The 49-year-old had left his home a couple of months earlier for an extended break but hadn’t informed his friends. Police were contacted and officers broke into his home, but couldn’t find any evidence of his whereabouts. Then last week, friends of the man felt their fears had been confirmed when a family announcement was made in the local evening newspaper. By coincidence, it announced the death of another Michael O’Neill from Middlesbrough.
Both men were of almost the same age – the late Mr O’Neill was 50 – and both have brothers named Kevin and Terry.
Mr O’Neill from Coulby Newham, Middlesborough said: “I went out on June 2 to stay with a friend and when I got back last Monday I found my door had been smashed in!” said Mr O’Neill.
“My neighbours thought I had died so they got in touch with police who came and broke the door down.
“The police were watching the flat but then one of the neighbours received a postcard from me and said ‘So that’s where he is!’.”
But Mr O’Neill said many of his friends are still mistaking him for a ghost!
“Everywhere I am going, people I know are grabbing hold of my hand, saying ‘I thought you were dead!’
“They can’t believe it’s me and I’m still alive. I’m a nervous wreck because everywhere I go people keep grabbing me!”
Mr O’Neill said he made the decision to visit Australia last minute and it slipped his mind to inform his neighbours.