THE parents of a backpacker who was found dead in Guatemala have issued an emotional thank you to all those who helped search for her daughter.

The body of Catherine Shaw, from Witney, was discovered near a popular look-out point in the Lake Atitlan area of the central American country on Monday.

Ms Shaw, 23, had been travelling since September last year but was reported missing on March 5, prompting a major search operation.

Read again: Body found in search for Catherine Shaw

A police investigation has been launched and officers are yet to rule out 'foul play', but The Lucie Blackman Trust, which has been supporting the search, has said her death was most likely a 'tragic accident'.

The backpacker's parents, Ann and Tarquin Shaw, yesterday issued a statement paying tribute to their daughter.

They said: “Catherine just loved mountains and sunrises. She died doing what she loved."

Mr and Mrs Shaw thanked those who helped with the search, which saw people from across the world raise thousands of pounds on social media and almost 2,000 people like the Facebook group 'Finding Catherine Shaw'.

They continued: "We wish it to be known how grateful our family are for the huge response locally and across the world in our search for Catherine and for the vast amount of messages of support.

"Thank you seems insufficient but it is very heartfelt, so thank you."

They added: "We want to also say how hugely indebted we are to The Lucie Blackman Trust, who have done everything possible. 

"Their support has been fantastic throughout this tragic episode since the very first phone call."

Ms Shaw grew up in Long Hanborough and attended Bartholomew School in Eynsham between September 2006 and July 2012.

West Oxfordshire residents earlier pledged to support her family, while Liam Walker, county councillor for Hanborough and Minster Lovell, offered his support.

Read again: Witney reacts to search for backpacker

He said: “This news is truly devastating and has shocked the local community in Long Hanborough and West Oxfordshire. 

"It’s important to thank all those involved in the search for Catherine both in Guatemala and here at home. 

"It’s now right there is a proper investigation into how this has happened. 

"My thoughts and condolences are with Catherine’s family and friends at this difficult time.” 

Witney Gazette:

The Lucie Blackman Trust said Ms Shaw left the Eco Hotel in Mayachik, near San Pedro and San Juan, on March 5 at 1.37am, before returning at 3.19am.

She left again at 5.23am, heading in the direction of the lake, with a puppy and no other possessions.

The puppy was later found alone, shivering at the highest lookout of Indian Nose, a volcano overlooking Lake Atitlan, San Pedro and San Juan between 5am and 6am on Friday morning, the trust said.

The search operation had been ramped up in recent days, with rescue dogs, a helicopter, drones and dive teams employed to help.

Local police, residents, tourists and Thames Valley Police also contributed, before the backpacker's body was found near Indian's Nose.

The search encountered many challenges including communication issues due to lack of power in the area.

Ms Shaw's father also travelled to Guatemala and was set to meet British Embassy officials.

Officials are investigating whether there was any third party involvement in the 23-year-old's death, but The Lucie Blackman Trust slammed the local 'media frenzy' surrounding the incident.

Read again: Response to 'intense speculation' following backpacker's death

In a statement, it said that it was 'too early to tell what happened' and said that photographs of Ms Shaw's body had been circulating online.

It said: "We know that Catherine had been fasting for the days leading to her disappearance and that she had been disposing of possessions, including clothing.

"She was very much a nature lover and adored sunrises, so it seems quite conceivable that she went up the mountain to greet the sunrise, shedding clothing as she went, and due to her lack of intake of food and fluid may have passed out or fallen, causing the wounds to her body.

"Facebook posts analysing photographs of poor Catherine’s body are totally unacceptable."