Mask that led to old friends re-uniting

Robert and Gabrielle Walker got back in touch with an old friend.

Robert and Gabrielle Walker got back in touch with an old friend.

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A routine bathroom conversion led an electrician on an unexpected quest to reunite his Bridlington customer with a long lost friend.

Kevin Hunt, an electrician from Hull, was working at the home of Gabrielle and Robert Walker in Bridlington when he noticed a Sri Lankan devil mask hanging on the wall.

The mask was given to them by a Sri Lankan man known as ‘Nial’ who worked on an engineering camp with Mr Walker in Iraq more than 40 years ago. Mr Walker asked Mr Hunt, whose wife is Sri Lankan, if he could try to track down the old friend on his next visit to the country.

“I told them we were soon going to Sri Lanka on holiday and they asked me if I would be able to find him,” said Mr Hunt. “At this stage all I had to go on was his name ‘Neil’. To say it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack would be an understatement.”

After the Walkers dug out their invitation to ‘Nial’s’ wedding in 1983, Mr Hunt used the name and address on it to make enquiries.

“The town on the address was Ja-ela. I have friends there so I called them to see if they knew a way of finding this man,” he said.

By chance it turns out that Mr Nihal Perera, the man known as ‘Nial’, went to school with the mother of one of Mr Hunt’s friends. Mrs Walker has since spoke on the phone to Mr Perera for the first time in years. Meanwhile, Mr Hunt has travelled 5500 miles to Ja-ela, Northern Province to present Mr Perera with a card and letter from the Walker family. Mrs Walker said: “It was a very nice to get back in touch again after looking for him for years. Kevin recognising the mask was fate. When we spoke he recognised us straight away.”