Dean McIlwaine's girlfriend 'leaving door to our new home unlocked for him'
The distraught girlfriend of missing Dean McIlwaine says she won't lock her front door in case he comes home.
Demi-jo McMahon (22) has been comforted by her family at the couple's home, just weeks after they moved in together for the first time, with her sisters taking turns in remaining awake all night keeping a vigil for any sign of Dean.
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"I won't lock the door in case he comes home," Demi-jo told the Belfast Telegraph.
"I keep thinking he's going to come back at some point and we are going to find him. I don't think I am letting myself take it in. I have to remind myself that this is actually happening and for how long it has been happening."
Demi-jo said she wouldn't have been able to endure the ordeal this long without the support of family, friends and even strangers. Her sisters have been taking turns to stay awake overnight so that she won't be forced to lock the door.
"I have a lot of family around me at the minute and that's what is helping me get through this," she said.
"But it's harder as time goes on, I'm taking it day by day, but I know I will have to get back to reality at some point.
"The amount of people who have knocked this door to offer help and support is unbelievable and has meant so much to us."
The hairdresser, who was a bridesmaid at a McIlwaine family wedding in Cyprus earlier this month, said she knew Dean was under pressure, but didn't think it was serious. They were planning to open a barber's shop.
"It was great fun, we had such a good time and I think it really calmed him down," she said. "But we couldn't wait to get home from holiday to get the business up and running, we also had to focus on the house we had just moved in to. He was under pressure but this was such an exciting time for us."
The couple have known each other since they were 12-years-old, but only started dating three years ago.
Demi-jo described Dean as someone who was "always laughing".
"He would never need to go out with friends in order to know someone in the bar, he would talk to anyone," she said. "He knows so many people from being a barber and can just walk into the pub certain that he will know people. The first place I checked was his local bar, but they hadn't seen him and thought it was strange that he hadn't called in."
She has been reluctant to leave the house for too long in case Dean returns home.
"I just sit here waiting for him to come home, whenever there is a reported sighting I go straight there but none of the reports have been him. This behaviour is out of character and he has never done anything like this."
Demi-jo will join the search for the first time today and expressed her gratitude to all those people who have been searching or supported the search in any way.
"I tried to go out before but there was too many people, but I will go out today.
In a desperate plea to Dean his girlfriend said: "We all love you and really miss you, we want you home - we can sort it out no matter what happens."