Woman Lost 8 Days Australia’s North Queensland Bushland Found Alive

Rikki Leigh Mitchell, 38, was last seen at a rest stop at Reid River between Townsville and Charters Towers on May 2.

Police and SES volunteers launched a land and air search of the area surrounding the Flinders Highway on Friday and homicide detectives were called in.

She was found on Wednesday morning by a property owner, just half an hour before a scheduled police press conference at the search site.

Detective Inspector Jason Shepherd said he was “elated” the mother-of-four had survived the ordeal.

“I was ecstatic to have this outcome,” he said.

“I’ve got to be honest, the longer the search went, the less optimistic we were.

“We’re concerned from the start, but we’re very concerned after seven days when people haven’t been found – so it is miraculous.”

A drone shot of green bushland and mountains
Rikki Mitchell spent more than a week lost in challenging terrain. (ABC North Qld: Baz Ruddick)

Detective Inspector Shepherd said the woman survived by drinking water from puddles.

He said she would be taken to hospital but did not appear to have suffered any serious injuries.

“She’s obviously got signs that she’s been out in the bush – she’s got lots of scratches over her body, her feet look like they’re cut open and bleeding,” he said.

“It has been seven days so I’m not sure whether she’s been able to find any food in that time, how much water she’s been able to drink and whether that water was safe.”

Detective Inspector Shepherd said Ms Mitchell and her partner had stopped at the rest area on the afternoon of May 2 for a swim.

He then went to visit a friend nearby, leaving Ms Mitchell behind for another swim and walk.

When he returned, she could not be found.

“It’s common knowledge that if you’re out in the bush in the heat [with] little food and little water, that you can become disoriented quite quickly,” Detective Inspector Shepherd said.

“I would imagine that she’s then probably headed off in the wrong direction.

“She said that she kept walking and this morning she got to a point where she was able to hear the traffic, obviously from the Flinders Highway.”

Ms Mitchell was found by a local landowner after she had commandeered an all-terrain buggy from another property. 

The man then drove her to meet authorities at the search party’s command post. 

“She’s certainly not a trained survivalist … so the fact she has gone seven days out there is fantastic,” Detective Inspector Shepherd said.

About 20 SES volunteers and police officers had been involved in the search for Ms Mitchell each day. 

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