A Portadown man has described how he and his pet dog found a missing hospital patient who was twice the subject of major search operations.
A search in Portadown on Saturday, involving the PSNI helicopter and community search and rescue teams, had failed to find William McConnell (58) who had gone missing from the Bluestone Unit on Friday.
And it was only thanks to William McClatchey’s pet dog Zena that the missing man was recovered from horrendous conditions in a ditch off the Killicomaine Road.
Mr McClatchey was walking Zena around 7.30pm on Saturday when the dog became extremely animated.
“I went out for a walk, I was coming along Tech Lane and the dog started going mad,” said Mr McClatchey. “I walked down a bit more and the next thing the dog rushed into the bushes and down into where the drop was. The wee man, who I now know to be William McConnell, was there and he was tangled up in the brambles.
“As I started to try and get him out the rats were everywhere, and the smell was absolutely stinking. I managed to get him out and after that I waited with him for about 30 minutes before the police came.”
Mr McMcClatchey revealed that Mr McConnell had earlier been hiding out around 60 feet away in an attempt to avoid the police helicopter.
“He informed me that he had another dig-out. We went over to it and that’s where he had avoided the helicopters,” he continued. “He was very distressed, he seemed to know quite a lot about survival, but he was in a bad state of mind. I’m glad the dog was with me, the dog calmed him down a bit.
“He was tangled in the brambles and the rats were running past him. He was talking about his family and how he missed them. I got him calmed down and I asked him, ‘Can I help you, could I phone the police’ and= he said, ‘Yes, go ahead young lad’.”
Mr McClatchey had been completely unaware of the police search operation, but his wife was able to confirm it when he telephoned home.
“I phoned my wife and she had read about someone missing on Facebook, and I said, ‘Chantelle, could you phone the police as well’.”
Around 24 hours later Mr McConnell left the Bluestone Unit again. He was found on Monday night.
Mr McClatchey added, “The police officer had said to me that he scaled a seven-foot high fence which I find hard to believe because he could barely walk 15-20 feet before he had to sit down. But 20 minutes before that he told me he was hanging upside down in the bush because he said he had a bad back.
“I’m glad I found him and he’s back.”