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NSW: Neale denies bush ordeal was hoax

Sat Jul 18 23:14:08 EST 2009

SYDNEY, July 18 AAP - British backpacker Jamie Neale has denied his 12-day bush ordeal was a hoax, saying he wrote goodbye notes to his family thinking he would die in the NSW Blue Mountains.

Mr Neale returned to the bush he got lost in on Saturday, to tell a Nine Network TV crew how his bushwalk went so horribly wrong.

The 19-year-old was lost for 12 days, enduring sub-zero temperatures and living off seeds and weeds. He kept warm under strips of bark.

He had wandered off a walking track during an intended day hike on July 3, only to emerge in relative good health last Wednesday.

The Nine Network's 60 Minutes has paid $200,000 for his story.

Neale has told the current affairs program that he thought he would die in the bush, and had written notes to his family.

"I was thinking I might die on that mountain," he told the program.

"I had actually written some goodbye notes and things to my family saying, my last walk, saying sorry, explaining how I'd got lost and different things like that."

The excerpts of the exclusive interview, which airs on Sunday night, where published in Fairfax and News Ltd newspapers.

Mr Neale is adamant he got lost, and dismissed talk his disappearance was a hoax, or stunt to make money.

"I know what happened, and I know the people who were out searching for me," he said.

"They know that it happened and that's good enough for me.

"People can say what they want because I'm not lying. It's the truth."

Mr Neale left hospital on Friday and is set to travel to Perth to visit relatives.

His father, Richard Cass, left Sydney on Saturday to return home, after flying out to Australia to join the search for his son.

Before boarding his flight he again defended his son's honesty as doubters in Australia and Britain continued to question how the backpacker survived in the cold and without food.

Sky News in the UK says it will broadcast an interview with Mr Neale in the UK on Sunday.