By Kath Gannaway
The week-long search for Badger Creek man Matthew Fitzpatrick has ended with heart-break for his family and many friends.
Matty’s body was found by a search team on Sunday morning, 3 December, on the Lower Link Trail in Mt Stirling.
Matty, 33, left Badger Creek early on Saturday morning, 25 November, to go horse riding in the High Country.
An intensive search was mounted when he did not make contact and intensified when his car was found on Tuesday morning in Mount Sterling.
The 33-year-old grew up in Healesville, played football, cricket and bowls, and his disappearance drew hundreds of messages of support and concern for him and his family on a Help Find Matthew Fitzpatrick Facebook page set up by the family.
Sadly, on Sunday morning the family confirmed their worst fears.
Matty’s dad John said the horse riding venture was a gift that he was looking forward to, but didn’t get the chance to enjoy.
They believe he got lost, perhaps trying to find the horse trail.
The family, John, his mother Tiss, sisters Tam and Jacki and brother Andrew, are devastated at the loss of their beautiful son and brother, and have thanked all those who helped in the search and supported them over the past week.
“We wish to sincerely thank all who gave so generously of their time and hearts during the search for our beautiful Matthew,” they wrote on Monday in a letter to the Mail.
“Although the search ended in tragedy, we shall never forget the love and support that we received, and as a family we will be forever grateful.
“It was due to the enormous effort of family and friends that we could bring our boy home.
“We would also like to thank the owners of the Merrigig Motor Inn who went above and beyond in their support for us as a whole.
“We especially would like to thank the Healesville community for their overwhelming support and community spirit.”
Among many messages of condolence to the family, Matty has been remembered as “ … a kind and friendly person who always had time for people.”
“You were a great guy, always so friendly and up for a chat,” and “Such a cheeky smile and loveable boy” were among the many posts reflecting on a tragic and far-felt loss.
Police will prepare a report for the Coroner.