Family’s heartfelt plea: ‘We just want Alex home’

Kathy Harbinson, pictured with a photograph of her step father, Alex McKee, who has been missing since December 23rd. (2712SL22)

Kathy Harbinson, pictured with a photograph of her step father, Alex McKee, who has been missing since December 23rd. (2712SL22)

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The family of a “much loved” Limavady man have made a heartfelt appeal for information about the whereabouts of their “kind and generous” stepfather who has been missing since Sunday.

Alexander McKee, aged 56 and known to family and friends as “Alex”, was last seen leaving the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine on Sunday, December 23 just before 10am. CCTV footage showed Alex walking out of the hospital, with nothing but the clothes he was wearing.

“We’re hoping he tried to get home, or maybe he got a lift with someone,” Kathy Harbinson said today, just before a search of Limavady began. “If we knew did he turn left or right when he came out of the hospital, but it’s the not knowing is the worst. It’s absolutely terrible.”

Alex had been in hospital since last Thursday and was on heavy medication, but the family had hoped he would be discharged on Sunday. When Kathy’s mum, Mary B. Harbinson rang to check on Alex on Sunday the family subsequently discovered he had left the hospital.

When they hadn’t heard from him later that day, they became increasingly worried.

“It’s unusual for Alex not to ring us,” said Kathy. “It’s unfortunate too, because he had his mobile phone but it wasn’t charged. It’s absolutely terrible. This is the first Christmas in 26 years we’ve been without him.”

Since Sunday, Kathy and her family, and people from outside the family circle, have searched the grounds of Coleraine hospital, Coleraine town itself and the wider Port area. Police have also been searching, via helicopter and with dogs in a specialised team on the ground, and along the River Bann.

Today, as police searched the Coleraine area, Kathy, family and friends handed out hundreds of posters in Limavady appealing for information about Alex.

“Alex is a much loved man, very witty and very generous. He wouldn’t harm a being. I’ve never heard him say a bad word about anybody. He is such a gentle, fragile being. Alex is just a lovely wee man, and we want to get him home,” said Kathy.

When Alex left the hospital he was wearing a navy black coat, dark blue jeans, a dark polo shirt and dark velcro trainers. He is about six-foot-tall, slightly stooped and very thin. He has red thinning hair, and a red moustache and, according to Kathy, when Alex left the hospital he would have been unshaven.

“He also has a scar on his forehead and was wearing a gold buckle ring. Other than maybe a couple of coins, as far as we are concerned, he wouldn’t have had much money with him,” said Kathy.

“We’re hoping that somebody saw him. Somebody must have seen him or, if they think they saw a man matching Alex’s description, we would appeal for them to contact their local police.”

Kathy says the family remain hopeful Alex will come home, safe and well, but says the last few days have been a blur.

“You see it on TV, but you never think it could happen to you,” she said. “We have hope and, at this stage, we are hoping maybe he met someone who was going to Derry and, Alex being the type of person he is - not wanting to put them out of their way - he got them to drop him off on the (Limavady) bypass, so maybe the danger is closer to home,” said Kathy.

“Loads of people have been helping, and they’ve been brilliant. We want to bring Alex home. We don’t want to think of anything bad happening to him. He is such a loved man, in our family and in the community.”