Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland pensioner who sparked hunt after vanishing in South Africa flies home

By Claire McNeilly

A pensioner who vanished after travelling alone to South Africa is due to return to Northern Ireland today after his family raised more than £1,000 to bring him home.

Cookstown man Stanley Currie was found lying under a tree on Monday after flying from Dublin to Johannesburg on December 28 to meet a woman he'd befriended online.

The 66-year-old's family - who initially believed he had been "mugged of all his belongings, passport and money" - started a crowdfunding campaign and raised £1,249 for his safe return.

It is believed that he will travel back to his home town today where he will be reunited with family and friends, who grew concerned for his safety following his sudden departure late last year.

After not hearing from him for over a week, his brother Richard posted a plea for help on the South African Community Crime Watch (SACCW) Facebook page, and said Stanley had gone to meet a mystery woman in Johannesburg.

"He boarded a flight to Johannesburg on a one-way ticket to meet this person," Richard said.

"He hadn't booked any accommodation over there, and was carrying a large amount of cash.

"He suffers from depression and has got heart and health problems.

"Numerous attempts have been made by myself and his family to contact him, but his phone has been turned off since Sunday night.

"We are now getting very concerned about him."

The Currie family also issued a plea for "any help at all" on their JustGiving page and thanked those who had contributed to their campaign for Stanley.

"We need to put Stanley up in a hotel until his emergency passport can be arranged and we can get him home as soon as possible," they wrote.

"He has been walking the streets of South Africa for a week, with no food or water, and is currently receiving medical care."

By Monday night Mr Currie had been found lying under a tree in Hurlyvale Avenue, Edenvale, after a woman from a dog parlour recognised him from a missing person alert poster that was circulating. Stephen King, who heads up the SACCW, said it has since been established that Mr Currie was not robbed, but had placed his bag somewhere for safe-keeping and could not find it.

"He still had his wallet with him, but had no more money left from paying his accommodation since his arrival in South Africa," Mr King said.

His brother later thanked the SACCW for driving the campaign to find his brother.

"You are an awesome group, you should be so proud of the work you all do helping complete strangers. Thank you," said Richard.

When Mr Currie was found "he was a bit beaten up by the sun" and he was taken for medical observation "as a precautionary measure", according to the police.

His son Mark expressed gratitude on social media for the help they had received.

"Dad has been found... thanks for all the shares and help... no other info at the minute apart from he's in a medical centre getting fixed up," he wrote.

There was no further details of the mystery woman he had travelled out to meet.

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