Belfast Telegraph

Family's despair over riddle of Nollaig

CHRIS KILPATRICK

The family of a vulnerable woman – described as deeply religious and a talented musician – say they are desperate for her to contact them after she disappeared while travelling.

A devout Christian, Nollaig O'Connor has not been in contact with relatives since last May.

The Enniskillen woman's family said they were gravely concerned for her well-being after she failed to contact them over Christmas.

It is understood the 37-year-old had previously been diagnosed with a mental health illness.

"Nollaig decided to go travelling last May," her sister Nuala said.

"She has broken contact with all the family and has made no contact this Christmas. This is very uncharacteristic for Nollaig."

Nuala said the family had no idea whether Nollaig – whose name is Irish for Christmas – is in the UK, Ireland or elsewhere in Europe.

She has a distinctive tattoo of a white cross on her forehead and was last spotted in England.

"She is a talented musician, plays violin, guitar, tin whistles and keyboard. She loves to busk and play in churches," said Nuala, in an appeal for information on Facebook.

"Nollaig is a great woman with such great potential and we love her and just need to know she is safe." The last sighting was when she was caught on CCTV in Cornwall.

Meanwhile, police yesterday launched an appeal for another missing person, 59-year-old William Mowbray. He was last seen at a hospital in Londonderry on Tuesday.

Mr Mowbray, also described as vulnerable, is 5ft 8ins, of slim build, with brown hair. He was last seen wearing a red baseball cap, jeans and a dark coloured jacket.

There are up to 80 active missing persons cases at any time in Northern Ireland. The festive period is often the hardest time of the year for loved ones of those whose whereabouts remain unknown.

New Year's Day marked the eighth anniversary of Martin Kelly's disappearance. The 21-year-old, from Holywood, Co Down, was last seen at Pat's Bar in the Docks area of Belfast.

Last week Martin's father Raymond begged for information on his son's whereabouts.

"It has been eight years, but it doesn't feel like it," he said.

"It, in a way, still feels like yesterday. It is still an open case with the police. But I know this has turned, really, into a one-man search."

Despite one of the largest search operations ever here, there are no clues as to what happened.

Now 62, Raymond said he will never give up hope in his search.

He added: "I just want to keep people thinking about Martin. He shouldn't be forgotten about."

New Year's Day also marked the second anniversary of a Co Antrim father's disappearance.

Samuel Campbell, from Kells near Ballymena, has not been seen since he headed off on a New Year's Day cycle two years ago.

He left with just his cycling gear, leaving his mobile phone at home as he always did, because he never discussed work on a Sunday.

The businessman also left his wallet behind containing all of his bank cards and identification.

His bike was found near Glenarm days later. To date, he has missed his only daughter Samantha walking down the aisle, his elder son Christopher graduating from university, and the younger child Jason's 21st birthday.

His whereabouts remain a mystery that continues to baffle his family and police.

The empty chair, and empty hearts, hard to cope with

Traditionally it is the time of year for family, a rare opportunity for loved ones to gather and spend time together. But for those with an empty chair at the dinner table, the New Year period can be a time of heartache and despair, a stark reminder of who is missing.

The New Year has marked a devastating milestone for two such families, those of Martin Kelly and Samuel Campbell.

Mr Campbell, from Kells, Co Antrim, has not been seen for two years. The 49-year-old bid farewell to his wife as he headed out for a New Year's Day cycle.

His bicycle was found days later close to the seafront near the village of Glenarm. There has been no trace of the popular businessman since, despite high-profile appeals by his family and police reconstructions of his last known movements.

New Year's Day was also a sombre one for the Kelly family.

Eight years ago 21-year-old plumber and part-time barman Martin was last seen enjoying himself during a night out in Belfast. The last time friends saw him alive was at a bar in the docks area of the city.

His father Raymond last week begged for anybody with information to come forward.

At any one time the police have approximately 80 people on their missing persons files.

Each file symbolises a family dealing with the grief, frustration and confusion of having a loved one walk out the door and never return.

The vast majority of missing people turn up safe, but for some families, they are left with questions which may never be answered.

In the days before Christmas the twin of missing Charlotte Murray begged for information regarding her sibling.

The Omagh-born woman hasn't been seen since the end of October 2012, when she disappeared from the Tyrone town of Moy, where she had been living.

Charlotte, one of 11 siblings, should have celebrated her 35th birthday with her twin Denise on Christmas Day.

Speaking last week, Denise said: "Charlotte, please come home. Nothing has been the same without you. You are so much stronger than me and I miss you so much.

"I miss your banter, I miss your laugh, your smile and all the time we spent together. I would give anything to have all that again."

Her older sister, Michelle, added: "This year has been really difficult for our family and family circle, with illnesses and job losses. It is heartbreaking not being able to speak with Charlotte in person."

That lack of information means closure can be difficult – sometimes impossible – to achieve.

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