Belfast Telegraph

John back from the grave... and keen to help others out of a hole

By Claire O'Boyle

Buried alive grandfather John Edwards was back above ground yesterday after three full days inside a coffin in east Belfast.

The former drug addict and alcoholic carried out the extraordinary stunt to reach out to people in the depths of despair as he once was.

"It's been a wonderful experience," said John (62).

"We have reached people all over the world and I have made great connections with some very damaged people right here in Belfast who I hope I can help."

John climbed into his 8ftx3.5ftx4ft coffin outside Willowfield Church in east Belfast at 2pm on Wednesday, and emerged again at the same time yesterday.

"I'm a little bit dizzy and shaky, but once I have a shower and get some clean clothes on I'll feel a lot better," he said.

"The first thing I did when I got out was give my wife Tricia a cuddle, so I'm feeling better already."

During the 72 long hours he spent under ground John reached out to people across the world with the help of Skype, Facetime and a live webstream.

"It's been absolutely unbelievable," he added.

"I've spoken to people in China, Brazil, India, Nigeria, Canada, Ecuador and Australia.

"On Friday morning from inside the coffin I was speaking to Eamonn Holmes and his wife Ruth on This Morning through Skype.

They were fantastic and very respectful of what we're trying to do."

One of the top memories Dublin native John will take away from his experience has been the kindness of the people of east Belfast.

"I was so surprised, but people were bringing me over sweeties and sandwiches and even a lovely hot curry and spaghetti bolognese. Someone gave me cornflakes with hot milk, which was fantastic," he said.

As well as connecting with desperate people across the world John, whose charity Walking Free helps the suicidal and addicted, also heard from people he hopes to help right here in the city.

"I've spoken to a man in Belfast who told me that he watched the live stream for three days constantly weeping," said John.

"He's an alcoholic and he's coming to meet me on Sunday at the church.

"A woman came to me since I've got out who said her brother hanged himself in the last month.

"I don't know the full story, but I'm meeting her again and I really hope we can make a real, lasting difference for them.

"With the help of the people at Willowfield Church, I'm going to carry on doing my best for the people of Belfast."

John will be in Belfast until April 16. For more about his plans visit www.willowfieldchurch.co.uk

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