Boy's silence over friend trapped for three days

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The Independent Online
WHILE 11-year-old Matthew Davies was trapped up to his waist in a peat bog for three cold, wet days and nights, a friend was suffering his own mental torture, it emerged yesterday.

As the story was pieced together by police it became clear that another boy had known Matthew was trapped, possibly believing he was dead, but had kept the knowledge to himself, and led police to search in the wrong area.

Matthew was found by chance after his cries of help were heard by a man walking his dog. He was recovering from hypothermia in hospital in Brecon, Powys, yesterday. The identity of his friend, also 11, has not been revealed.

The two had set off exploring woodland near Matthew's home on Saturday afternoon when Matthew slipped into a bog, sank to his waist, and became trapped. The friend went home to fetch a shovel and hurried back to try to rescue Matthew. After digging desperately he found he was stuck fast and went away again - but said nothing to anyone.

It was not until the next day that Matthew's mother, who thought he was spending the night with neighbours, reported him missing. Police began a search and questioned anyone who knew him.

Finally on Sunday evening they came to the friend who had seen him sink into the bog. But instead of telling them what he knew, the boy told them he had seen Matthew on Saturday afternoon, but they had parted and Matthew had gone off on his own.

They began a search using dogs and a helicopter spreading out, as they believed, from the point where the boy had been last seen. It was not until Tuesday that Terry Higgins, 49, walking with his Border Collie, Cassy, heard Matthew's feeble cries. Matthew told him: 'I was waiting for my mate to come back.'

He had tried to dig himself out and was standing in the middle of huge mounds of peat he had piled up around him, but his leg was trapped in some tree roots, and he could not free himself. It took fire fighters two hours to get him out.

Ambulance crews who helped in the rescue said he would not have survived another night. His clothes had been torn to shreds in the struggle. At one point he had heard what he thought was a fisherman passing near by, but his cries had been unanswered.

He had apparently even managed to sleep fitfully during the three nights he was alone in the freezing bog.

The first question he asked rescuers was: 'Where's my bike? Please make sure it's safe.'

Police have not named the youngster who had been with Matthew. He is believed to live with his mother in Brecon.

Detective Inspector Mike Benbow said: 'The boy has now apologised to us and said he did it because he was frightened. It would not be in the public interest for us to take any action against him.'

Last night Matthew's mother, Linda Davies, 40, who has only recently moved to the hamlet of Llanfihangel Tal-y-llyn, said of her son: 'He told me he thought he was going to die. He doesn't like the dark at any time, so it must have been terrifying for him to be out there alone for three nights. While he was missing, I prayed he wouldn't die.'

(Photograph omitted)