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Last Updated: Monday, 18 October, 2004, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Iceman discoverer missing in snow
Oetzi the iceman (image: South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology)
Oetzi's discoverer has now gone missing himself
A German hiker who in 1991 discovered the mummified remains of a prehistoric man has gone missing while walking in bad conditions in the Alps.

Helmut Simon, 67, was last seen on Friday morning setting out for a walk in Salzburg, Austria. Rescue teams have scoured the area but found no trace.

Heavy snowfall over the weekend has raised fears Mr Simon has not survived.

The iceman, "Oetzi", was found in the Oetztal valley on the Austrian-Italian border by Mr Simon and his wife Erika.

The wonderfully preserved 5,300-year-old corpse delighted scientists and is now a star attraction at the museum at Bolzano, northern Italy, where it is kept in a special freezer cabinet.

'Slim' chances

Search teams including dozens of rescuers and search dogs scoured the mountains in the Pongau region of Salzburg province until avalanche concerns halted the operation late Sunday.

About half a metre (18 inches) of snow fell over the weekend.

"There's a lot of snow up there," an unnamed rescuer told Reuters news agency.

"We've looked everywhere. He was hiking alone."

The rescuer said Mr Simon had no tent with him and there was no sign at the permanent hiker huts.

"You can imagine that the chances of survival outside in the snow are quite slim," said the rescuer.

Mummy drama

Mr Simon and his wife first thought they had discovered a mountaineer who had had an accident when they stumbled over Oetzi's remains.

But it turned out it was a frozen mummy which had emerged from a melting glacier.

At first, it was thought Oetzi had died from exposure to the cold but researchers eventually discovered wounds on his hands and an arrowhead lodged in his back. It seems almost certain the iceman died as a result of injuries he received in a fight.

In recent years, the Simons had been embroiled in a row with the northern Italian authorities over whether they should be considered the official finders of the mummy.

They won this battle in 2003, but a new row then developed over what sum of money the finders should be paid for the discovery.

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