| 16.07,09. 12:07 AM |
British backpacker Jamie Neale is alive after spending days in Blue Mountains
July 15, 2009 12:24AM
REUNITED with his father, English backpacker Jamie Neale - has revealed how he survived 11 days and nights in the Blue Mountains after his now elated father confessed he believed he was dead.
BREAKING NEWS: MISSING British backpacker Jamie Neale has been found alive and well in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales after being missing for 11 days.
Police Media pic of missing person Jamie Neale (19) who checked into a Katoomba youth hostel in the NSW Blue Mountains 02/07/2009 and was last seen at 9.40am the next day.
JAMIE Neale's father was fully entitled to give up on his son's survival - 11 days of braving appalling winter conditions in the dense, harsh bushland of the Blue Mountains would be enough to force the surrender of any loved one's hope.
Almost beyond belief, the 19-year-old British backpacker is not just alive after 11 days in freezing conditions in the Blue Mountains but in relatively good health, according to a police spokesman.
"It's brilliant," were the first words his elated father uttered when told the news.
And then Richard Cass assured the public that Jamie's disappearance was not a stunt.
"He is a tough kid. The police obviously want to speak to him about what he has been up to, but I know my boy."
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Mr Cass said Jamie had survived by eating seeds, leaves and berries as he moved through the inhospitable terrain, sleeping rough under logs and trees.
He had been unable to light a fire for warmth or to signal for help, with his father saying he didn’t carry a lighter because he is a non-smoker.
“I must admit, I had lost faith,” Mr Cass said.
“He’s come back from the dead. I’ve always said he’s a tough kid and the cold wouldn’t bother him.”
Jamie told his father he had started giving up and become increasingly depressed each time he failed to wave down a passing search helicopter.
Mr Cass was standing at Sydney airport, about to fly home having given up all hope when he received the call from the police saying Jamie had been found safe and well.
"The cops are coming to pick me up now. I'm going to kill the kid,'' Mr Cass said.
"He has put us through so much. I always said that he was tough.
"He could have walked to the South Pole and back in his underpants.
"I said to his mother 'Give up, he's dead, they would have found him by now otherwise".
"I'll be so pleased to see him. He has cost your country millions, he has practically broken the heart of his mother and grandmother, and me, of course.
"I have given his mum the good news. It's three in the morning over there but she picked up straight away. She said 'I told you so', she had such faith in his toughness. It's such good news, I could do cartwheels."
Jamie is in Katoomba Hospital overnight after being sighted by bushwalkers.
The teenager was last seen on July 3 near a remote rocky outcrop in the area known as Ruined Castle.
Just yesterday rescuers were boosted by the new information about his whereabouts as his father joined more than 100 rescuers.
The news has been greeted with dizzy elation in London where Jamie's loved ones have maintained a 24/7 vigil.
His mother, Jean Neale, said the family never doubted that they would see him again.
"I never gave up hope. I always knew that he'd be coming home,'' she told Sky News UK.
"I told all the family and all his friends that he was coming home, and I have no doubts about that.
"We've all been helping each other.''
Jamie Neale is now in Katoomba Hospital where police say he is suffering from exposure and dehydration.
Ms Neale said she had briefly spoken to her son on the phone.
"He just wanted to hear me,'' she said.
"He looks very well, but he sounded very tearful, very exhausted.''
"I know he can't wait to get home.''