn’t think she could survive without running!
‘She started running thanks to her Sports Teacher at Secondary School in Nicosia when she was 12. It changed her life.
‘Natalie has many wonderful memories of representing the track teams both at Durham University and the University of Oxford during her studies, in the 100m, 200m and 100m hurdles.
‘A highlight was representing Oxford in the Varsity matches against Cambridge.’
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: ‘We are assisting the family of a British woman reported missing in Ikaria, and are in contact with the Greek authorities who are conducting the search for her.’
Last month an American scientist called Suzanne Eaton was raped and murdered in Crete, which a local man has confessed to.