At various points in life, we all are struck by an urge to just abandon our life and leave it all behind. For most of us, it’s just a passing fantasy that we entertain for a moment before getting on with things.
But for one young man, it was more than just a passing daydream. When he took steps to making his dream come true, he would learn just how difficult — and deadly — it might be…
Matthew Allen’s parents were worried about him. His mother Deborah had noticed that the 18-year-old had been having some difficulties in the last few weeks. Though he had some happy moments, his mood had been morose for the most part and he’d been socially withdrawn.
Matthew was an accounting student at Castle Hill TAFE, a suburban vocational school located to the north and west of Sydney, Australia. Perhaps it was the pressures he felt from school or maybe dissatisfaction with his friendships and relationships but whatever the reason, Matthew wanted to run away from his life…
Going to a Party
So on a Tuesday in November, Matthew told his driving instructor not to pick him up the next day because he was going to a party. He took what cash he could gather — $150 — some very basic camping equipment and walked out his front door.
Time to Go
Matthew was putting into action his plan to leave his past behind him. He left behind his mobile phone, most of his clothing, and just about every other possession. Instead of heading to a party, he walked off into the dense bushland…
As soon as his parents realized what Matthew had done, they alerted the authorities, kicking off an extensive police search. The authorities knew that it would be difficult to find him. The heavy foliage meant that he would be difficult to see from the air and heavily limit the use of vehicles in the search.
Still, they poured what resources they could into locating the missing teen. Matthew’s parents remained hopeful that they would be able to find him but as the days turned into weeks, the prospect of finding him alive began to seem unlikely to authorities…
The possibility became even more remote as the summer went on. The reason? Australia had just entered into a record breaking heatwave. Known as the Angry Summer, it would turn out to be the hottest summer in the country’s history, with temperatures sometimes reaching over 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
And if Matthew was out in the bush at that time, he would be completely unprotected. “He was not living under any shelter and was exposed to the full conditions since he was reported missing two months ago,” said the local police chief involved in the coordinated rescue efforts…
I Would Be A Heap
Nevertheless, Deborah remained upbeat and hopeful. “Me, I would be a heap,” one neighbor said. “But I found Deborah to be a woman who could hold herself together and get on with it. She’s one of those lucky people.”
Deborah’s optimism would ultimately pay off. A full 9 weeks after he’d walked off into the wilderness, a group of hikers came across Matthew. He was lying on the ground, completely disoriented and looked to be in terrible shape…
Not Far From Home
When they came across him, Matthew was only a little over 1 mile away from his home. It’s believed that he wasn’t found by the authorities because the brush was so thick. But that alone wouldn’t explain why he wasn’t seen.
Didn’t Want To Be Found
The place where Matthew was found wasn’t far from a hiking path. If he wanted to be found or to come out of the bush, he could have easily made his way along the path, or just waited for a hiker to come by. ”Hikers often walk along tracks in the area. He must have kept out of the way of people,” said one investigator…
“Anyone who is missing for that length of time in those kind of conditions…” the chief added, “you wouldn’t expect to see them again. Nevertheless, there he was laying before the hikers’ eyes, apparently too exhausted and disoriented to hide.
Extreme Weight Loss
Matthew was suffering from extreme dehydration and was covered in leeches and mosquito bites. On top of that, he was looking extremely gaunt. He’d lost somewhere between 70 and 90lbs — about half of his body weight…
Out Of The Bush
The hikers immediately alerted the authorities who arrived on the scene as quickly as possible. Getting to Matthew was difficult, even knowing exactly where he was. “It was a 400m (1300 ft) walk in difficult terrain to reach the patient,” said one of the paramedics who arrived at the scene.
After they were able to bring him out of the dense brush, the rescue team loaded him onto a helicopter in order to airlift him to the nearby Hornsby Hospital. There, his doctors found that his injuries were even more severe than previously thought…
In addition to the extreme dehydration, malnutrition and parasites, one of his legs and several of his fingers had been injured and had become gangrenous. Even worse, the combination of Matthew’s extreme malnutrition had left him partially blind.
Dry Creek Bed
When asked how he managed to survive for so long in such harsh conditions without any food or water, Matthew told police that he’d survived by drinking water from an almost dry creek bed. To eat, he likely ate some of the freshwater fish from the creek and possibly even frogs…
Whatever his reasons had been, it seemed that Matthew had set out into the dense bush on some kind of survival mission. In the hospital, he was treated for a mental illness in addition to his physical ailments. His family did not want to disclose what that illness was.
One neighbor, whose home is backed up against the deep valley where Matthew was found was astounded that he’d been there the whole time. “I couldn’t last a day down there. I’d be back again,” he said…