Did British backpacker Jamie Neale fake his 12 day ordeal in the Blue Mountains or not?

I bushwalked the area often over decades and still hit the tracks, but not on my own or without a mobile phone.

Neale looks incredibly well considering his ordeal on when on 15 July he gets out of a police van after being driven from Medlow Gap in the Megalong Valley to Katoomba hospital:

Yet later, in his hospital bed, beside his father and on a drip being treated for dehydration, he looks unwell:

Is this just the usual consequence of hospital care in NSW, or is the man really showing the mental and physical stress of his ordeal?

When he was found by two bushwalkers they described him as ‘haggard’ and ‘mumbling’ although he was also coherent, identified himself and said he was worried the searchers might have given up.

To reconcile the evidence, a look at where he went and what he says he did contains the vital clues.

3 July, Neale leaves backpacker lodge in Katoomba for the Mt Solitary walk via the Ruined Castle.

This is a 16 kilometre easy day return trip even if he walks all the way. Once below the Jamison Valley cliff line the track is mostly very level and easy to follow. It was built for a horse drawn tramway to drag coal mined from the side of the Narrowneck Peninsula to a hoist that become the Scenic Railway.

It gets scrubby near the tiny cluster of rocks called The Ruined Castle, and a bit less distinct from there to the isolated cap of Mt Solitary. Neale is seen on the Ruined Castle by other walkers in the middle of the day and says he is going to continue on his solitary way to Solitary, which is a bushy plateau.

Neal goes missing.

Everyone asks, has Mt Solitary collected another victim?

In 2006 David Iredale died on the other, rather more strenuous approach to the mountain from the Kings Tableland side to the east, after starting from Wentworth Falls.

In hot weather, in much drier terrain, and with a mobile telephone with which he contacted grossly insensitive and negligent 000 operators who turned him away, leaving him to die after six days of the agony and then coma of acute dehydration and lack of nourishment. It was not the same Mt Solitary walk at all.

15 July, after being feared dead by a major search effort, Neale is found far to the SSW of Solitary beyond the end of the Narrowneck Peninsula in ‘a gully’ near Medlow Gap.

He says that he became confused, climbing up to the cliffs to try and get his bearings, then getting completely enmeshed in thick bush each time he went down to where he came from. He eats salad like plants and chews seeds.


Neale somehow went over to the south side of the scrubby ridge that connects the Ruined Castle to Mt Solitary, loosing sight of Katoomba, and down into the damp and tangled bush and gums and cedars of the Cedar Creek area.

Once below the ridge line and especially once he crashes his way through the undergrowth to the actual Cedar creek, he will see no lights at night and no buildings by day. The mobile phone he left behind would have been useless down there anyhow.

There is plenty of water in the area, and soft leaf ‘munchies’ you wouldn’t think about eating unless starving.

His ordeal could be verified if someone goes into the Cedar Creek area to the prominent overhanging cave and little sandy cove which is the natural shelter spot, and looks for traces of him staying there.

At this point he loses it, trapped in a cycle of helplessness struggling with scrub to look for signs of civilisation that aren’t visible even from the base of the steep Narrowneck cliff line.

Finally, he tries bush bushing further down the rarely walked Cedar Creek, and notices a weakness in the maze, following up through a shallow gully which emerges just beyond the southern tip of the often walked Narrowneck Peninsula.

He sees people. He snaps out of his helpless sense of depression, and is rescued. Neale’s few comments about his state, and his quick return to good spirits are typical of those who are lost and then found.

Other evidence.

Neale is said by his father to have become lost ‘climbing’ Mt Snowdon in Wales. Snowdon is treeless. There is not only an obvious track up Snowdon, but a narrow gauge railway line. Anyone who can get lost on their way on Snowdon is at prime risk of getting lost going to the shops, never mind in the Blue Mountains.

Lingering doubts?

Neale didn’t look like someone who hadn’t eaten a decent meal for nearly 12 days. But it is extreme dehydration and heat that takes the visible toll on people lost in the bush. Cedar Creek is always seeping with water, if not flowing, and it was cool.

For Neale to receive ‘assistance’ with food, and yet be found where he was, a major supply effort would have been needed, and would have most likely been noticed. There would be give away clues left behind in the Cedar Creek.

Neale is almost certainly not faking anything. He was just young, dumb and lucky.