Teenager who spent night with two girls Down Under, sparks police hunt after leaving belongings at suicide spot
Joe Stuttle, who was cycling around Tasmania on his gap year, prompts a major search after staying out with two girls
A British student prompted a major search and rescue operation in Australia after his belongings were found at a notorious suicide spot – while he spent the night with two girls he met on a night out.
Joe Stuttle, 19, who is on a gap-year, was cycling around Tasmania when he left his bicycle and a bag containing his passport chained to a fence while he went out to sample the nightlife.
But he had unwittingly left his belongings at a beauty spot on the outskirts of Launceston that has been the site of many suicides. He went into the city centre to watch the Christmas lights being switched on, where he met two girls who invited him to stay at their house.
He only returned to retrieve his belongings the next day, and was surprised when he turned up at the Cataract Gorge at lunchtime on Saturday to discover dozens of police officers, and television crews, searching for him.
Police had even contacted his parents in England, to tell them their son was missing.
But Mr Stuttle had to admit to police that he had spent the night with two local girls which is why he left his belongings chained up and his tent empty. Yesterday he said: “It’s a long story. I met someone and slept in Launceston. I had a great night but when I came back in the morning, I found my bike stolen. Thankfully there were 30 officers in hiking gear from state police so I asked them… and it turned out they were looking for me. There was an incredible fuss but it really is a reflection of the fantastic work of Tasmanian police. They were efficient, fast and friendly.
“They had a formal press announcement within two hours of finding the bike, after interviewing everyone who had seen me. They phoned people I knew in England and Australia, organised search parties and informed my family.
“But when I sauntered back like an idiot, they didn’t even seem to mind. They were just happy I was safe.
“I shouldn’t have left my passport and everything out all night and I should have come back at 8am instead of noon.
“But I got a bit on two TV stations and a ride in a Holden police car, which I’ve wanted to do ever since I’ve arrived.” In a blog describing the night, Mr Stuttle wrote: “I end up meeting a man called Cat and two cousins called Steph and Alita. They are, like all Tasmanians, comically friendly.
“We just met in the street and became friends, it was as easy as that. I get a bed for the night with these girls, just like it’s nothing, and it seems strange to them that I’m so grateful.”
When he returned to the gorge he believed his belongings had been stolen, unaware the police had seized them as possible evidence. He continued: “Then I see the 30 policemen in hiking gear with the backpacks and walking sticks. 'I’m glad you’re here someone’s gone and stolen my bike!’ They stare at me for a while before one of them gets the police chief.”
Mr Stuttle apologised for causing such worry, particularly for his parents, Lorraine and Chris, who were on holiday at the time. It appears, though, that they took the news in their stride. His father said: “Anyone who knows Joe will not be in the least surprised by this story. It certainly didn’t come as any surprise to us.”