He survived for 12 days in dense Australian bush, sparked a massive search and rescue effort which cost more than $100,000, and just 24 hours after walking out of the wilderness of the Blue Mountains Briton Jamie Neale has signed up with a celebrity agent to sell his story to the highest bidder.
Sean Anderson, a Sydney-based agent, confirmed to The Times that on Thursday he had signed Neale and his father Richard Cass to his agency to sell their story to British and Australian media organizations.
Anderson refused to discuss any offers he had received, but another Australian talent agent, Max Markson, said that he had been approached by a number of British media organizations that were willing to offer Neale $82,000 for his story.
The 19-year-old backpacker was greeted with joy and disbelief Wednesday when, just as his own family had given him up for dead, the dehydrated and exhausted youngster stumbled out of the bush 13 miles from the Blue Mountains tourist town of Katoomba.
His father has spoken emotionally about how, convinced his son had died, he performed his own closure ceremony, lighting a candle for the teenager.
In a series of television interviews, Cass has poured out his heart about his fears for his son, and offered titbits about how Jamie, who disappeared after leaving a Katoomba youth hostel for an "easy" day's walk, had survived on grass and seeds as he stumbled through the dense bushland.
His son, however, has remained silent, releasing only a one-line statement from his hospital bed reading: "I am grateful to everybody for their help and support."
Neale's decision to sell his story will increase the outrage felt by many who have expressed their anger at the teenager's carelessness in leaving for a hike in such notoriously hostile terrain without basic safety equipment.
He was dressed only in Nike trainers and a light wind breaker jacket, and had left his cell phone at the youth hostel where he had been staying.
Despite his joy at his son's survival, Neale's own father called him "stupid" and said: "I could kill him," adding: "I appreciate the millions spent on this search."
The massive search operation, involving helicopters and scores of police officers and emergency services volunteers, is estimated to have cost the Australian taxpayer more than $100,000.
Anderson said that he was not sure how Neale and his family would use any money they made from the story, or if they would donate it to the rescue organizations.