The sister of a missing backpacker who was found in the outback after a three day search has hit back at claims the whole thing was a hoax.
Sam Woodhead, 18, from Richmond, sparked a 200-strong search party after he went missing when he went out for a run at a ranch he was working on near Longreach.
The former Brighton College student went for an early morning run with a backpack, trainers and a bottle of water.
Soon he was lost in scorching heat and rescuers mobilised quad bikes, planes and two helicopters to look for him.
His sister, 21-year-old Rebecca Woodhead, received a call last Friday to say he had been found, and was whisked on to ITV’s Daybreak, where presenters put her and dad Peter in touch with the backpacker.
She said: “As soon as I saw him I burst into tears. I think I it was because of how serious it could have been and that we had found him and that he was OK.”
He was found about six miles from where he was staying after a helicopter spotted him when he made an SOS sign using clothes in his backpack.
But since the miracle find, Australian locals have speculated the events were a stunt to gain attention or make money.
His sister said: “I read all the comments on a Daily Mail story and I was really angry. I couldn’t understand how people could be so heartless. He was two hours from death – obviously he didn’t plan that.
“The fact that he has given all the money from the Daily Mail interview to the search and rescue team shows that.”
The teenager, who wants to be a marine, was taken to hospital after his ordeal and suffered from sunburn, cracked lips and dehydration.
His sister, a model, said speculation they were “spoilt little rich kids” was hard to take after the family said they had self-funded a second helicopter in a desperate search to find him.
She said: “We had means to do that and I don’t think we should be criticised for trying to find my brother. Anyone would do anything they can.”
He is no longer working on the ranch and will continue his travels in either Sydney or Melbourne before he returns home in mid-October, but the family might take a trip to visit him.
His sister said: “I have this image of me giving him a massive hug, followed shortly by a thump.”