Bush survivor: 'Thoughts of mother kept me going'

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The Independent Online

Bush survivor Jamie Neale said thinking about his mother kept him going through the 12 day ordeal when he was missing.

The British backpacker was found today by two walkers in the Australian bush, almost two weeks after he went missing during a walk in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales.

His mother Jean Neale spoke to the 19-year-old by telephone today in his hospital bed.

"He said to me 'All I wanted to do was hear your voice'," she said.

"He said that thinking of me helped him get through this ordeal.

"He was worried about me and how I would take the news."

Ms Neale, 49, from Muswell Hill, north London, said: "I never gave up hope. You never give up hope on your children until someone actually proves to you differently. As far as I was concerned he was coming home."

Mr Neale left the UK on June 20 and headed to Australia as the first stop on a trip that was due to include Laos, Vietnam and Nepal.

He was due back in September but had planned to squeeze in a three week trip to Russia before starting a government and politics degree at Exeter University in October.

His mother said: "If he goes travelling again, we are going to get him one of those watches with a beacon on so we can pick him up.

"He's not leaving the country without one next time."

The trip was the first time that Jamie had been travelling, his mother said.

Jamie worked part-time as a lab technician to save for the adventure but got lost after visiting the Blue Mountains near Sydney.

The alarm was raised at the youth hostel he was staying in after he failed to return.

He was eventually found by backpackers after surviving for days on nothing but seeds, leaves and lettuce-like plants.

His mother said she had been very concerned about him encountering dangerous animals while lost.

She explained: "One of the first things I asked was if he had run into any poisonous snakes or animals.

"But luckily it's winter over there now and most of the dangerous snakes are hibernating."

She added: "He'll have one hell of a story to tell when he starts university, let's just hope he doesn't repeat it at any time."

Ms Neale said she had barely slept during the time that her son had been missing.

She said: "I really did believe Jamie was coming home and I never did give that thought up.

"I was sure he was coming home and I told everybody that."

She said she hoped Jamie would have learned valuable lessons from his experience.

"There's quite a few lessons he would have learned, when you are young and you are out there and there's so much to see I don't suppose you really think."

Here is a timeline of Mr Neale's incredible story:

* 22 June: Mr Neale, 19, from Muswell Hill, north London, arrives in Australia on a backpacking trip.

* 2 July: He checks into a youth hostel in Katoomba, New South Wales.

* 3 July: Mr Neale is seen leaving the hostel about 9.40am for a walk in the Blue Mountains.

* 4 July: The alarm is raised when Mr Neale fails to turn up for a pre-arranged tour of some nearby caves.

* 6 July: Mr Neale's family in the UK realise he is missing when Sydney police contact them to say he has not checked out of his room in the hostel and left his passport and mobile phone there.

* 8 July: Mr Neale's father Richard Cass flies to Sydney to join the search which is being carried out by police rescue teams, dog handlers and firefighters. Bad weather delays an aerial search.

* 10 July: Police release a photograph of Mr Neale with a distinctive burgundy day-pack which he was carrying when he went missing in an effort to jog people's memories. They say his bank account and email has not been touched since he was last seen.

*15 July: Two bushwalkers find Mr Neale near the Narrow Neck fire trail, near Katoomba. He is taken to Katoomba's Blue Mountains Hospital suffering from exhaustion and dehydration. Mr Neale tells his father he has survived by eating seeds and reeds. He says he waved to search helicopters but they could not see him.