Belfast Telegraph

A year after Dean went missing, the nightmare is still going on for his family

BY CHRIS KILPATRICK

Friends and family of a young man who went missing without trace a year ago today say they haven't given up hope of finding him alive.

Dean Patton was last seen on the afternoon of July 25 and despite extensive land and sea searches, his loved ones have no idea where he is.

Family members and close friends have not spoken to him since he attended a party in his home town of Portrush the previous evening.

A family friend last night said Dean's disappearance had created a huge hole in the lives of those closest to him.

"You always saw Dean around Portrush and he always enjoyed a chat," said the friend.

"So much has been done over the past year in terms of trying to find Dean but so far we have no clues as to where he is. It's devastating but we don't give up hope, and I know that's the case with his family, too."

Unable to bear the constant reminders of their son's disappearance, Dean's parents John and Linda sold their home of more than 20 years in the north coast town.

They have used money from the sale of the property to fund further searches in the coming months.

In January they offered a £10,000 reward for anyone with information on Dean's whereabouts. Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph previously, Dean's uncle Gerry Patton said the family was desperate to discover what had happened to him.

"We just have no idea where Dean is," he said.

"His mum and dad aren't eating or sleeping. It's a living nightmare."

In a first for Northern Ireland, special drones were brought in to help scour the area's coastline in the weeks after Dean went missing, but they failed to uncover any clues.

Extensive land and sea searches have also been carried out since Dean, whose 25th birthday was in January, disappeared.

"If Dean doesn't want to come home that's fine," his mum Linda said at that time. "All we want to know is that he is safe and keeping well."

She said her family is dealing with the daily nightmare of not knowing where Dean is.

Mrs Patton also praised residents in Portrush for helping with searches since the young man went missing. Hundreds of volunteers assisted police and the Bann Community Search and Rescue team to look for Dean, who his family described as a vulnerable adult.

A police spokesman appealed for anybody with information to contact them.

He said: "With the summer holiday season in full swing, police would ask that returning visitors to Portrush jog their memories around last year's trip and make contact if they have any relevant information."

Police currently have 16 people listed on their long-term missing list.

Each file symbolises a family dealing with grief, anguish and confusion when a loved one walks out of the door and simply never returns.

Among those on the list are Samuel Campbell who never returned to his Kells home after a bike ride; Martin Kelly, from Holywood, who was last seen during a night out in Belfast, and John O'Hara, from Limavady, who has been missing for more than 18 years.

BACKGROUND

The last reported sighting of Dean Patton was on July 25 last year.

Despite extensive searches and a £10,000 reward for information, his whereabouts are still a mystery. When last seen,Dean was wearing a black T-shirt and jeans. He is 6ft with dark hair and a tanned complexion. The last sighting was on CCTV as he went into the Nisa store in Portrush.

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