Body found in search for missing Yorkshire refugee chief

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The family of a charity director from Yorkshire who went missing while hiking in the Russian region of North Ossetia are waiting for a body found in mountains to be identified.

Father-of-two John Stiles, from Ilkley, failed to return from a day trekking in the North Caucasus mountains near Vladikavkaz in November.

A body was found in the mountains about a month ago but has yet to be identified. A spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “We have been in close contact with the local search and rescue authorities in Russia since Mr Stiles went missing in November 2013. We continue to provide consular assistance to Mrs Stiles at this difficult time.”

Mr Stiles, 52, had been working in Grozny as a country director for the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) for the past two years, helping Chechen families displaced by the wars with Russia.

The experienced mountaineer had been commuting between Russia and his Yorkshire home.

His wife Isabelle has described him as “a positive and easy-going man, with a contagious smile and liked by so many”.

On November 10, 2013, Mr Stiles organised a 10-hour hike in an area that he was familiar with and had trekked in before. He had arranged his usual drop-off and pick-up later that day and so when he failed to return at 
the agreed time, his driver immediately raised the alert and a mountain rescue team was mobilised.

Emercom, the emergency relief organisation working in conjunction with the Russian Civil Defence, sent up a patrol of experienced mountain rescue workers the following day, who set up camp in the mountains. But snow arrived on the third day, making the search very difficult.

Over the years Mr Stiles’s work took him to European, Asian and African countries including Macedonia, Kosovo, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Angola. He rejoined DRC in 2012.

Mr Stiles also volunteered for the 1st Ben Rhydding Scout Group.