Relief and sadness greeted news that the body of Norman Prentice was found in Portadown and his family are extremely grateful to all who helped search for him.
Two and a half weeks of agony had ended and the 55-year-old will be returning to his family in Ballyoran Park this evening (Monday).
Mr Prentice went missing on January 15 and after extensive searches his body was discovered on Saturday in the Corcrain River.
His sister Eileen said that while the last few weeks have been difficult the three and a half hours waiting beside the river before Norman’s body was retrieved ‘felt like weeks’.
“It was a relief to us to know where he was and that he was coming home. We were glad all the searching was over and we knew where he was,” she said.
Widely regarded as a fun-loving character, Norman was well known in the Co Armagh town.
Full of humour and craic, Norman was a handsome man who had the gift of the gab and was very entertaining. He loved the company of women and was described as charming.
His sister Eileen said: “Once met, never forgotten.”
However despite his outgoing nature, Norman was also a very private person .
Born in Lurgan hospital in August 55 years ago, Norman was the son of John and the late Marie Prentice and he had two sisters Eileen and Marion.
He was a pupil at the Christian Brothers Primary School and then St Malachy’s in Portadown.
He was a father of four children John, Peter, Maria and Conlon whom he adored and who adored him.
He started work in The Metal Box in Portadown, known as Kingspan and was also a shop steward in those days. He spent 14 years with the firm before taking early retirement.
When asking to describe Norman most people said he was ‘a real character’ full of fun and the life and soul of the party.
Eileen said: “He was a great handy man. And he was great at painting and decorating - a perfectionist who was taught well by his father. He would have done anything for you. He was a kindly sort of man who was also very good to his neighbours.”
Norman’s father John said: “He was a great fellow. He was very sociable and charming.”
The family want to express their sincere thanks to the Lough Neagh Rescue, all those who went out searching, the police, friends and family plus the whole community who have helped them.
Eileen said: “We will be bringing him home and we want to thank everyone who helped to bring him home.
Mr Prentice’s remains will be returning to his father’s home at 211 Ballyoran Park, Portadown tonight. His remains will be moved to St John’s Chapel tomorrow (Tuesday). Requiem Mass will be said for Mr Prentice at 11am at St John The Baptist Church with interment after at Lilo Cemetery.
Sinn Féin Councillor Paul Duffy, who helped with search parties in the days after Norman’s disappearance said: “I want to extend my sincere sympathies, and that of my party, to Norman’s family - a traumatic journey for them which has ended in the most tragic of circumstances.
“In the days and weeks ahead I hope their calls for privacy continue to be respected.
“I would also like to thank everyone who helped search for Norman be it through social media, during our community search, checking out buildings and looking through dash cam footage.
“My thoughts at this time are with Norman’s family who are relieved he is coming home but have a long road ahead.”
SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly has said her thoughts are with Mr Prentice’s family and that the community was “united in grief” after weeks of searching for Norman.
Mrs Kelly said: “It is a tragedy that today police have confirmed that a body they discovered in the People’s Park in Portadown belongs to Norman Prentice. My heartfelt condolences go out to the family and loved ones of Norman Prentice.
“Mr Prentice was reported missing at the beginning of January and ever since this community has pulled together to search for this missing man. Today we all stand united in grief.
“I cannot imagine the pain Mr Prentice’s family are going through at this time, but I want them to know they are in our thoughts and in our prayers at this very difficult time.”