Belfast Telegraph

Comber community left baffled by churchgoer McCormick's disappearance

Comber-based UUP councillor Philip Smith
Comber-based UUP councillor Philip Smith
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

People in the Co Down market town of Comber were as shocked as they were baffled yesterday by the mysterious disappearance of a local churchgoer that has turned into a murder investigation.

At the local newsagents on Bridge Street, one customer recalled seeing Mr McCormick just hours before he vanished.

The father-of-four was behind the wheel of his black Citroen C4 car last Thursday afternoon when the man, who did not want to be named, saw him.

"He drove past me and I waved at him," he said.

"He was on his own, waved back and all seemed fine.

"That was the last I saw of him until my wife showed me the awful news about him on her phone last night.

"I couldn't believe that it was wee Pat - it's all just so strange."

Another man in the shop said people were puzzled by how little detail was known about the investigation. "There were a lot of police around the place on Monday evening but apart from that it has all been very low-key," he said.

"There were no missing-person posters up or anything.

"People only really know about it from reading the papers this morning but they're certainly shocked at the news."

There was little sign of a murder investigation in the market town of Comber in Co Down yesterday.

For most it was business as usual, with news of William 'Pat' McCormick's disappearance still filtering through to locals who appeared stunned by what has unfolded on their own doorstep.

The only indication of recent events was the presence of a police patrol car, which has remained parked outside the apartment on Castle Street where Mr McCormick was last seen just before 11pm last Thursday.

Five miles away at Strean Presbyterian Church in Newtownards, where the 55-year-old has been a member of the congregation for 20 years and worked as a caretaker for the past eight, there was equal disbelief about the events of the past few days.

Mr McCormick's minister Rev Jeff McWatters was yesterday providing comfort to his wife Alison, his elderly parents and four children, who are aged from 12 to 19.

"Myself and our whole church family are shocked and saddened by the news that William's disappearance is being treated as a murder investigation," he said.

"Our hearts go out to his family at this difficult time."

The McCormick family raised the alarm exactly a week ago when the former Royal Irish Regiment soldier failed to turn up for work or take his children to school.

They have said he "would not in a million years just vanish like this and leave his car".

One of Mr McCormick's four children, Myles, took to social media yesterday to thank people for their messages of comfort and issued a renewed appeal for anybody who has any information to come forward.

Myles wrote: "We truly cannot be more grateful for the support and love. It has been so warming to us. We honestly cannot say thank you enough.

"We hope and pray we can find my dad and get the justice that he and we all deserve. If anyone does know anything don't be scared to speak up."

Comber-based UUP councillor Philip Smith said local people were hoping that Mr McCormick's family would soon get some clarity on what is "a tragic situation".

He said: "Unfortunately it's all still such a mystery but it's a terrible event that has shocked people in Comber and the wider area. This is a very rare occurrence and has prompted concern in the community.

"For his family this must be a double tragedy as at the moment they can't even start to get some semblance of closure until he is found."

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