Rescue teams searching for two climbers from West Yorkshire missing for more than a month on Ben Nevis have recovered the bodies of a man and a woman.
Experienced climbers Rachel Slater, 24, and 27-year-old Tim Newton, from Bradford, were reported missing on February 15 after failing to return from an outing on Britain’s highest mountain.
Multiple searches by rescue teams have been carried out for them ever since, with some efforts hampered by hazardous weather and avalanche risks.
In a statement issued last night (Wednesday March 23), Police Scotland said: “Following a report from a member of the public, the bodies of a man and a woman have been recovered in the Ben Nevis area this evening.
“Formal identification is taking place and the families of missing climbers Rachel Slater and Tim Newton have been informed.”
The alarm was raised for the pair on Monday February 15 when they were reported to be overdue in returning from an expedition.
It was believed they had been camping in a green tent behind the Charles Inglis Clark (CIC) memorial hut on the north side of the mountain.
A major hunt was launched for them, involving police, mountain rescue teams and search and rescue dogs, as fears for their safety grew.
Climbers and walkers in the area were also called upon to share information with officials to help with the search and they readily exchanged information on climbing forums and social media sites.
But severe weather - including sub-zero temperatures, high winds, falling snow and an avalanche risk - hampered search efforts in the early stages and after days, and then weeks, no trace of the couple was found.
Earlier this week, it emerged that an ice axe had been found on the Ben where mountain rescuers have been searching for the couple.
Lochaber mountain rescue team said a technical ice axe had been found below the Shroud/Boomers Requiem area of the mountain.
Seasoned climber Ms Slater was a graduate of Manchester University and employed as an environmental consultant near Bradford.
She spent some time living and climbing in Canada, where her parents are still based.
Mr Newton, originally from Leicester, studied physics at Manchester and Leeds universities.
He joined Hinckley Mountaineering Club in Leicestershire in 2010 before he moved away to university, with fellow climbers there calling him a natural.
Their families have previously praised the overwhelming response from members of the public and the climbing community in helping to search for the two.
News of the discovery of two bodies immediately sparked a flurry of responses on social media.
Writing on Police Scotland’s Highlands and Islands Facebook page, Laura MacDonald said: “Such sad news for all involved. Big respect for the mountain rescue team who searched for them tirelessly in all weathers. Rest in peace xxx”
Christine Hogg wrote: “Such sad news but hopefully their families will have some closure now and will at least be able to lay them to rest. Well done to the searchers who have worked tirelessly to find them. RIP and condolences to their families. xx”
Writing on the same page, Fi Fox said: “Very sad news. R.I.P thoughts are with family and friends.”
Karen Blanchard added: “Prayers with the families.”