Tuesday 24 April 2018

Mystery of tourist Kelly’s four lost days in Donegal

American tourist Kelly Jones is airlifted to safety in Glencolmcille, Co Donegal, yesterday
Fears had been growing for the safety of Kelly Jones
The Old Rectory in Glencolmcille where Ms Jones was found

Greg Harkin

GARDAI were today trying to piece together the four lost days of American tourist Kelly Jones (41) whose disappearance sparked a massive search in Donegal.

The Irish Independent has learned that the grounds around the building where she was discovered at lunchtime yesterday had been searched at least twice since Saturday -- and the building is just 300 metres from the search team headquarters in south-west Donegal.

Now investigating officers are trying to establish if Ms Jones was in the building -- known locally as the Old Rectory -- in Glencolmcille of her own free will.

When interviewed Ms Jones, who was weak and disorientated with some grazes, had difficulty recalling how she came to be in the house.

The builiding has furniture, bedding and running water, but there was no food there.

The premises are currently unoccupied, but are in the last stages of an extensive renovation.

A distressed and disorientated Ms Jones was airlifted to Sligo General Hospital shortly after she was located by local garda Odhran McBride. She is said to be in a stable condition, and will be interviewed by gardai later today if she is well enough.

It is understood that search teams reported the building had been secure and locked during two previous searches.

"I was with a female volunteer and we found her inside the old rectory," Gda McBride explained to the Irish Independent last night.

"Kelly was in a very distressed state, she was disorientated and very weak.

"My first thought was utter relief that she was alive, quickly followed by just wanting to get her help and medical attention.


"There were hundreds of volunteers from three counties, from the mountain rescue teams to the hill walking clubs and the local GAA club, who had spent five days looking for her and things were not looking good," he continued.

"So to find her alive was fantastic for everyone."

Her father Ricky, due to arrive in Ireland from Georgia early tomorrow, was said to be "overwhelmed" when gardai broke the news to him.

Local farmer Micheal O'Gara had earlier spotted Ms Jones inside the building "walking from room to room and clearly distressed".

The doors to the premises were locked.

"I just happened to take a look in and saw the lady moving about from room to room," said Mr O'Gara.

"It is utter relief for everyone around here that she is alive," he said.

How Ms Jones came to be inside a building just yards from the last confirmed sighting of her last Saturday evening is now the focus of the garda investigation.

The building overlooks the Naomh Columba GAA club on the outskirts of the village.

The old stone building has had a new roof and windows and is almost finished. It is said to be owned by holidaymakers from the North.

Volunteers from the Donegal Mountain Rescue team had searched the grounds around the rectory on two separate occasions.

The doors and windows were secured on those occasions and there was nothing that would give rise to any suspicions, explained spokesman Brian Murray.

"We don't know if Kelly has been there since Saturday or had moved there of her own free will or by someone else in the past 36 hours and until we speak with her and she has recovered, we are keeping an open mind," said one source.

Those who had supported and taken part in the massive search and rescue operation were just delighted that she was alive.

"Outcomes like this are very rare," said Mr Murray.

"Our job was to find her and we did that and the fact she is alive is just fantastic. We all wish her a speedy recovery," he added.

The chairman of the local GAA club Denis Ennis told the Irish Independent: "The effort has been incredible and we were happy to offer our facilities to the teams looking for this poor woman.

"As time wore on, we thought she'd never be found alive. The fact she is alive has lifted the whole area."

Irish Independent

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