A teenager who survived for nearly nine weeks in bushland in Sydney’s north was found covered in leeches and bites and had lost nearly half of his weight during his incredible ordeal, rescuers say.
Matthew Allen, 18, is also believed to be suffering from gangrene to his feet and lower legs and was suffering from partial blindness when he was discovered by hikers lying in the bush in Westleigh on Saturday afternoon.
The teenager, an accountancy student who lived with his family less than two kilometres away in Westleigh, told his rescuers that he had survived only by drinking water from a creek bed that was almost dry.
He was not living under any shelter and was suffering from extreme exhaustion and dehydration when he was winched out of the bushland on Saturday afternoon.
‘‘He was in such a poor state,’’ Detective Acting Inspector Glyn Baker, from The Hills Local Area Command, said.
‘‘He was completely exhausted, completely dehydrated, suffered significant weight loss, somewhere up to 50 per cent. He was suffering from partial blindness and he had leeches all over him.’’
The teenager was winched from the bush and flown to Hornsby Hospital, where he was reunited with his family and is undergoing treatment for his injuries, which police said were not life-threatening.
Mr Allen, who suffers from a medical condition, was reported missing by his mother on November 27 when he left his home in Westleigh. He left his mobile phone at home and did not take any extra clothing with him.
Police launched a public appeal to find him, and initially believed he may have been in the Castle Hill area. Mr Allen attends Castle Hill TAFE where he studied accountancy.
However, there was no trace of him until Saturday afternoon, when the two hikers spotted him lying in bushland off Elouera Road.
Detective Acting Inspector Baker said Mr Allen was lying down and was in an extremely disorientated state, and the hikers immediately contacted Hornsby Police Station.
Police, NSW Ambulance Paramedics and NSW Fire and Rescue went to the scene and decided to winch him to Ruddock Park in Westleigh, before he was taken to Hornsby Hospital about 7.30pm.
Detective Acting Inspector Baker said hikers often walked along tracks in the area, and Mr Allen is believed to have kept out of sight.
‘‘If the first time that he is seen is at 2pm on Saturday obviously he must have kept out of the way of people,’’ he said.
‘‘I think he is in such a state that he couldn’t actually get up and move.
‘‘He’s not that far from home at Westleigh, but there’s no indication at all that food was being pilfered from the house.
‘‘He was not living under any shelter and was exposed to the full conditions since reported being missing.’’
Police will speak to Mr Allen when he recovers from his ordeal.
Detective Senior Constable Ben Wrigley, from Hornsby Local Area Command, said was delighted Mr Allen had been found.
"Anyone who is missing for that length of time in those kind of conditions - you wouldn’t expect to see them again," he told AAP on Monday.
Detective Senior Constable Wrigley said he was grateful he could finally provide the Allen family with some answers.
"I was amazed and very happy that everything turned out they way that it happened. I couldn’t believe it," he said.