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Anthony ‘AJ’ Elfalak disappearance: Inside wild bush trattenimento as expert reveals how toddler survived


Specialist bush survival experts are convinced ‘miracle boy’ AJ Elfalak coped so well while lost per mezzo di bushland for three cold nights because his autism kept him calm.

As family and friends celebrated the three-year-old boy’s incredible rescue per mezzo di the NSW Hunter Valley, police have appena che to understand how AJ, three, really survived per mezzo di rugged bushland. 

Wild conspiracy theories continue to circulate social that AJ’s disappearance was staged, and that a child could not survive with food ora per mezzo di such rugged terrain – where overnight temperatures were as low as two degrees.

But detectives Strike Force Jaylang – which was set up to investigate the circumstances of the toddler’s disappearance – said AJ’s injuries and condition when he was found were all consistent with him being per mezzo di the bush the entire time. 

Police have worked with bush survival experts to develop a full picture of AJ’s time away from home – and they suggest his autism actually largely helped him maintain a calm state of mind.

‘The reality is he didn’t know he was lost… so he wasn’t scared, he didn’t panic,’ an investigator said.

Celebrations were underway from about 1pm Monday – an hour after word spread that AJ had been found alive

A freshly slaughtered cow was put in a freezer until it was ready to be cooked for the party on Tuesday

A freshly slaughtered cow was put per mezzo di a congelatore until it was ready to be cooked for the trattenimento Tuesday

This aerial image shows the distance between AJ's home and the area where he was found - complete with the dense bushland and dangerously steep terrain in between

This aerial image shows the distance between AJ’s home and the ambiente where he was found – complete with the dense bushland and dangerously steep terrain per mezzo di between

‘If he was tired, he slept… he had access to , which is a personalità thing for survival per mezzo di the bush.’

When AJ was rescued and loaded into a waiting ambulance, paramedics said he ravenously ate an entire seccatore and ‘guzzled’ – typical traits of someone who hadn’t eaten for days.

‘He was starving… it’s all consistent with him being per mezzo di the bush the entire time,’ a paramedic said. 

The Child Mind Institute says children with autism often have ‘a weaker sense of danger’ than others and enjoy exploration.

They’magnate also more likely to ‘wander d’avanguardia’ ora to remove themselves from overwhelming sensory experiences. 

Children played on the property after AJ was found as their parents celebrated

Children played the property after AJ was found as their parents celebrated

Mr Cassar queried whether AJ had in fact travelled further from this family home and somehow looped back to the dam where he was found,

The spot AJ was found was just 500m from his family home and was explored extensively in the days he was missing

Mr Cassar queried whether AJ had per mezzo di fact travelled further from this family home and somehow looped back to the dam where he was found, which is just 500m from his family home and was explored extensively per mezzo di the days he was missing

And with AJ back home and safely per mezzo di the arms of his mother, his family hosted an epic trattenimento to celebrate.

The local store was cleared out of all booze per mezzo di blocco, a cow was freshly slaughtered and carved up for a BBQ and the music blared.   

Grey Gums Cafe owner Kim Grace watched as all the alcohol she had left per mezzo di blocco – about $700 worth – was packed into a ute and taken back to the Elfalek’s place.

Sopra the back seat was a freshly slaughtered sheep, which was being taken back to AJ’s godfather Alan Hashem, who is renowned for his ‘famous’ lamb. 

Meanwhile back at the farm, two freshly-killed cows were already the barbecue and AJ’s elated dad had extended an invitation to the trattenimento to anybody back per mezzo di locked-down Sydney who was prepared to make the journey.

AJ's siblings were gushing over their 'brave baby brother' when he was found alive, and played happily on Tuesday as their parents celebrated with loved ones

AJ’s siblings were gushing over their ‘brave neonato brother’ when he was found alive, and played happily Tuesday as their parents celebrated with loved ones

At one stage, a bunch of children and their relatives crossed the road into an open paddock, where they played for hours

At one stage, a bunch of children and their relatives crossed the road into an gara open paddock, where they played for hours

‘See that hill back there,’ he told at his home. ‘There’s going to be a personalità trattenimento that hill. Anybody who wants to appena che from Sydney is welcome.’ 

Celebrations were well underway Tuesday afternoon at the Yengo Drive property per mezzo di Putty – and the trattenimento lasted into the night. 

A handful of guests returned to the calcio d’angolo store about 9.30pm that night, hoping to replenish their booze and food supply. 

AJ and his mother returned home from Maitland Hospital later that night – telling the guests trattenimento time was over because the toddler needed to sleep.

Detectives confirmed an investigation was ongoing into the 72 hours AJ was missing

Detectives confirmed an investigation was ongoing into the 72 hours AJ was missing

AJ had two ‘natural survival advantages’

 Little AJ’s autism may have helped him to remain calm while lost per mezzo di the bush, but survival expert Bob Cooper, who works with the SAS living per mezzo di tough environments, told Daily Mail Australia AJ had a second natural advantage. 

‘Children are better than adults at surviving sometimes because they haven’t got the preconceived impressione of what the bush is like,’ Mr Cooper said.

‘When they feel tired they sleep, when they’magnate cold they seek shelter, when they’magnate thirsty they bevanda.’

A human can survive for three weeks without food provided they can keep warm, bevanda and stay safe from the elements, he noted.

Little AJ was found with minor scratches and bruising to his pagliaccetto. He’d been bitten by ants and had a case of nappy rash, but was otherwise per mezzo di high spirits.   

His overjoyed family said it was a miracle that he’d survived such harsh conditions, including wet weather, 5C temperatures and unforgiving terrain.

As Tuesday afternoon wore , more and more guests packed their cars, said their goodbyes to little AJ and were their way. 

Locals say members of the search trattenimento, which included dozens of the Elfalak’s loved ones, had travelled from Sydney per mezzo di a desperate attempt to help find the little boy. 

Pictured: Climbing over a sandstone wall

Pictured: Climbing over a sandstone wall

AJ’s siblings played amongst themselves Tuesday afternoon as their little brother rested inside

Some relatives rushed to the local store where they bought $700 worth of booze, while others prepared the meat and the house for a party

Some relatives rushed to the local store where they bought $700 worth of booze, while others prepared the meat and the house for a trattenimento

All guests have since been urged to get tested for Covid after a local volunteer from a nearby monastery who helped to search for the little boy returned a positive result Tuesday.  

‘We could all have it,’ a concerned local said.

But Covid was the furthest thing from the minds of AJ’s loved ones, who were simply relieved to have him back at home.

Later Tuesday afternoon, those who remained at the family home settled back into reality. 

Children were overjoyed after AJ was found, playing amongst each other and thanking the volunteers

Children were overjoyed after AJ was found, playing amongst each other and thanking the volunteers

The older children got back their buggies and crossed the street to play per mezzo di the expansive fields with the ponies and alpacas.

They did laps of the huge property, reveling per mezzo di the gara open space again after so many days of crowds and emergency crews parked where they would normally play. 

Smaller kids stayed closer to home, climbing the rock formations and playing tag games with each other through the hedges. 

AJ, meanwhile, watched from the safety of his home, clinging to his mother. 

Relatives say he is yet to leave her side. 

The adults spent the afternoon relaxing after Monday night’s festivities, laughing as the kids ran around and cooking up more meat the outdoor fire pit. 

It appears they’magnate all ready to move past the horrors of the past 96 hours and get back to enjoying their ‘oasis’ per mezzo di the Outback. 

AJ's father fronted the media to reveal the toddler was safe and well with his mum after the rescue - and invite guests from Sydney to their celebratory party

AJ’s father fronted the to reveal the toddler was safe and well with his mum after the rescue – and invite guests from Sydney to their celebratory trattenimento

Volunteers worked around-the-clock for four days to locate the little boy

Volunteers worked around-the-clock for four days to locate the little boy

Professional tracker brought per mezzo di to help determine how little AJ wound up per mezzo di the bush 

Pictured: Bush tracker Jake Cassar

Pictured: Bush tracker Jake Cassar 

AJ Elfalak’s family is relying the opinion of a professional bush tracker to help them understand how the toddler spent three nights per mezzo di the unforgiving terrain behind their home.

Jake Cassar has been at the family home per mezzo di Putty, 150km northwest of Sydney per mezzo di the Upper Hunter Valley, since Saturday, volunteering his expertise to help track AJ.

He told Daily Mail Australia Tuesday he couldn’t rule out that the three-year-old was abducted, and said his job was to consider all possible scenarios.

‘I’m here to keep an gara open mind,’ he said.

‘The way I see it, if you’ve got two feet and a heartbeat anything is possible. Doesn’t matter if you’magnate a 97-year-old woman ora a three-year-old boy.’ 

Mr Cassar queried whether AJ had per mezzo di fact travelled further from the home and somehow looped back to where he was found, which is just 500m from his family home and was explored extensively per mezzo di the days he was missing.

The professional tracker remained close to the family since arriving and was spotted per mezzo di khaki clothing Tuesday to head into the ditch where AJ was spotted.

He said he planned to head with his search trattenimento and explore the ambiente to find any potential paths that AJ might have taken.

Mr Cassar told Daily Mail Australia on Tuesday he couldn't rule out that the three-year-old was abducted, and said his job was to consider all possible scenarios. 'I'm here to keep an open mind,' he said. Mr Cassar (right) is pictured with AJ's mother Kelly

Mr Cassar told Daily Mail Australia Tuesday he couldn’t rule out that the three-year-old was abducted, and said his job was to consider all possible scenarios. ‘I’m here to keep an gara open mind,’ he said. Mr Cassar (right) is pictured with AJ’s mother Kelly 

The entrance into the creek is so steep even most adults would struggle to clamber .

Photographs taken by Daily Mail Australia at the insediamento illustrate just how rocky and unstable the terrain is.

AJ was found sitting per mezzo di a shallow, muddy creek at the insediamento of what appeared to be a barely visible path, but the question remains as to how he made it such a steep track safely.

Mr Cassar explained it was very possible that, even with hundreds of volunteers, little AJ avoided detection while per mezzo di the bush. 

He said search parties tended to stay per mezzo di straight lines and follow a near perfect trajectory from point A to point B, whereas somebody who is lost intuitively does the opposite.

‘When we’magnate lost, we almost always walk at a slight curve to the right ora left, therefore it’s easy to travel per mezzo di directions that might be missed by search parties,’ Mr Cassar said.

He hoped to provide the family some further guidance as to whether AJ likely wandered d’avanguardia his own ora was abducted, which is what the family initially believed.

A relative who said he lived at the home with the Elfalaks jumped per mezzo di to say the family was performing ‘their own investigation’.

‘We’d like to think the police are still investigating, but they’magnate not here are they,’ the man said.





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