When a person is listed as ‘missing’ it leaves their family with lots of unanswered questions.
Pete Oliver – the brother of Geoff Oliver, a biologist living on Cape Clear Island – has been missing from Skibbereen since December 14th last year.
Geoff has spoken to The Southern Star of his underlying fear that Pete may be dead, but he said it is ‘the hope that he is alive’ that keeps him searching.
Within days of Pete’s disappearance, Geoff and Pete’s friends began posting on Twitter and Facebook asking people if they knew of Pete’s whereabouts.
He had been last seen leaving a pub in Skibbereen on Friday evening with three bags on his arm.
For a long time Geoff and his friends heard nothing so they stepped up their campaign and asked the gardaí to issue a nationwide missing person appeal.
That appeal was circulated on January 17th with gardaí describing the 56-year-old as 5’7”, of medium build with grey hair and brown eyes.
On January 23rd, Geoff heard of a possible sighting at Lidl in Bantry, the previous Saturday, on January 19th.
Waiting for the video footage to be fully analysed, Geoff has instructed a solicitor’s help.
Outlining how both men, who are originally from Devon, came to live in Ireland, Geoff said it was his interest in birdwatching that originally brought him to Cape Clear for the first time in 1965.
In between travelling, attending university in England and in Dublin, Geoff kept returning to West Cork, Skibbereen town, and Cape Clear, until 2010 when he built a house on the island.
He said his younger brother followed him to West Cork and it was through the contacts that Pete made on Cape Clear that he found work in Kenya caring for injured birds of prey.
In 2015, Pete married his Tanzanian girlfriend, Fabi, and they had a child, Violet, that was named after Pete’s mother. However, his health and his circumstances deteriorated through alcohol abuse, and his wife and child left.
Geoff said Pete had also got into trouble in Tanzania and that by the time he arrived back in Ireland he was ‘homeless, destitute and sick.’
Geoff, who travels a lot for his work as a geologist, said Pete could have gone to the Simon Community, but didn’t.
Locally, the owner of a shop – The Mardyke Magpie at Mardyke Street in Skibbereen – provided him with work and companionship, as well as shelter in the form of a bivouac camp, which was located behind Abbeystrewry Graveyard just outside of the town. Pete had lived there, incident free, for some time.
Pete’s last movements saw him leave the shop between 4pm and 5pm and have a drink with some friends in The Horse and Hound pub in Townshend Street before calling into The Corner Bar, but he was seen leaving there at around 7pm.
Geoff said he had three bags with him at the time: one was a bag of clean clothes, the other was a bag of groceries, and the third a portable bag of coal.
‘It looked like he was leaving the pub to go home, light the fire and have something to eat,’ said Geoff, who admits he is mystified that there hasn’t been sight or sound of Pete since then.
Pete Oliver’s last steps were retraced by Civil Defence teams in Skibbereen on the afternoons of Sunday, January 20th and Sunday, January 27th.
West Cork Civil Defence officer Niall Twomey confirmed that 22 members of the Civil Defence team went out on the first occasion, searching the riverbank from Kennedy Bridge to the New Bridge on Schull Road from 12.30pm until 4.30pm.
On the second Sunday, a team of 20 people searched the Ilen River from Kennedy Bridge to Inishbeg.
On both occasions, there were, in addition to the ground search teams, drone teams from West Cork and South Cork Civil Defence, as well as boat crews.
Members of Skibbereen gardaí were also involved in searches. Both searches proved to be inconclusive, but gardaí say their investigation is ongoing.
Pete was not without his problems, but Geoff said: ‘He is very affable … a nice guy.’ Locally, people share Geoff’s care and concern and, so far, the appeal has been shared almost 500 times on Facebook.
Geoff said: ‘Pete was of no fixed abode. He did have a history of alcohol abuse, and a history of disappearing, but it is very unusual that he would just disappear with no trace.
‘It is possible that he does not want to be found, but I don’t believe this. He may be dead. The whole situation is sad. It would be a relief to know what happened.’
Gardaí have called on anyone with information to contact their local garda station or the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111.