THE wife of a man who went missing on a day storm-force winds battered Scotland have made an emotional appeal for him to return home.

Derek McInulty has not been seen since January 3 when he ventured out into the gales that caused widespread damage and disruption across the country.

He was last seen when he visited an RS McColl newsagent in Eaglesham, East Renfrewshire, at 7am to buy newspapers on his way home from his job as a hotel night porter.

A comprehensive search of the area, including a helicopter sweep of the route to his house in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, has so far been unable to find any trace of him.

Chief Inspector David Walker said both Strathclyde Police and the 48-year-old's family were becoming increasingly worried about his safety as his disappearance is out of character.

Mr McInulty's wife, Gillian, yesterday appealed for information on his whereabouts.

She said: "Derek, the family and I are worried about you. We are missing you and want to know that you are safe and well.

"Derek, or anyone who knows where Derek is, please let us know, or phone the police so we know you are okay."

Mr McInulty had spent the night at the Eglington Arms hotel in Eaglesham, where he worked, and had left to fetch the morning newspapers before heading home to Hamilton.

The area was gripped by high winds at the time and police hope someone may have seen Mr McInulty when they left their homes to check on storm damage.

He was driving a silver Suzuki swift car, registration SF5 1YEU, which has also not been found.

Mr Walker believes finding the vehicle is key to their inquiry. He appealed for anyone travelling on roads linking Eaglesham, Burnbank and Hamilton who saw the car on the day Mr McInulty disappeared to come forward.

He said police had retraced the routes he may have taken from Eaglesham to Hamilton and checked to establish whether his car was still in the village.

Mr Walker added: "We have had the helicopter flying the route just in case, given the winds, he's deviated off the road and his vehicle is yet to be discovered.

"We are now well over a week and would think that if he's gone into a field his vehicle would have been discovered.

"But we can't discount that it's maybe in a place that it's difficult to discover."

Mr McInulty, who walks with a pronounced limp, is described as being 5ft 6in tall, of medium build and with balding brown hair.

He was wearing a green or khaki-coloured jacket, black suit trousers, a blue shirt with the Eglinton Arms emblem on it with name badge, and black shoes.

One theory is the night porter may have travelled to York, where he worked for a while. However, police believe this is unlikely as he had no money or bank cards with him and just a few pounds worth of petrol in his car.

An examination of footage taken by cameras equipped with vehicle recognition software which monitor motorways he would have used has also resulted in no new information.

Mr Walker said there were slight money worries affecting Mr McInulty, but that otherwise he, his wife and their son Philip, 17, were an ordinary family.

He said: "This has had a huge, devastating impact on Mr McInulty's family.

"It's a testament to his wife Gillian's courage that she's managed to come in here today to deliver her statement. She's desperate to hear from Derek. They are a devoted couple.

"I would appeal to Derek; if you are out there just now and this is just a chance to get away and clear your thoughts, please contact the local police office so that we know you are alive and well, for the sake of your wife, your son and the rest of your family."