AJ Elfalak’s family call in professional bush tracker to help retrace his steps


The family of little AJ Elfalak is relying on the opinion of a professional bush tracker to help them understand how the toddler spent three nights alone in the unforgiving terrain behind their home.

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

He 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.

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

The family of little AJ Elfalak is relying on the opinion of professional bush tracker Jake Cassar (pictured) to help them understand how the toddler spent three nights alone in the unforgiving terrain behind their home

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 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 

Superintendent Tracey Chapman said having wombat holes and access to water helped increase AJ's chances of survival. AJ is pictured at home on Tuesday morning as his family celebrates his safe return

Superintendent Tracey Chapman said having wombat holes and access to water helped increase AJ’s chances of survival. AJ is pictured at home on Tuesday morning as his family celebrates his safe return

Mr Cassar queried whether AJ had in 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 in the days he was missing.

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

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

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

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

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

AJ was found sitting in a shallow, muddy creek at the base of what appeared to be a barely visible path, but the question remains as to how he made it down such a steep track safely

AJ was found sitting in a shallow, muddy creek at the base of what appeared to be a barely visible path, but the question remains as to how he made it down such a steep track safely

Mr Cassar said he planned to head down with his search party and explore the area to find any potential paths that AJ might have taken. The creek where AJ was found in pictured

Mr Cassar said he planned to head down with his search party and explore the area to find any potential paths that AJ might have taken. The creek where AJ was found in pictured

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 in 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 in the days he was missing

It is apparent that even if he did make it down, he likely wouldn’t have been able to get out again.

‘I couldn’t get down there,’ Kim Grace, who owns nearby Grey Gum Cafe and has helped to care for the boys, said.

‘It’s near impossible. I can’t see how he ever would have gotten down there on his own.’

Ms Grace, along with several of her associates at her cafe, is suspicious there might be more to the story.

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

Mr Cassar explained it was very possible that, even with hundreds of volunteers, little AJ avoided detection while in the bush. He is pictured (right) with AJ's mother Kelly

Mr Cassar explained it was very possible that, even with hundreds of volunteers, little AJ avoided detection while in the bush. He is pictured (right) with AJ’s mother Kelly

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

He said search parties tended to stay in 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’re lost, we almost always walk at a slight curve to the right or left, therefore it’s easy to travel in 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 off on his own or was abducted, which is what the family initially believed.

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

'When we're lost, we almost always walk at a slight curve to the right or left, therefore it's easy to travel in directions that might be missed by search parties,' Mr Cassar said. The area where AJ was found is pictured

‘When we’re lost, we almost always walk at a slight curve to the right or left, therefore it’s easy to travel in directions that might be missed by search parties,’ Mr Cassar said. The area where AJ was found is pictured

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

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

It is understood some senior detectives in the NSW Police Force say ‘there are of lot of things that don’t add up’, including claims of missing CCTV footage from the family property.

Raising suspicion for investigators is how the toddler, who has autism and is non-verbal, could have survived without anything to eat for 72 hours in wet weather.

Temperatures dropped to 2C and AJ emerged with just a few scratches from three nights alone in the bush.

Mr Cassar (pictured on Tuesday) hoped to provide the family some further guidance as to whether AJ likely wandered off on his own or was abducted, which is what the family initially believed

Mr Cassar (pictured on Tuesday) hoped to provide the family some further guidance as to whether AJ likely wandered off on his own or was abducted, which is what the family initially believed

'When we're lost, we almost always walk at a slight curve to the right or left, therefore it's easy to travel in directions that might be missed by search parties,' Mr Cassar said. Bushland near where AJ was found is pictured

‘When we’re lost, we almost always walk at a slight curve to the right or left, therefore it’s easy to travel in directions that might be missed by search parties,’ Mr Cassar said. Bushland near where AJ was found is pictured

Police were also baffled that the child turned up in the creek just 500 meters away from the family’s home, evading highly-trained sniffer dogs since Friday.

A helicopter fitted with infrared technology and hundreds of searchers also scoured the nearby bush.

A white ute was also reported to have driven away from the property around the time AJ disappeared, with a similar vehicle seized by police on Sunday, as well as CCTV from a service station 40km away.

Superintendent Tracey Chapman said on Tuesday morning that having wombat holes and access to water helped increase AJ’s chances of survival.

When asked about the speculation surrounding the disappearance she said: ‘We are certainly happy with where things are at the moment.

‘We’ll continue that investigation to be entirely comfortable but from our perspective it’s simply a good- news story. 

‘We have a three-year-old boy who many people probably expected was not alive and he’s been located and been returned to his family.’

On Tuesday, Putty Community Initiative Facebook page reported a confirmed case of Covid at a nearby monastery which had sent volunteers to help in the search.

The community group called on any locals who offered assistance or came into contact with the family to get tested for the virus immediately.

Ms Grace said she’d been serving customers who were assisting with the search all week, many of whom she didn’t recognise.

‘They were out-of-towners,’ she said. ‘A lot of them certainly weren’t from here, but some of them I’ve seen around before.’

Many of AJ’s loved ones had earlier claimed they lived at the Putty address and had not travelled from Covid hotspots in Sydney.

The Elfalak family only moved into the home permanently three months ago, reportedly to escape Covid-19.

AJ’s godfather Alan Hashem, who served as a spokesman for the family after the toddler disappeared, is the founder of anti-vaccine movement ‘Our Voices Matter’.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk