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IT WAS only meant to be an overnight fishing trip, but Matthew McGough and his five-year-old daughter Shannon ended up on a seven-day journey through hell.

Stranded in the Australian Outback after their car suffered two punctures, they ran out of food and water in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

So desperate were they to survive that they resorted to drinking their urine.

But as the days slipped by, a slow death became an increasingly likely prospect, and Matthew, 38, feared that his little girl might be left to spend her last hours terrifyingly alone.

He said last week: "If I died first, Shannon would have been out there by herself to put up with all those horrors. I knew I might have to take her life to save her the pain of dying of thirst.""

Barely able to hold a pencil, he wrote what he thought might be his last words about his time with Shannon, which could be read by his wife, Irene, after their bodies had been found.

"We've played together, we've prayed together, we've laughed together, we've cried together and now we're going to die together. Goodbye all. We all love you."

Now safely back home at his farm near Melbourne, Matthew said: "I told Shannon we were in deep trouble and may even not get back to see mum. She had no idea I meant we were going to die.""

Shannon is still trying to get over the nightmare that she endured. But in years to come, when it has become a distant memory, she can look at the amazing diary that her father kept during their week of hell.

In a rapidly deteriorating scrawl, it tells of their desperate struggle for survival last November, which can be seen by television viewers next Thursday on ITV's Eye Of The Storm.

The early extracts from the diary show what a pleasant trip it should have been:

WEDNESDAY: "It's a beautiful morning, three-quarters moon, still quite a few stars about and a fresh, not cold, breeze around. I've been and checked the nets for yabbies (small lobsters). They're in the pot cooking so Shannon and myself can have them for breakfast.

After packing up, they set off for home, but then disaster struck. They suffered two punctures, and had only one spare tyre. And they had become lost, miles from anywhere.

THURSDAY: Me and my adventurous ways have really got us in the mire this time.

We're lost, very nearly out of water and the temperature is in the high 30s (Centigrade). If it was just me I wouldn't be so worried, but I've got Shannon with me so she'll be getting most of the water and food that's left.

He decided to set off in the car despite the poor condition it was in.

Headed West. Didn't know if it was the right way or not - turned out it was the wrong way.

The water is all gone now, so I'll have to drain the window washers and radiator.

The water in the radiator tastes bloody awful. We've added tea bags, coffee, sugar and a little Tabasco sauce just to try and get the taste out of no success. Still, it's sweet, so we probably can survive another day.

As their plight worsened, Matthew tried everything he could think of to try and alert the rest of their world to their location including burning his car.

SATURDAY: Thought maybe somebody would see the black smoke. Obviously not. Now I don't have a car.

I've been using a spotlight, doing the old S.O.S. signal every night since Thursday, and that hasn't worked either. Irene must think I'm a real prat.

Set bush alight Saturday night. See if anybody would take the bait.

Feeling increasingly drained, it was becoming more of a struggle to just stay conscious.

SUNDAY: Sat on top of the mound with a torch and stainless steel pot. Plenty of planes flew over, but none took any notice of us.

Heat in the middle of the day in the rocks bloody unbearable, so decided to move to salt lake and dig into sand so we could get cooler.

"Our water has gone off altogether. Makes me sick, and Shannon spew. We have nothing but a can of stock pot soup left, and that's it. Been urinating into can, and soaking rags to have a wash. I tried to drink it, but I just spewed it straight back up.

Another trick was to dig a hole to lie in, then pull the dirt back over them to avoid the rays of the sun.

MONDAY: It's about 2am. Shannon's been wet down and half buried in a hole. All food and water is gone. I'm about to pass out from the heat, so I've got to wet myself down, and bury myself and finish Shannon.

Just as they thought it was becoming hopeless, a sighting of a car gave them renewed hope.

TUESDAY: After spending a restless night waving a burning log trying to attract somebody's attention, I saw the headlights of a vehicle coming my way. I couldn't believe my eyes when it kept going. It passed within 500 metres of us.

Shannon was still asleep so I took a walk down to where the car had gone through. I was taken completely by surprise to find a well-used bush track there.

He decided that he would wake Shannon then they would follow the tyre tracks.

But Shannon was so exhausted now that she could not walk far without stopping for frequent rests, and Matthew had become too weak to carry her. He said: "All I could do was give her a hug and say, `Look, sweetheart, be brave. We are going to get out of here.'"'

WEDNESDAY: When the sun came up and the heat came with it, we were only able to walk about 100 metres, and then Shannon would find some shade and go straight to sleep.

I'd bury myself in the dirt next to the track just in case. There was no way I was going to miss a car coming along.

We continued to do this until about 2pm. Shannon, my poor baby, was completely exhausted - to look at her was such a sorrowful thing, we just had to stop.

We found a big shady tree, and she just dropped to the ground. I dug a bit of a hole and buried myself and waited.

Half an hour later, I heard a car, so I jumped up and started waving and yelling, and carrying on like a pork chop.

The car stopped and I called to Shannon, and then went and picked her up, gave her a big, big hug and kiss, and said: "We've been found!"'"

The driver had fresh rain water. Matthew said: "I drank about 15 litres in five minutes, and Shannon drank five in the same time.""
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Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Gerrie, David
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 26, 1998
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