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Body of University of Cambridge student Alana Cutland found in Madagascar


By Paul Brackley


The body of University of Cambridge student Alana Cutland has been found after she fell from a light aircraft in Madagascar.

Local police chief Sinola Nomenjahary confirmed the 19-year-old’s body had been located in a remote area of the African island nation.

Alana Cutland died after falling from a plane. Picture: Cutland family
Alana Cutland died after falling from a plane. Picture: Cutland family

Alana, who was in her second year of studying natural sciences at Robinson College, forced open the door of the Cessna C168 aircraft on July 25 and threw herself out.

The other passenger, British tourist Ruth Johnson, and the pilot of the plane tried in vain to stop her.

Police, the army and villagers had been searching for her body since.

One theory is that Alana, from Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, may have been hallucinating or suffering paranoia after taking anti-malaria medication and a yellow fever vaccine.

Her uncle, Lester Riley, 68, told the Mail Online: “Alana had everything to live for, nothing to die for, and we don’t think for a moment she deliberately took her own life. She was hallucinating, she was unwell, something had made her ill. It must have been a reaction to medication.”

He said that Alana’s parents had persuaded her to see a doctor and to cut short her trip and come home during a worrying phone call two days before her death.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) would not comment on the case. But it has advised that among the potential risks of the malaria drug mefloquine, marketed as Lariam, are neuropsychiatric side effects, including anxiety disorders, paranoia, depression, hallucinations and psychosis.

An EU-wide safety review in 2013 led to strengthened warnings on these risks, with patients advised to balance these against the benefits of taking it. It has been reported that Alana had previously taken the drug without ill effects.

Meanwhile, the MHRA is in the process of reviewing the benefits and risk of the yellow fever vaccine. The disease is serious and potentially fatal, meaning protection is vital.

The Commission on Human Medicines has convened an expert working group to make recommendations on the drug. The risk of serious, life-threatening reactions is said to be rare, at around one in 100,000 vaccines.

Alana had been on an internship in the African island nation and was investigating an endangered blue crab.

In a statement released through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Alana’s family paid tribute to “a bright, independent young woman, who was loved and admired by all those that knew her”.

They added: “She was always so kind and supportive to her family and friends, which resulted in her having a very special connection with a wide network of people from all walks of her life, who we know will miss her dearly.

“Alana grasped every opportunity that was offered to her with enthusiasm and a sense of adventure, always seeking to extend her knowledge and experience in the best ways possible.

“She was particularly excited to be embarking on the next stage of her education, on an internship in Madagascar complementing her studies in natural sciences.”

Robinson College’s Dr David Woodman said Alana “made a huge contribution to many different aspects of life in the college”.

Alana’s body is due to be transferred to the capital, Antananarivo.

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