The body of missing Australian soldier Paul McKay has been found near the summit of Scarface Mountain in upstate New York, 15 days after he was last seen alive.
An autopsy on the body of the Canberra soldier completed in the US on Thursday found he died of an irregular heartbeat due to hypothermia. Essex County Coroner Francis Whitelaw ruled the manner of death to be suicide.
Captain McKay was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder after a tour of Afghanistan and was on leave from the Australian Army.
Saranac Lake police chief Bruce Nason said Captain McKay's Australian family had been notified.
“This is not the outcome we had hoped for.”
A forest ranger found the body on a rock outcrop about 120 to 150 metres from a mountain trail about 11.15am on Wednesday, US time (3.15am Thursday, Australian Eastern Standard Time).
Chief Nason said Captain McKay's body had been found with some equipment and winter-type clothing, but no tent or shelter.
The body was removed from the mountain by state police helicopter. It had not been visible from the air, police said.
Captain McKay, an Afghanistan veteran, was last seen about noon on December 31 walking on railroad tracks at Ray Brook carrying a large backpack.
The finding comes after an extensive ground and air search by state police, forest rangers and volunteers after his father, John McKay, reported him missing on January 3, US time.
The family's last communication with Captain McKay, in his early 30s, was an email sent on December 30, where he left his father all his possessions.
The family reportedly had not known he had travelled to the US.
“We still do not have confirmed information which would tell us why he was in this area,” Captain Nason said.
Police said they believed Captain McKay had suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, but that this was not connected with his leave from work, where he had been due to return on January 20.
“Everybody that spoke to him said nothing appeared unusual, he didnt appear depressed, there was nothing they noticed,” Captain Nason said.
The Adirondack Daily Enterprise previously reported that Captain McKay's LinkedIn profile said he had, after earlier overseas service, spent 10 months in Afghanistan.
It said he was a battle captain on shift at Sorkh Bed Forward Operating Base in October 2011 when an Afghan soldier opened fire on a group of 10 Australian soldiers, killing three and an interpreter, and seriously injuring seven other Australian troops.
The profile - removed in the days after Captain McKay was reported missing - said he began work with the Defence Materiel Organisation three months later, in January 2012.
Defence has said it will not provide any service details due to privacy legislation.