Friday 6 December 2019

'I'll never forget that phone call' - sister of man missing for 11 days reveals struggle to hold on to hope

Michael Cullen
Michael Cullen

Clare McNeilly

The worried sister of a Belfast man who has been missing for 11 days has told of her family's desperate struggle to remain optimistic as the search intensifies.

Michael Cullen (33), an Ulster University employee from the North Circular Road area of north Belfast, was last in contact with loved ones shortly after 2pm on Tuesday, January 9.

In the days since he disappeared, teams of volunteers, family members and friends have continued to search Cave Hill, where he was last seen by a neighbour, as well as the surrounding area and beyond.

The PSNI is understood to have launched a major investigation, involving a helicopter, drones and police dogs to date, but as yet there have been no confirmed sightings of the beatbox performer. Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, his brave sister Cathy (34) said she found her eldest brother's disappearance "surreal", and she renewed her appeal for CCTV and dashcam footage taken that Tuesday.

"Everyone in the family is holding it together," she said.

"The only way we can find Michael is if we stay strong and positive, but I have to admit that each of us have had our ups and downs.

"Our wider family have been looking after us and taking care of us; they've been so good and we're so grateful for their support."

She added: "It's still surreal...but we are making our best efforts to find Michael."

Cathy, who works in England, told how news of her brother's disappearance came as a total shock to their close-knit family - her dad Kevin (67), Mum Rosemarie (62), and her brothers Daniel (31) and 21-year-old Colm - and to Michael's friends.

"I'll never forget getting that phone call to tell me he was missing," she said.

"I'd just flown back to London on December 30. I couldn't believe it. Michael and I had spent a lot of time together when I was back home over Christmas.

"He was feeling a bit low but it was nothing that would've worried me.

"It's completely out of character for him to have disappeared like this."

She said the "amazing" volunteers from the community search and rescue team are continuing to look for Michael from early morning until late at night.

"It's a major investigation so the police are putting more time and resources into it," Cathy added.

"We've had reported sightings but unfortunately none of them have been Michael.

"I want to appeal to people to take time and think. Someone must have passed him with a dashcam.

"A taxi driver may have seen him - it's not impossible that he got into a taxi.

"He was last seen going up Cave Hill but we have no idea where he went after that. There are no sightings after that. It's really strange.

Michael, who is 5ft 11in with dark hair and a beard, was wearing a green puffa jacket, grey jumper and black trousers before he went missing.

Belfast Telegraph

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