Belfast Telegraph

Body of missing Northern Ireland hiker found in Scottish Highlands

BY JOANNE FLEMING

A body has been found in a desolate part of the Scottish Highlands by rescuers searching for a missing hill walker from Northern Ireland.

Michael O'Grady went missing on December 22 after going walking in the Ben Alder and Loch Ossian areas of the Scottish Highlands.

The 64-year-old, from Co Fermanagh, was last seen leaving the Loch Ossian youth hostel, and was thought to have been spotted by a group of hikers later that day in "blizzard conditions".

On Saturday, Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team found the body of a man in the Corrour area to the west of Ben Alder.

A spokesman for Police Scotland said: "Police believe this to be the body of missing climber Michael O'Grady, from Northern Ireland, who was reported overdue on January 6."

There appear to be no suspicious circumstances, but a report will be prepared for the procurator fiscal.

The hunt for the missing man shifted from Northern Ireland to Scotland last week after PSNI officers forced their way into his Irvinestown home and discovered a calendar detailing his plans to hike through the precarious mountain range.

Concerned friends of Mr O'Grady had contacted police when they were unable to reach him.

The Ben Alder area is one of the most desolate spots in Scotland. It's also the east-west transition where the peaks of the west steadily transform to the towering rounded hills of the east.

Because of the size of the hills, and the 'halfway house' situation, the area often receives a lot of snow and ice during the winter.

While the weather over Christmas was reasonably mild, since then there have been storms, heavy rain and occasional snow.

Chief Inspector Mike Whitford, area commander for Perth and Kinross police, said Mr O'Grady was "a very experienced hillwalker and mountaineer".

"We believe he came across from Northern Ireland on about December 20 or 21 and he travelled up and left his car in a really desolate part of Scotland," he said.

The police know he then followed a path next to Loch Ossian where he met hikers who were camping in what Mr Whitford described as "blizzard conditions".

Scottish police added that they had brought in mountain rescue teams from Teesside, as well as from the Cairngorms, and had been supported by the RAF. Fermanagh/South Tyrone MLA Arlene Foster said: "I thank the police in Scotland for all their work. It is very sad that they have discovered a body, and we wait to hear if is confirmed as Mr O'Grady."

Fellow MLA Tom Elliott said: "There has been obvious concern for Mr O'Grady for some time. My thoughts are with his family."

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