A round-the-world sailor is feared to have been eaten by cannibals during a visit to a South Sea island.
Remains found in the embers of a camp fire are believed to be those of 40-year-old business adviser Stefan Ramin.
He apparently arranged to go on a traditional goat hunt in the forest after dropping anchor at Nuku Hiva in French Polynesia.
His girlfriend Heike Dorsch, 37, says she saw him depart with a local guide, named as Henri Haiti. Only the guide returned, she says, and he told her: ‘There’s been an accident. He needs help.’
Before she could rush into the forest, however, she claims Haiti chained her to a tree and sexually abused her.
She managed to escape hours later to alert authorities and they began a seven-day search for Mr Ramin.
Last week, the ashes were found in a valley by a squad of 22 police officers. Among the embers were bones including a jaw bone, teeth and melted metal – believed to be fillings.
Investigators believe a ‘human body was hacked to pieces and burned’.
Haiti is missing and soldiers from the French overseas territory have joined police in the hunt for him.
The remains were flown to a hospital in Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia, and from there to Paris for DNA analysis to prove whether they are all that is left of Mr Ramin.
It was in 2008 that Mr Ramin, from Haselau in Schleswig-Holstein, northern Germany, set out to sail the world in a catamaran with Miss Dorsch.
On Facebook he listed his interests as ‘travelling, blue water sailing, kiting, kitesurfing, windsurfing, surfing, diving… actually everything which one can do on and under the water’.
The couple used an online blog to report their progress to friends and relatives.
Last month they dropped anchor in Nuku Hiva, largest of the Marquesas islands which over the centuries have featured in many reports of cannibalism.
French chief investigator José Thorel, based on Tahiti, did not rule out the possibility that the remains are of Mr Ramin but said the DNA evidence could take weeks to analyse. The German newspaper Bild said that Haiti was a ‘suspected cannibal’.
Reporting from the island, it added: ‘Ashes from the fire are distributed over several square metres. In it bones, dentures and an artificial denture with charred metal lay. It smells of burned meat. Around the fireplace clothes were scattered.
‘A prosecutor said that the probability is that he was murdered by a cannibal and parts of him were eaten.’
It was not clear whether Miss Dorsch is still on the island or whether she has returned home to Germany.
Outside of horror films, cannibalism is virtually unheard of in the modern world. The Korowai of Papua New Guinea are one of the last surviving tribes to eat humans as a cultural practice.
Numbering about 3,000, they live in an area so remote they were unaware of the existence of anyone besides themselves until 1970.
Although the claims have not been verified, the Korowai reportedly eat the brain immediately, while it is still warm.