Search for NI man missing in Israel hits ‘brick wall’

Oliver McAfee was last seen in Israel in November
Oliver McAfee was last seen in Israel in November

The family of a Co Down man who has been missing in Israel since last year say they have hit a brick wall in their investigations to find him.

Oliver McAfee, a gardener who was originally from Dromore but who lives in Chelmsford in Essex, was last seen in November when cycling on the Israel National Trail.

In February his brother Matt and uncle Clive travelled to Israel to search for him.

In recent days supporters posted an update on their campaign Facebook site.

“Sorry for the lack of updates,” they said. “Unfortunately this is a reflection of the circumstances that we face. We have no further information nor leads on what has happened to Oliver or his current whereabouts.

“We are seeking to obtain accurate details of his phone usage, but as yet are no wiser. As far as the physical search is concerned, this has come to a standstill for the time being.

They added: “We are somewhat overwhelmed and frustrated as we have come up against a brick wall; we are at a complete loss as to how to proceed. We remain hopeful and continue to pray that Oliver will return to us.”

Oliver’s sister-in-law Angela McAfee told the News Letter more information about his mobile phone. “We have seen some information regarding his phone usage, however we are hoping to obtain more detailed and accurate information,” she said.

“We don’t anticipate a lot of information as it’s likely that Oliver removed the battery from his phone for the majority of his travelling to conserve the battery.”

In February when Matt returned from Israel he said that seeing the country had been helpful.

“Unfortunately what has happened to Oliver remains a mystery,” he said.

“The last photograph on his camera was taken at the Tsihor Junction on 19th November; his belongings were then found approximately 60km north of here, the first bag being spotted on 20th November. We are led to believe that Oliver was indeed here, however we can’t be 100% sure – there is no confirmed sightings etc.”

There had been speculation that Oliver, a devout Christian, may have suffered from Jerusalem Syndrome, which sees tourists mentally overwhelmed by the religious significance of their surroundings. However, his family firmly dismissed this speculation.

“We could go through Oliver’s photographs and notebooks but don’t believe this will help a great deal as we are confident that he was of sound mind.

“What has happened to Oliver between 19th and 20th November somewhere between Tsihor Junction and Mitzpe Ramon area happened suddenly. We will continue to explore ways we can continue our search for Oliver.”