Alana Cutland took her own life by forcing open the door of a plane and jumping to her death

Cambridge University student Alana Cutland was on the trip of a lifetime in Madagascar when the unthinkable happened.

Cambridge University student Alana Cutland, 19, fell to her death from a light aircraft above Madagascar
Alana Cutland

Ten minutes after taking off in a Cessna 182 light aircraft from an airstrip in the town of Anjajavy, and in front of other horrified passengers, Alana forced open the door of the plane. A struggle that lasted for two minutes ensued as other passengers tried to stop her. They were unable to help and she fell 5,000 feet to her death in the jungle below. 

British teacher Ruth Johnson, 51, from Banbury, Oxfordshire, who was sitting next to Alana reconstructed the scene for police
Recreation of the events leading up to Alana’s death

In the days leading up to her death, Alana’s family said she sounded anxious and agitated when she spoke with them. Her uncle Lester Riley, 68, said Alana had spoken to her mother two days before her death and was ‘mumbling and sounded pretty incoherent’.  She had been suffering psychotic episodes and bouts of anxiety, possibly as a result of a reaction to anti-malaria pills or other medication. Police in Madagascar have confirmed that toxicology tests will now be carried out on the body to determine what medicines Alana had been taking.

Alana was thought to be travelling back from a research trip to the remote area of Anjajavy

400 local villagers and 15 police began the search for Alana’s body. It was feared that she would never be found due to the wild animal population that exists in the area.

The villagers sacrificed one of their precious zebu cattle to try and get their local God to help them find Alana.

A search party walked for up to 15 miles a day to look for Alan's body in forests, swamp land and the countryside (pictured) in Anjajavy
Villagers during the search for Alana

Alana’s remains were found on August 6, 2019. The police chief who has been leading the search confirmed that the body had been provisionally identified as the teenager by her hair colour, shoes and clothing.

Local police chief Spinola Nomenjahary who has been co-ordinating the search for Alana said: ‘The body was found on the ground. It was recognised as being Alana from her clothes, hair and shoes.

‘The body has been wrapped in a plastic sheet and will be flown to Antananarivo tomorrow by helicopter. We have already informed the British embassy of the discovery.”

‘The villagers have been searching for two weeks for her and they are happy that they have done their obligations and they have recovered the body.’

The village chief at Anjajavy who is called Chief Prosper said he was happy that the body had been found so that the family of Alana could be given some closure.

Alana's body was found north of Mahadrodroka in an area of scrub and woodland. She had been flying back from Anjajavy Le Lodge where she was staying in a remote area in the north of the island (pictured)

Chief Prosper added: ‘We are very pleased after nearly two weeks of searching to have found her. The body was found just after lunchtime by villagers and they are carrying her back from the search site.’

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