A police investigation is underway in Donegal after missing American tourist Kelly Jones turned up in a house just 300 yards from the headquarters of the search team looking for her.
Officers are baffled as to how the 41-year-old Jones was discovered safe and well inside in a locked house currently under renovation five days after she went missing.
The Irish Independent reports that the grounds around the house had been searched at least twice since hill walking enthusiast Jones went missing after leaving a local hostel on Saturday.
Jones was airlifted to Sligo General Hospital on Wednesday where she is currently recovering from the affects of hypothermia after she was spotted inside the building by farmer Michael O’Gara.
Local police officer Odhran McBride and a colleague then located Jones inside the building known locally as the Old Rectory,
She was weak and disorientated and had difficulty recalling how she came to be in the house when the officers rescued her.
Police are not trying to ascertain if she was in the unoccupied building, currently under renovation, in the village of Glencolmcille of her own free will.
Search teams had reported the building as secure and locked on two visits before O’Gara spotted Jones through a window.
“I was with a female volunteer and we found her inside the old rectory,” officer McBride told the Irish Independent.
“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.
American tourist ‘vanishes into thin air’ on Donegal mountains
“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. So to find her alive was fantastic for everyone.”
O’Gara, a local farmer, told the paper that he had spotted Jones ‘walking from room to room and clearly distressed’ when he looked through a window at the building on Wednesday afternoon.
“I just happened to take a look in and saw the lady moving about from room to room,” said O’Gara.
“It is utter relief for everyone around here that she is alive,” he said.
Jones’ father Ricky, due in arrive in Ireland from Georgia on Thursday, was said to be ‘overwhelmed’ when informed his daughter had been found safe and well.
Rescue teams and police are baffled as to how Jones ended up in the Old Rectory, so close to the centre of their search efforts.
“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 local volunteer.
Donegal Rescue Services spokesman Brian Murray admitted that the successful end to the search was unusual.
“Outcomes like this are very rare,” said 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.”
GAA club chairman 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.”