“It’s like someone handed in a purse to gardai and they waited for someone to come and claim it” — Family of ‘missing’ Denis Walsh expresses disappointment over 25-year gap in identifying remains

8/2/2021 Story David Raleigh. A file photograph of Mary and Denis Walsh from Caherdavin, Limerick holding a photo of their son Denis who at the age of 23 went missing in1996. A body found many years ago has only recently being identified as their son. Photograph Liam Burke Press 22

THE family of Caherdavin man, Denis Walsh, who were unaware his body had been discovered 25 years ago have said they are angry his remains were not identified sooner.

The 23-year old’s body was discovered on the shore at Inis Mor, off Galway Bay, on April 7th, 1996, four weeks after he was declared missing from his home on March 9th.

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Gardai informed Mr Walsh’s parents for the first time that last Friday, that the remains belonged to their son.

Paul Walsh, a brother of the deceased, said they have unanswered questions about why his brother’s remains were not identified sooner, and they had yet to be told if dental checks were carried out on Denis’s remains, or if this was even possible.

“Garda appealed for information in May 1996 and yet no one in Galway connected the dots. It’s like someone handed in a purse to gardai and they waited for someone to come and claim it, that’s how I feel,” Mr Walsh said.

“Look, none of this is going to bring Denis back, but it could have saved us an awful lot of pain.”

Mr Walsh’s body was buried in a communal grave at Bohermore Cemetery, Co Galway in 2014.

Gardai said the “unidentified body” was removed from Inis Mor to the mortuary at University Hospital Galway where they remained until burial.

At some stage “bodily samples were taken and forwarded to the Forensic Science laboratory in an effort to indemnity the deceased”, gardai added.

“Gardai do not suspect foul play in the death of Denis Walsh. This case was recorded and investigated as a missing persons case, and the case is now closed,” a garda spokeswoman said.

The Walsh family have sought the details of a post mortem that was carried out on Denis’s remains, and they also wish to to have Denis’s remains exhumed so they can lay them to rest in his native Limerick.

There are two Garda divisions involved in the case; the Limerick Division who were investigating a missing person’s case, and the Galway Division who were investigating the discovery of unidentified remains on Inis Mor.

Gardai said the breakthrough in identifying Mr Walsh’s remains arrived through advances in DNA technology.

Forensic Science Ireland have recently brought about resolutions to a number of outstanding and historic cases involving missing persons and unidentified remains through these DNA advances.

However, Paul Walsh said: “We are very angry about the first few months, particularly; there was a report of a missing person in Limerick in March 1996, and in April, some 60 miles away, there was a body found. Both were males, both 6 ft etc.”

“Some might say (the remains) might have been decomposed, but it was less than a month.”

“My mother and father went to Galway on the 12th of May (1996), they remember the date, because it was the day of the National Hurling League Final in Limerick, and Dad remembers it because he was asked was he at the match. They went into garda stations in Galway, they had flyers all over Galway and North Clare,” he added.

On May 13th, 1996, gardai attached to Mayorstone Park, Limerick made an appeal on the RTE Crimeline television programme for information on Denis Walsh’s whereabouts.

A garda spokeswoman confirmed “the body of Denis Walsh was retained at the Mortuary, University Hospital Galway until burial, in a County Council graveyard, (and) was arranged by University Hospital Galway following consultation with the Coroner. The family will be continue to be supported by the Family Liaison Officer.”

Denis Walsh snr (81) said he was “mad at what has gone on for the past 25 years”, but grateful they could finally give their soon “a Christian burial”

Denis’s jnr’s mother, Mary Walsh, (82), said: “To be honest, I have thanked God that I am finally getting Denis home and that some of the mystery is solved. Every morning, noon, and night, I would just think, ‘where are you Denis’.”

“All those times we were looking for him and he had ready been found — For that I have no answer, how that could happen?.”