Belfast Telegraph

First picture of missing Irish woman Nollaig hours before she was reunited with family after a year

By Claire Williamson

This is the first photograph of the Ulster woman who has been reunited with her family after being missing for more than a year.

Sitting on luggage and lost in thought, the experiences of Nollaig O'Connor's tough journey are etched on her face.

The picture of the 38-year-old was taken at Barcelona Airport just hours before she was reunited with the rest of her family.

A devout Christian and talented musician, Nollaig had not been in contact with relatives since May of last year.

The mystery was finally solved when a family friend and his wife were walking along a street in Murcia in Spain when they recognised Nollaig.

Her sister Nuala last night shared the photo of Nollaig on Facebook.

She told the Belfast Telegraph: "We had to be sure it was her.

"We were pretty sure, but to actually get down there and see her was just brilliant.

"It was very emotional, but yet (we were) trying to be strong for her."

Nuala said Nollaig had lost "everything" along the way including her instruments, bank details, papers and passport.

The O'Connor family set up the Facebook page in order to help find their missing relative, called Help Find Nollaig O'Connor.

Now it's been changed to Nollaig O'Connor Has Been Found.

In what will be the last post on the site, Nuala wrote a lengthy, emotion-filled message full of thanks for everyone who helped the family.

As they prepare to close the site, she posted: "It's an amazing and miraculous story, and I hope it helps many others in their search for loved ones.

"Our journey is not over. In reality finding Nollaig was easy, it's now we need your prayers and support as we help her to get well."

Her family appealed to anyone who had instruments sitting in their attic to message the family, and they have been "overwhelmed" with donations from well-wishers. She continued: "Soon I am going to close this FB (Facebook) page to allow Nollaig to have her privacy again.

"This is a good news story, we found our sister. We are truly grateful to God and all who helped in this search. This is a long post and the last post.

"And I keep saying thanks because that is all I can say, over and over again. I hope I have not missed anyone out.

"Thank God we have our sister with us and please God she will be well soon."

Nuala told the Belfast Telegraph it was a moment she never thought would happen.

"It was something we had never thought we would actually get to do.

"It was a miracle. It's a dream come true. It's still unbelievable, really." She added: "I had never thought of doing it, actually.

"Because we had a little bit of hope but then it would be dashed by something else.

"While I always hoped, actually the thought had never crossed me that I would ever be changing the Facebook name."

Looking to the future Nuala says they have to be strong.

"We have to be with her and try and support her as much as possible and try and take it one very slow step at a time."

Story so far

Nollaig o'Connor had been living in Aberdeen before deciding to go travelling.

The last known movements of the Fermanagh woman, who's described by her family as vulnerable, were captured on CCTV in Cornwall.

There were no further sightings or phone calls home.

A huge search effort was launched, with thousands joining a social media campaign to track her down before she was spotted by an old schoolfriend in Spain.

Thanks to everyone... you helped us find her

An extract from the final post on the ‘Nollaig O’Connor is Found’ Facebook site by her sister Nuala.

On Christmas Day 2013 I launched a FB appeal to find my sister Nollaig. We as a family have been amazed at the response we got from that appeal, and also from other social media sites that we also used, such as Twitter.

The Press were great in their help and willingly printed our story over the last seven months. Television and radio were also on the case and we can only be in awe of all those who have assisted us in our tireless and sometimes gruelling quest to find Nollaig. If we were to name all the people who we are indebted to we would be naming for a long time.

(Thanks for) the many good wishes we received along the way. We also thank those who challenged our reason for embarking on this search, you helped us to continually acknowledge that Nollaig is special to us and we missed her and wanted her to know that.

(Thanks to) those of you who came forward and told us of meeting Nollaig and how she was. You helped us to stay committed to our search and you gave the police valuable information as to the journey she was making. You gave us hope.

When we contacted police in Aberdeen to reopen Nollaig’s case last December they were very reluctant. Michelle Gildernew, our local MP in Fermanagh, and Pat Bourne from the Irish Consulate, among others, were and have been a constant support in helping us to engage with police and other authorities and we are immensely indebted to you. We also thank the police in Aberdeen, Cornwall and Enniskillen for the assistance they did give.

And yet it was constant publicity that kept Nollaig in the minds of all and in particular Nicky and Tara Cassidy who were spending a quiet long weekend at their holiday home in Murcia (Spain), when they happened upon Nollaig sleeping under a tree in the sweltering heat, begging to feed herself. Nicky and Tara, we are forever indebted to you both. The care and love you showed to Nollaig that day was instrumental in helping her and us to be reunited. The welcome you gave me when I arrived off the plane from Barcelona, where I was holidaying, was second to none.

Nothing was a bother. You sat with Nollaig for hours on the street, you convinced her to come to your home and you stayed with her and me until we went through security to get our plane back to Barcelona.

Happy 10th wedding anniversary by the way, one you will never forget.

Further Reading

A missing person story with a happy ending 

'Miracle' return of woman who went missing a year ago and was found by a pal on holiday with his wife 

Our prayers have been answered says family as Nollaig returns home 

Family joy as missing woman found alive and well in Spain

Family's despair over riddle of Nollaig 

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