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Fears over British man lost in Israel's Negev desert with 'Jerusalem syndrome'

Oliver McAfee is understood to have a condition whose sufferers believe they are a figure from the Bible

    Oliver McAfee
    Oliver McAfee (Picture: Facebook)

    Israeli authorities are searching the Negev desert for a missing British man they fear is suffering from Jerusalem syndrome – a condition whose sufferers believe they are prophets or other biblical figures.

    Oliver McAfee, a devout Christian, was last seen on November 21 while cycling near the southern Israeli town of Mitzpe Ramon.

    His wallet, keys and computer tablet were discovered earlier this month, the Telegraph reported, and his bicycle, bags and shoes were found separately.

    An Israeli search team also came across a series of pages ripped from the Bible weighed down with rocks in the area where the 29-year-old was last seen.

    Other handwritten notes were also found, including Bible verses and references to the story of Jesus fasting in the desert, as well as a “chapel” – a flattened area of sand within a circle of stones.

    Mr McAfee, a gardener originally from County Down, in Northern Ireland, but now living in Essex, had reportedly planned to return to the UK on December 1.

    A Facebook group set up by Mr McAfee’s friends and family reported: “As of yet, Ollie and his passport have not been located, despite an extensive search by Israeli authorities and Search and Rescue teams.

    “The Israeli authorities are now working with Interpol and the UKFO to try and locate Ollie, and have started a media campaign in Israel to try and find him.”

    Jerusalem syndrome is a group of mental phenomena involving the presence of religiously-themed obsessive ideas, delusions or other psychosis-like experiences.

    Moshe Kalian, the former district psychiatrist for Jerusalem, told the Telegraph: “From the reports that he was involved in some kind of religious experience in the desert, it certainly sounds like it could be a case of Jerusalem syndrome.

    “Jerusalem syndrome is not a mental disease by itself but is usually superimposed on top of a background of mental distress or disease that a patient has.”

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