Page last updated at 09:22 GMT, Friday, 29 August 2008 10:22 UK

Papua hikers find 'WWII airman'


Australian hikers have found the suspected remains of a World War II airman hanging from a tree in dense forest in Papua New Guinea.

The moss-covered body appeared to be wearing a harness and goggles.

The discovery was made along the Kokoda Trail, in the east of the country, which was an important battleground during the war.

The Australian Defence Force is preparing to send officials to the scene for further investigations.

A force spokeswoman said it was too early to confirm the nationality of the pilot.

There are goggles and it appears to be caught up in cables, so presumably it is an airman
David Collins
Expedition leader

But he is likely to have come from Australia, Japan or the United States, as all three operated aircraft in the area during the war.

"We had a few police officers on the 19-man trek. One was taking photos with a large lens of the trees and flowers," said the leader of the hiking group, David Collins.

"He then discovered what looks like the remains of a body.

"I couldn't make it out at first. It wasn't until the wind blew that you could really see it is in a harness. There are goggles and it appears to be caught up in cables, so presumably it is an airman."

'Too early to speculate'

Some 600 Australian soldiers died in fighting around the Kokoda trail in World War II - seen by the Allies as a key point at which to halt the advance of the Japanese military.

Unexploded ordnance remain in the thick forest around the trail, and hikers are warned not to stray from the path.

Australia's Defence Department told AFP arrangements were being made to send an expedition to the site.

"It's too early to speculate on the nationality of the airman or the circumstances of his death," a spokesman said.

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