Belfast Telegraph

Oliver McAfee: Israel police believe missing Northern Ireland man is 'still alive'

A Northern Ireland man who is missing in the southern Israeli desert is believed to be still alive, according to Israeli police and rescue teams.

Oliver McAfee, who was described as a "real free spirit" by friends, was last seen near the desert town of Mitzpah Ramon on November 21, seven months after he gave up his job to cycle across Europe.

Initially it was presumed that the 29-year-old had simply got lost on the trail but his tablet computer, wallet and keys were found by hikers.

Fears soon rose after a series of bizarre discoveries were made near where Mr McAfee had been travelling.

Search teams uncovered a rough hewn 'chapel' made from stones which was apparently left by Mr McAfee, leading search teams to suspect he was suffering from psychotic delusions known as "Jerusalem Syndrome."

An Israel police spokesperson told the BBC that the search was continuing.

They said: "If he is still alive and we believe he is still alive, he hopefully could be out somewhere camping, drinking and possibly eating from other sources."

"We know he was cycling from the north towards the south of Israel.

"We know he was in Jerusalem and slept out in different areas - he didn't go from hotel to hotel."

The spokesperson added: "There was also a number of pieces of paper with words written from the bible in his handwriting.

"So we know down in the south was where he was last walking around."

A Foreign Office spokesman in London said its staff were assisting the family and were in contact with the authorities in Israel.

It's believed the Foreign Office has been liaising with specialist desert search teams.

A Facebook page has been set up by Oliver's family and friends to help locate him.

Friends have spoken online of their optimism about receiving good news about Mr McAfee.

The fact that his passport hasn't turned up yet has given them hope and they know he has not left Israel, because officials say his passport has not crossed a border.

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