Dean McIlwaine: Come home, missing man's devastated family plead as search stepped up
The distraught family of missing Dean McIlwaine have issued a heartfelt plea to the popular 22-year-old Carnmoney man to "come back home" to his loved ones.
Former Ballyclare High School pupil Dean was last seen wearing a light coloured T-shirt, blue denim shorts and flip-flops in the Carnmoney Road area of Newtownabbey on July 13, after leaving the house he shares with his girlfriend Demi-Jo McMahon.
Dean is described as being 5ft 8ins tall and of medium build, with blue eyes, dark hair and a beard. He also has "sleeve" tattoos on both arms.
His brother Glen (27) said that his disappearance, which came just over a fortnight after Dean acted as best man at his Cyprus wedding, was "totally out of character" and that Dean "has everything going for him".
"We had a brilliant time in Cyprus and Dean had just moved into a new house in Old Mossley with Demi-Jo," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"He was due to open his own barber shop called Dean Samuel's Gentlemen Barber's in Woodford, near the top of the Doagh Road, at the end of July.
"Dean had been barbering for a good while and was still working in Peter Oliver's barber shop in Church Lane, Belfast.
"He had also just finished a course on teaching barbering at Belfast Met.
"On the Twelfth, the day before he disappeared, we had been out enjoying the day and watching the bands. He set up a big marquee out the back of his new house and we had a big barbecue, all his friends and family were there.
"That was the last time I saw him. The next morning mum and dad went to his house and saw him and he didn't say where he was going. He just got up and away he went. Demi-Jo thought he was away with mum and dad.
"We are all distraught - it's totally out of character for him. Even if he was away out for the night he would always have texted or rung. But he just went out and his phone was off."
Glen said Dean "would do anything for anyone" and "would talk to anyone". However, his younger brother had suffered a series of tragedies recently.
"Our granda died on the Twelfth, and he and my Dad went up to see him and I think that could have been playing in his head," Glen continued.
"Dean was also very friendly with Alan Drennan, who died in Ibiza on July 19, 2015, almost exactly two years ago to the day. Before Alan went to Ibiza he came round to our mum's house and Dean cut his hair.
"Alan had a wee song called 'Half a World Away' and it came on during my wedding night, and mum said Dean came over to her and said: 'That's Alan's song'. Then another friend of his died this time last year.
"I think something may have clicked in his head that it was too much, with our granda dying, the barber shop set to open, moving into a new house and the anniversaries of his friends' deaths."
Glen said his mum and dad, Karen and Rod, are "just completely distraught" and "don't know what to do or where to go".
"Dean was very, very deep; he wouldn't talk about anything. He wouldn't have shared with his family - you would have had to drag it out of Dean," he said. "We are a small, close-knit family; there are just me and Dean, mum and dad in the immediate family.
"Dean and I have never fallen out in all of my life. We've never had one fight, either between me and Dean or with our parents.
"We've never not spoken for more than a day.
"Our hope is that he is at a hostel or a homeless shelter. We are asking anyone who finds a silver Huawei Honor phone or a navy metal credit card case like Dean's to contact us."
Last night, Dean's friends and family took part in a search starting at Belfast City Hall in the hope of finding him.
In addition, members of Pride of the Hill Carnmoney Flute Band conducted a search in Newtownabbey instead of their regular Monday night band practice.
They were joined by volunteers from Larne Football Club, where Dean's uncle Paul Malone was once a manager and for whom his cousin Jordan, who now plays for Linfield Swifts, once played.
Leaflets have also been widely distributed in pubs and shops in Newtownabbey and north Belfast.
Dean's cause has also been taken up by Belfast boxer Paddy Barnes, who publicised his disappearance on Twitter.
And Glen has a direct message for his beloved brother, should he happen to read this article.
"Come home, don't worry about anything, anything can be fixed, problems can be sorted, we miss you and we need you home," he said.
It's a sentiment echoed by Dean's bereft partner of three years, Demi-Jo.
"I would just ask him to come back home to the people who love him," she said.
"I don't even know how to feel, my emotions are all over the place - I can't believe it's happening.
"I just feel numb. I have been keeping a vigil for him, trying to stay at home in case he comes back and going to his parents' house."
Demi-Jo says that on the day of his disappearance, Dean "seemed ok" and said "see you later" to her as he left the house.
"Dean has never done anything like this before," she said.
"I thought he was going with his mum and dad, but later that night I hadn't heard from him.
"He would always have contacted us. But his phone was off from when he left my house.
"His granda had just died, we had just moved into a new house and he was about to open his own business, and the anniversaries of his friends' deaths are coming up. We all grew up together, so their deaths hit him hard.
"I don't know if he had a mental breakdown or something. Before we went on holiday he got stressed about opening the shop, but the break relaxed him and when he came back he couldn't wait to open it.
"Dean was easy-going but he was also a hard worker, and it was when he didn't show up for work that I knew he wasn't coming home, as he had never missed a day.
"I hope that he's at a homeless shelter and he's ok. I want to tell him that we all love him and want him to come home."
Anyone who has seen Dean or who knows his whereabouts is asked to contact police on 101, quoting reference number 121 of 14/7/17.
His brother Glen can be contacted on 07763 238096.