Limerick family to lay son to rest after 25 years of false leads and unimaginable grief

Limerick family to lay son to rest after 25 years of false leads and unimaginable grief

David Raleigh

The remains of Limerick man Denis Walsh - who was declared missing for 25 years - are due to be exhumed from a communal grave in Galway and reinterred in his native Limerick this weekend.

The 23-year old was reported missing on March 9th, 1996, but unknown to his family, his unidentified remains were discovered four weeks later off Galway Bay and held in a hospital mortuary for 18 years.

The remains were eventually buried in a local authority grave along with several other unidentified bodies, at Bohermore Cemetery, Co Galway, in 2014, which is under the remit of Galway City Council.

For 25 years Mr Walsh’s parents Denis (81), and Mary (82) travelled around the country and abroad following false leads, and handing out flyers with their missing son’s photograph.

They also visited Garda stations handing in flyers and checking if anyone had information about their son's whereabouts.

No connection

The parents visit to Gort Garda station on April 5th, 1996 to hand in more flyers is the one that pains most, occurring a day before their son’s partial unidentified remains surfaced on Inis Mór.

"There was no connection made as far as we can see", the deceased’s brother Paul Walsh said previously.

Last February, Mr Walsh’s parents were first notified about remains found on Inis Mór in 1996, and that the buried remains were those of their son.

Confirmation came after a DNA match was made through “advances” in DNA testing, gardaí said.

According to the Walsh family, the exhumation is due to take place on Friday and they hope to have the remains overnight at the family home before a funeral service at Our Lady of the Rosary Church on Saturday.

The family is making arrangements to lay Denis Jnr to rest in the family plot at Castlemungret Cemetery.

A spokesman for Galway City Council confirmed “this exhumation is scheduled to take place”, but said they would not disclose any further details “due to the sensitivity and confidentiality of the situation”.


Members of the Walsh family said a “documentary inquest” is expected to be held at a later date at which witnesses will not be in attendance, but will have their statements read into the record.

If the Walsh family give their consent to a documentary inquest they will have to be given sight of witness statements prior to the inquest, informed sources said.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions on public gatherings, the family have been told they will not be allowed to attend the documentary inquest. If they wish to be in attendance, the inquest will have to be postponed until restrictions are eased which could take up to a year due to a backlog at the office of the West Galway Coroner.

Denis Walsh Snr said he would like to attend the inquest and be afforded the opportunity to ask questions “as to why gardaí did not identity Denis’s remains sooner”.

In my opinion, gardaí did not do their job properly, they did not join up the dots.

“I’ve been told by gardaí that even though this happened as far back as 1996, details of missing persons cases would be communicated to all garda stations and to Europol,” Mr Walsh said.

“In my opinion, gardaí did not do their job properly, they did not join up the dots,” he claimed.

“Did the gardaí in Galway know about the Limerick garda missing person case and did Limerick gardaí know about the discovery of the body in Galway, and if not, then why not?”

Gardaí declined to comment on the matter.

Last February, after Mr Walsh’s remains were identified, Limerick gardaí sent a letter to the Walsh family acknowledging they had been left “with lots of justifiable questions on how it took so long to identify Denis”.

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