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By Liam Horan and Anne-Marie Walsh

Fourteen years after Mary’s husband vanished, he catches her eye.

FOURTEEN years, hours of crying and one book after her husband walked out on her, Mary Monaghan never expected to see him again. But the unbelievable happened when he caught her eye on the other side of the world last Saturday. The stunned author spotted the man who had walked out on her in South Africa in 1993 sauntering down a street in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal.

Speaking last night she said she was speechless when she saw John, now aged 44, for the first time since he told her he was going on a backpacking holiday at the age of 29. The couple had last seen each other when they were eight years married and living in Johannesburg. Mary, whose parents came from Ballinrobe in Mayo, and John had met in an Irish club in Cricklewood in London and had emigrated to South Africa. Then one day he announced he was taking three months out to backpack in Australia. But he never came back.

She managed to get a divorce in 1997 after notifications were advertised in Australian newspapers. They had not set eyes on one another until last weekend when Mary was dropping copies of her book about her desperate search for the man she loved at a Donegal bookshop. “It was almost like seeing a ghost. I was expecting to meet John’s aunt Elizabeth Coe, with whom I am in regular touch, but as I was walking towards her on the street, I saw this man getting out of another car, and realised it was John. I couldn’t believe it. “I didn’t say a lot initially – it was like a stunned silence – but his aunt was there and she said maybe we should have something to drink in the local hotel.

“He said he meant to come back to me but things got easier where he was and he was stressed out in Johannesburg. We were in a lot of debt. “We planned to sell up and buy a smaller house but the banks took most of the money from the older one. “We talked for over two hours. It was weird. John told me he was ashamed of what he had done. He has been living in Australia, but his relationship with the woman he was living with is over. “John told me he hasn’t read the book yet, but intends to. He has heard quite a lot about it. He is in Donegal holidaying with his family before returning to Australia. I’m not sure if he was as surprised as I was. He may have heard on the grapevine that I would be in town. I think he felt guilty. We agreed to stay in touch.”

For years, all she got was a birthday card from her ex-husband, who said he planned to come home. They had spoken just once since his disappearance. There was a phone call in 1998 when he apologised for what he did and explained he was stressed and wanted to start a new life. Mary said she thinks he was just “burnt out” but there was the added complication that he had met another woman, who had moved in with him Down Under. John had a child with the other woman, although they later split up.

Mary said she bears no ill will towards the other woman as she does not believe she knew she existed, and still insists that her relationship with John had been good. Her tale of how she spent years trying to locate her missing husband created a stir when it was published in South Africa last year. ‘Remember Me?’ deals with the difficulties she experienced as she realised he was not returning. Despite the couple’s amicable meeting, they have no plans for a reunion . . .

16 July 2007

By Liam Horan

A WANDERING Irishman who vanished without a trace 14 years ago has had an emotional reunion with his wife. John Monaghan told his partner Mary he was just going on a three-month trip to Australia in 1993. But she only set eyes on him for the first time last weekend in a shock reunion in Co Donegal. The mystery surrounding John’s disappearance prompted Mary to write a book about her quest to find him called Remember Me? which was published a few weeks ago.

She said: “In 1993, we were looking forward to buying and renovating a new house together. “But first John felt he needed some ‘time out’ before sorting out his business issues and he booked a three-month backpacking holiday in Australia. But he never came back.” The couple were married for seven years and were living in Johannesburg, South Africa, before he went AWOL. Since his disappearance Mary, 50, discovered John had been involved with at least two other women before he walked out on her.

The book has been selling well in Ireland and has also caused a stir in South Africa where she still lives. Mary, who was born in England to Co Mayo parents, was delivering copies of the book to a shop in Ballyshannon last Saturday when she met John. She explained: “I was expecting to meet John’s aunt Elizabeth with whom I am in regular touch. “But as I was walking towards her, I saw this man getting out of another car and realised it was John.

“We talked for over two hours. It was weird. John told me he was ashamed of what he had done. “He has been living in Australia though his relationship with the woman he was living with there is now over. “There was no rancour or bitterness between us, no confrontation.” At the end of the meeting they shook hands and agreed to stay in touch. Mary said John, who is in Donegal holidaying with his family before he returns to Australia, “has heard quite a lot about” the book.

Neither are in a current relationship but Mary isn’t keen on a reunion. She added: “We could never get together again. Too much water has passed under the bridge.” In her book, Mary tells how she traced John to Sydney with the help of Interpol and private detectives and did speak to him briefly on the phone in 1998. When he answered Mary said: “Remember me? This is a voice from your past.” But the line was disconnected before they could continue their conversation.

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© Copyright 2007 MGN Ltd. All Rights Reserved

The Mirror, 3 July 2007
Eire Edition

By Fiona Hudson

FOR 14 years, South African resident Mary Monaghan hunted her vanished husband around the world, aided by private detectives and even Interpol. A chance meeting on a trip to Ireland this month has finally flushed out her missing partner John and solved the mystery – he’s been living in Sydney and Queensland.

Mrs Monaghan, 50, was delivering copies of her recently published book Remember Me?, about her efforts to find her husband, when she spotted her former partner getting out of a car. They had an emotional, two-hour reunion in a nearby pub, assisted by several glasses of wine to overcome their shock. Industrial paint specialist John, 44, told his wife he was on holiday from Queensland to visit relatives in Ireland.

Irish-born Mrs Monaghan, 50, had arranged to meet John’s aunt for a drink that afternoon but the meeting with her estranged husband was entirely coincidental, she said. “It was obviously meant to happen,” she said yesterday from South Africa. “It’s bizarre that I was in Ireland because of the book, and that was the catalyst for bringing us back together when we live on opposite sides of the planet. “I knew one day it was going to happen, that I would meet him. In the end it was quite emotional and upsetting, I wasn’t ready for it. It was quite difficult.”

Her book tells the story of the years spent looking for her missing husband. John disappeared from their home in Johannesburg after telling his partner he was going on a three-month backpacking trip to Australia in 1993. When his return flight arrived home without him, she spent thousands of dollars on private investigators. She claims they tracked him, using credit card transaction records, to a love-nest he shared with another woman in Sydney in 1998.

She rang and had a brief phone conversation and managed to say, “Remember me? This is a voice from your past” before the line went dead. Desperate for answers, she rang back but a woman answered. She did not hear her husband’s voice again until their Ireland meeting this month. Her husband had heard of her self-published memoir via relatives. “He said I’d been nice to him in the book,” she said. “He’s obviously heard about it through friends and family. It wasn’t written to be vindictive or to get revenge. I tried to be positive and forgiving.” She didn’t bother to give him a copy.

Neither are in a relationship, but Mary considers a reunion unlikely. “Too much has happened,” she said. “We will stay in contact I hope.” Mrs Monaghan plans to one day visit Australia. She has several visas in her passport but has never used them. “I was always ready to hop on a plane should he be found,” she said.
14 July 2007
© Queensland Newspapers

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