‘Missing’ Billingborough student prompts massive search in Australia

Joe Stuttle with a wallaby while in Tasmania
Joe Stuttle with a wallaby while in Tasmania
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A student on a gap year inadvertently caused chaos in Tasmania when he was reported missing while on a night out.

Joe Stuttle, 19, from Billingborough, spent the week before last touring Tasmania on a bike as part of his gap year in Australia.

On the Saturday night he planned to stay at Launceston Gorge national park, where he chained his bike and his bag containing all his belongings, including his passport, to a fence. He went for a walk into town and ended up staying at a new friend’s house.

However security staff at the gorge became concerned when they found Joe’s bike the following morning and raised the alarm. Search and rescue teams, including emergency service volunteers and police, were assembled.

The police were giving a press conference when Joe returned to the car park wondering what all the fuss was about. Joe explained he had just gone into town to make the most of his last night in Tasmania.

Launceston Gorge is a known suicide spot and police were moments away from calling in divers and helicopters to carry out a search of the area.

Joe said: “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.”

Joe apologised for causing such worry and said he was grateful that Australian authorities had taken the incident seriously.

He added: “There was an incredible fuss but it’s a reflection of the fantastic work of Tasmanian police. 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.”

Joe said: “I shouldn’t have left my passport and everything out all night.”

Joe plans to spend the next 11 months in Australia.