Aussie backpacker died in girlfriend’s arms

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  • Jim Pollard
  • From: Herald Sun
  • February 11, 2012 12:00AM

MELBOURNE man Alexander Lee died in the arms of his Dutch girlfriend, Laos police say.

Mr Lee, 22, and Rianne Brouwer, 18, were “holding each other when they died”, police said through a translator.

Their bodies were taken to the main hospital in the historic mountain city of Luang Prabang on Wednesday.

It has been reported police found drugs in the room, but yesterday they could not shed light on a possible cause of death.

Police said the couple were were on an organised trip to the town – a World Heritage Site popular with tourists.

A relative of Mr Lee, who would not provide her name, said his family still had little information on how he died.

“We were originally told he’d been murdered. We don’t know what is going on,” she said.

Police believe the couple may have been dead for up to three days.

Mr Lee is the third Australian to die in Laos in the past month. The other two were tourists tubing in the Vang Vieng area.

Tens of thousands of visitors flock to the area each year to see the French colonial architecture. Hundreds of young monks live at historic temples and monasteries in the region.

The deaths prompted the Department of Foreign Affairs to update its travel alert for Laos.

There have been a number of unexplained tourist deaths in Southeast Asia in recent years.

Early last year, a young New Zealand woman and four other foreign tourists – a Frenchwoman, an American and a British couple, plus a Thai guide died in a hotel in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand over a period of weeks.

Their deaths confounded police, until forensic tests revealed inflammation of the heart and suggested the likelihood that they died from inhaling toxic fumes from pesticides allegedly used at the hotel.

Poisoning was also suspected in the deaths of at least two foreign tourists on Phi Phi Island in southern Thailand in mid-2009.

A DFAT spokeswoman refused to provide any new details on Mr Lee’s death yesterday.

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