‘One in a million chance sighting of missing Nollaig was the answer to our prayers’

Bernard O'Connor

PRAYERS… Bernard O’Connor with a photograph of his daughter Nollaig who was found alive in Murcia last week.

LAST weekend is one that the O’Connors of Enniskillen, Bernard and Patricia (Pat), and their family will never forget.

It marked the discovery and the ‘return’ of their daughter and sister, Nollaig (38) who went missing in May last year and was found on Friday last, as a result of a chance in a million sighting, in southern Spain by childhood friend, Nicky Cassidy.


Mr Cassidy, who owns the Westville Hotel in Enniskillen, had just landed in Murcia with his wife, Tara when he spotted Nollaig sleeping under a tree.

Nollaig’s father took up the story: “They were walking down the street, and Nicky said to his wife, ‘that’s Nollaig O’Connor’ and she said, ‘it couldn’t be’.

“Nicky walked over to the tree and said her name and Nollaig sat up and recognised him straightaway. They went over and talked to her and managed to coax her into having a cup of coffee in a nearby cafe.

“Then, they were able to persuade her to come back to their villa and, the whole time, they were in contact with the family.”

Speaking to the Herald this week, Mr O’Connor was still clearly traumatised by the events of last weekend.

“It was a complete answer to prayer, the way it all happened, and the timing of it was great because her lifeline – the violin she used for busking and her passport and ATM card – had all gone. They had been stolen in Rome.

“It meant she had nothing left, leaving her with a big struggle to survive, apart from charity hand-outs. So, we can’t thank Nicky and Tara Cassidy enough.


“If she had to get the perfect couple to be found by, they were that couple because they were very gentle towards her.”

Mr O’Connor said he and his wife appreciated the cooperation of the staff of a local travel agency for inserting ‘a missing person’ alert leaflet for Nollaig in their customers’ travel documents for abroad.

“They were a good reminder to people going out to be on the look-out for her.”

He recalled how, having tracked his daughter to a house in Cornwall and spoken to the family Nollaig had stayed with, the trail then went cold.

“The family didn’t come back full of hope. That was last July. I have talked to Nollaig a little about this. She went across from Plymouth to Brittany, then across northern France into Switzerland and Germany and, from there, into northern Italy and down into Rome.”

But, out of it all, he hopes that Nollaig’s safe return will give hope to countless families in Ireland and the UK who find themselves in a similar dilemma.

“Unfortunately, she’s not the only one that disappears, and that’s one of those things we have discovered in this whole process. The list of missing persons here and in the UK is amazing.

“One man informed me that his daughter had turned up after seven years missing.

“There was no family row, they hadn’t done anything to her. I know Nollaig is 38, but there’s no age barrier to going missing.”

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