Belfast Telegraph

Our prayers have been answered says family as Nollaig returns home

By Victoria O'Hara

The family of a woman who was missing for more than a year have spoken of their joy and "immense relief" that she has returned safely home to Northern Ireland.

Nollaig O'Connor (38) from Enniskillen vanished in May 2013.

After months of searches and appeals with police across the UK they had "feared the worst".

But in an amazing chance encounter, a former childhood friend spotted her living rough while he was on holiday with his wife in Spain.

After contacting her family, arrangements were made for her to return home on Saturday.

In an emotional post on Facebook her sister Maire said: "Over the next few days I will post the story of her journey back to us, but for now we need time and privacy to be with Nollaig."

Nollaig, an accomplished musician, had been missing since May 31 last year.

Yesterday Maire said Nollaig had possessions, including her phone, papers, passport, and violin, stolen at different stages, and from stories she has told in her calmer moments, "has been through very challenging times".

She added: "Many thanks to the Irish Consulate whose assistance was massive. Our relief is immense, our prayers have been answered."

The family have paid tribute to the couple who found Nollaig on Friday.

"We will be forever indebted to Tara Cassidy and Nicky Cassidy for finding her and taking such good care of her.

"All so surreal that it has taken a wonderful couple from our own home town to find Nollaig after all the months of searching."

Nollaig's father Bernard said the couple were walking down the street last Friday and spotted a girl sleeping under a tree.

"He said to his wife, 'I think that's Nollaig O'Connor', and she said, 'it couldn't be'."

Both Nollaig and Nicky were in St Michael's Scout Brass Band together as children.

"Nicky walked over and said her name. She sat up and recognised him straight away," he told Sunday Life.

They contacted Nollaig's sister Maire, who contacted her father.

"Her first words to me were, 'Nollaig's alive', I think that just sums up how great our fears had become," he said. "It is absolutely amazing that we have found her. I have spoken to her and so has her mum. I actually can't even remember what I said."

Background

Musician Nollaig O'Connor was last seen by her family in May 2013 after she decided to go travelling. But the Enniskillen woman's family said they were gravely concerned for her well-being after she failed to contact them over Christmas. Nollaig was listed as missing on website missingpeople.org.uk. After being found in Spain a post on Facebook page said on Friday: "Great news, I am with Nollaig south of Spain and she is safe. Even better she has agreed to come to Ireland with me."

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