I finally got a response though! Turned out
the account was migrated to Heart Internet - I never got the welcome email from them and never got the reminder to renew hosting or domain!.... WTF!! .... I now going to have to get onto Heart!!
Glad to hear you finally have an avenue to pursue. How long ago did the domain expire? There's usually a recovery period during which the domain is suspended, nobody else can register it, but the original owner of the domain can still re-register it. There's usually a fee for that, though.