Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland dementia sufferer (77) found in ditch during search

By Christine Carrigan

An elderly man with dementia who was found alive in a ditch after being missing for 24 hours is now in a comfortable condition in hospital.

Former art teacher Robert Maher, a vulnerable 77-year-old, vanished on Tuesday around 6pm.

He was found on Wednesday evening in the ditch less than a quarter-of-a-mile from his home in Lisbellaw, Co Fermanagh.

A major search operation covered more than 460 acres of land on the Belle Isle Estate, including the eight Islands on Lough Erne and the surrounding areas.

Community Rescue Service volunteers, a helicopter using heat-seeking equipment and specialist police teams in boats all took part in the hunt for Mr Maher, who taught at Lisnaskea High School for 30 years.

Locals from the Lisbellaw area supported those who conducted the search operation, including the Carrybridge Lakeside Lodge Hotel, which remained open throughout the night to supply refreshments.

After he was found, The Impartial Reporter newspaper quoted his family as saying he was "gravely ill".

But an update last night from the Western Health Trust said Mr Maher was in a comfortable condition in the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen.

Hours before he was discovered his daughter Christine Irvine spoke to the newspaper, voicing alarm at the lack of sightings of her father.

"He does have a good survival instinct and what we were mostly thinking that maybe he has gone into a shed in an outbuilding or even a hedge to get shelter from the rain," she said.

Ms Irvine had said the family had "a lot of hope" he would be recovered soon. And the family got the outcome they were hoping for when Mr Maher was found alive by the Community Rescue Service.

The PSNI in Fermanagh posted online: "He is currently being cared for by our colleagues in Ambulance Service.

"Thank you all for your support in keeping people safe."

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