UK
07/03/2015 11:02 GMT | Updated 07/03/2015 11:59 GMT

Jimmy Thoronka, Commonwealth Games Sprinter Who Disappeared After Games, 'Arrested In London'

Sierra Leone's top sprinter, who went missing after the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last summer, has been arrested after being found living rough in London.

The Guardian interviewed Jimmy Thoronka, 20, before he was detained for overstaying his visa. He was held at 7pm on Friday, the paper said.

He said he feared returning home amid the Ebola outbreak.

He has had his money and passport stolen and contemplated suicide as he struggled without food and in the freezing cold.

He learned his uncle had died of the disease while he was competing and, while staying with friends in Leicester after the games, learned his entire family had died.

jimmy thoronka

Jimmy Thoronka, filmed by The Guardian while he was homeless

He told the paper: "I was hoping to win a medal for my country. But during the Games I got the terrible news that my uncle had died, probably from Ebola. I couldn't stop crying. It was difficult to continue with competing but I tried to carry on."

When Thoronka, the country's number one 100m sprinter, left Sierra Leone for Glasgow, the Ebola outbreak was in its early stages.

The death toll in the country is now more than 3,500 cases.

After Leicester, he went to London and began sleeping in parks and on night buses and begging for £1 from passers-by to buy chips.

"Some days I get no food at all. I wash in public toilets and sleep in the park," he said.

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"I wake up around 4am and if I've got a bus pass I get on the night bus and sleep there until morning. I met a man who sometimes lets me sleep at his house but I have to wait outside for him to come home at 10 or 11pm and I get very cold.

"We have a cold season in Sierra Leone but it is not cold like England. Some days I don't think I'm going to make it and just feel like killing myself. My dream is to become one of the best sprinters in the world but I don't see how that can happen now."

A petition has been set up on Change.org to support him and appeal for him not to be deported. At the time of writing, 145 people had signed it.

A GoFundMe page raised more than £13,000 for Thoronka in one day, with donations from more than 700 people.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "We cannot comment on individual cases, but there is assistance available for people to return home when they are not entitled to remain in the UK."