'We have never forgotten him': hopes discovery of skeletal remains may solve mystery of disappearance of Cork man

'We have never forgotten him': hopes discovery of skeletal remains may solve mystery of disappearance of Cork man

Garda divers from the underwater unit at Hugh Coveney Pier in Crosshaven. Picture; David Creedon / Anzenberger

SKELETAL remains were discovered today in the car found submerged close to Hugh Coveney Pier in Crosshaven on Wednesday.

There are hopes that the discovery may solve the mystery of the disappearance of a local man who has been missing since 2004, although gardaí have warned that DNA analysis will take some time.

Gardaí confirmed that the car found is a red Toyota, with registration number 98-C-18625, which matches the description of the car that belonged to missing man Barry Coughlan.

Mr Coughlan, a fisherman from Crosshaven, was last seen outside the Moonduster Bar in the harbour town at 1.30am on May 1, 2004. He was 23 years old.

'We have never forgotten him' 

The parish priest of Crosshaven has said he hopes Mr Coughlan’s family will finally have closure, 17 years after he went missing.

Speaking to The Echo, Fr Patrick Stevenson said people in the locality were shocked at the discovery of the car.

“That’s what is unbelievable. They can’t believe that it wasn’t miles away, that it was within a couple of hundred yards of where he was last seen,” he said.

“We’re absolutely stunned to think that it [the car] was that long under the pier. It’s absolutely crazy.”

“We have a candle lighting in the church and a lot of people put up a candle of memorial on the Facebook page. [People] are very conscious and very united in prayer and thoughts for the family,” said Fr Stevenson.

“We prayed for him again just a couple of weeks ago. At the beginning of May every year we pray for him. We have never forgotten him.”

Local Fianna Fáil councillor Audrey Buckley echoed Fr Stevenson’s comments.

“It’s really sad, but at least it’s closure for the parents and sister,” she said, adding that there has been a lot of sadness in the locality in recent days.

“The family would be bedded in the community and a lot of people [at the time of his disappearance] were out looking and searching, and the water had been searched and there was no sign of him.

“That’s what the community is talking about now.”

Car discovered on Wednesday 

However, she said the water where the car was found is quite deep, and the silt does build up.

The car was discovered in the river bed on Wednesday, when the Cork City Missing Persons Search and Recovery unit were conducting a routine trial of a new scanning unit.

When the scanner identified a possible item, divers from the unit investigated further. They discovered the vehicle, and gardaí were notified.

The scene was preserved as the Garda Water Unit conducted a search operation and they were able to extract the car from the water on Thursday evening.

During the technical examination of the car today, gardaí discovered the skeletal remains. The remains were transferred to Cork City morgue, where an examination will be carried out. The local coroner has also been notified.

Gardaí have said that the results of the examination, and DNA analysis by Forensic Science Ireland, will hopefully assist in confirming the identity of the remains.

Mr Coughlan had started a job as a fisherman in Castletownbere a short time before he disappeared in 2004 and had come home for the weekend.

When he disappeared, the family hoped he would turn up in Castletownbere for work. He had been due back on Sunday afternoon, May 2 — a day after his last sighting.

But he did not turn up, and his car had not been seen since his disappearance either, despite exhaustive searches by his family, friends, and gardaí.

His family has issued regular appeals for information since his disappearance in 2004.

They said his disappearance was completely out of character for him and was totally unexpected, as nothing about him suggested that he was thinking of leaving, and he did not appear to have any troubles.

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