Neighbours marvel at teenager's survival

Last updated 18:03 28/01/2013
Matthew Allen
Matthew Allen

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Neighbours of a teenager who spent nine weeks in dense bushland in Sydney's north say it is amazing he has been found alive.

Matthew Allen, 18, was last seen leaving his Westleigh home on the morning of November 27 last year.

Despite weeks of extensive searches of surrounding bushland, police were unable to find him.

Hikers spotted him lying in bush just a kilometre from his home around 3pm on Saturday (5pm, NZ time). They said he was extremely disoriented.

Allen, who has an underlying medical condition, was flown to Hornsby Hospital suffering gangrene and having lost up to half his body weight. There he was reunited with his family.

One of Allen's neighbours, who did not want to be named, was stunned the teenager had survived for more than two months in the bush.

"It's amazing," she said.

"The bush is very dense, and unless he was very au fait with how to survive in the bush I don't know how he did it."

Police say Allen was covered in leeches and bites, disorientated and suffering from dehydration and exhaustion when he was found.

He has told police he survived by drinking water from an almost dry creek bed.

Another resident, whose home backs on to the deep valley where Allen was found, said: "I couldn't last a day down there, I'd be back again."

He said he suspected Allen may have subsisted on freshwater fish from a nearby creek and possibly also on frogs.

Another neighbour in Allen's street, who also did not want to be identified, said Allen's family remained upbeat throughout the nine-week ordeal.

"Me, I would be in a heap," she said.

"But I found Deborah (Allen's mother) to be a woman who could hold herself together, and get on with it, she's one of those lucky people."

Deborah Allen said she did not want to make a comment to media.

While Allen's injuries were not considered life-threatening, police said he was likely suffering from a "rather severe" case of gangrene on his feet and lower legs.

"He was not living under shelter and was exposed to full conditions," Detective Acting Inspector Glyn Baker from The Hills Local Area Command said.

Detective Senior Constable Ben Wrigley from Hornsby Local Area Command, who was involved in the case from the start, said he was grateful he could give the Allen family some answers.

"I was amazed and very happy that everything turned out they way that it happened," he said.

"I couldn't believe it."

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A police spokeswoman said Allen could not immediately provide any details about how and where he had been living for the past nine weeks.

When he disappeared he left his mobile phone at home and did not take any extra clothing.

Police launched a public appeal to find him, and initially believed he may have been in the Castle Hill area. 

- Sydney Morning Herald and AAP

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