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Missing man returns thanks to travellers

Website: Northampton Chronicle and Echo
Date: 02/08/2006
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A VULNERABLE man with learning difficulties, who went missing almost five weeks ago, has safely returned home to Northampton after being helped out by a group of Irish travellers.

The parents of 22-year-old man were reunited with their son on Tuesday night following a poster campaign in the north west.

The Man, who has the mental age of a 15-year-old, went missing on June 29 while camping in Snowdonia with friends from the Northamptonshire-based Jesus Army.

When he became isolated from the group the man tried to hitchhike back to Northampton but only made it as far as St Helens in Lancashire.

He was then taken in by travellers who gave him a job laying paving plus food and board.

His father, from Bugbrooke, said the whole family and village were relieved at his safe return. He said: "Everyone has been asking us whether he is still missing and if they can help. He is well known in the village."

And he was pleased that the travellers had taken good care of his son.

He added: "He hadn't eaten for two days and the travellers took pity on him. He was with them for two weeks and then one of them saw a missing poster of Jthe man and told him to ring us, so he did. They then dropped him off at the police station and I went up and picked him up."

Police launched a widespread poster campaign in the north west after the man was spotted at a service station in Chester in early July. He then hitchhiked across to St Helens but was unable to get a lift going south to Northampton.

Yesterday the man told the Chronicle & Echo that he was glad to be home.

He also explained what happened at the campsite. He said: "I walked off. I thought they were going to come looking for me, but I didn't know when. I have been alright. I got a job block paving."

The man's father still claims the Jesus Army did not try to find his son and is angry that they did not contact him when he went missing. He said: "I hope they have learned a lesson from this."

But he said it was up to the man to decide if he wanted to return to the Jesus Centre in Abington Square, Northampton.

A spokesman for the Jesus Army has always insisted that they did not abandon the man and they were unaware of the extent of his learning difficulties.