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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 December, 2003, 13:26 GMT
Briton dies in Australian outback
Marble Bar
A British tourist has died attempting to drive across an Australian desert.

Thomas Henry Sykes, 35, from London, was found unconscious by a search party in the Great Sandy Desert in Western Australia.

He had walked about 25 miles (40km) in extreme heat after his vehicle, which had no phone or radio, got stuck in sand as he drove to New South Wales.

The area is one of the hottest parts of Australia, and police said the temperature was about 40C (108F).

He was a really great guy who would do anything for anybody... he will be really missed by a lot of people
Friend Adrian Burgering
Friends and former colleagues paid tribute to Mr Sykes, saying he was a "great guy" who would be sorely missed.

Friend Adrian Burgering, 36, from Muswell Hill in North London, said Mr Sykes had worked as an estate agent in north-west London until 1999.

He had since been working independently as a property developer, and had decided to go travelling earlier this year.

Mr Burgering said: "He was very adventurous and was always looking to have a good time."

Referring to his friend's attempt to drive across the desert alone, Mr Burgering said: "It was not unlike Tom to get up and do something crazy like that.

"He was a really great guy who would do anything for anybody... He will be really missed by a lot of people."


Mr Sykes's four-wheel-drive became bogged down about 300 miles from the town of Marble Bar near the west coast.

It is believed he had been attempting to drive several thousand miles across the Australian outback to the East Coast.

He was about 37 miles (60km) east of the remote Punmu Aboriginal settlement when he got stuck.

He was in a very bad state when he was discovered
Marble Bar police
His empty car was spotted on Thursday by passing motorists, who saw footprints leading away from the vehicle back along the track towards Punmu.

Police and Aboriginal trackers hunted for him, but were delayed by a sandstorm and did not find Mr Sykes until the following morning.

When he was discovered, he was just 12 miles (19km) from the township, but severely dehydrated and slipping in and out of consciousness.

He was taken to a nursing post there but staff were unable to revive him.

"He was in a very bad state when he was discovered," said a spokesman for Marble Bar police.

SOS message

There was no satellite phone or emergency radio beacon equipped in his vehicle.

Police said there was enough water in the vehicle for another couple of days, but the supply he had carried with him soon ran out in the heat.

Howard Holdsworth
I was waving a cloth... and when I saw his wings bank I knew he'd seen me - I was very relieved indeed
Howard Holdsworth

Australian police advise people to stay with their cars if they run into trouble while travelling through the nation's vast isolated areas.

In a separate incident, another British tourist was rescued from a remote West Australian beach after he drew an SOS message in the sand which was spotted by a plane.

Howard Holdsworth, 54, from Halifax in West Yorkshire, spent almost three days stranded on the beach after his vehicle became bogged down north of Broome.

His mother Dina Maria told BBC News 24 on Saturday her son felt "fine" after his ordeal and planned to continue travelling.

"He's in good shape and good form and delighted to be back on track...

"It's all right, he's got through it, it's fine... but I hope he's careful and doesn't do funny things like going off by himself into the bush."

Man rescued by SOS in sand
13 Dec 03  |  West Yorkshire

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