The family of Barry Coughlan whose car containing remains was retrieved from the water in Crosshaven, Co Cork last week seventeen years after he went missing are anxiously awaiting the results of DNA analysis.
The skeletal remains have been sent for analysis which will be conducted by the Forensic Science Laboratory. The complex process of identification could take several weeks.
The car owned by the missing 23 year old fisherman was taken from the water near Hugh Coveney Pier in Crosshaven, Co Cork last Wednesday.
The news of the discovery of the car was welcomed by Fr Aquinas Duffy, who set up the missing persons website over twenty years ago.
Advances in technology
He believes that families should never give up hope of finding out what occurred to their loved ones as advances in technology led to the identification of his missing nephew in 2018 - eighteen years after he disappeared.
The remains of Aengus “Gussie” Shanahan were laid to rest in November 2018 alongside his late mother Nancy. He was just 20 when he vanished without trace in Limerick.
His skeletal remains, consisting of foot bone fragments, were found by members of Bunratty Search and Rescue Service at Bunratty in October 2001 over a year and a half after Gussie went missing.
Forensic Science Ireland managed to positively identify the remains of Mr Shanahan in 2018 after advances in technology allowed them to extract DNA from the fragments.
Fr Duffy says the identification of the remains of his nephew and the finding of the car of Barry Coughlan shows that families should never give up hope of finding answers.
“The identification of Gussie Shanahan and others should give people hope. I never ever thought that would happen. And yet through advances in forensic science it has literally ended the nightmare for a number of families. My hope is that it will continue to identify more.”
Source of comfort
Fr Duffy said whilst the family of Mr Shanahan are still without answers as to what happened after he left Cooper’s bar in Limerick on February 11th, 2000 it was a huge source of comfort to be able to give him a funeral.
“Being able to give him a funeral was important. The sad thing was that his mother had died two years previously. She never got to see that end of it.”
Fr Duffy admits that it can be a massive shock when a breakthrough happens in a case after many years without news.
He paid tribute to members of the Cork Missing Persons Search and Recovery Group who located the car owned by Barry Coughlan. They discovered a mass in the water in Crosshaven whilst using new sonar equipment.
He said getting answers was important for families with missing loved ones.
Long and torturous road
“Finding out what has happened is so welcome for any family. You would be thinking to yourself ‘are they abroad?’ But when people find a car or a numberplate that is at least something.”
Fr Duffy says he hopes that DNA analysis will be able to give the Coughlan family some answers after their long and torturous road.
Barry Coughlan disappeared without trace in May of 2004. He was last seen leaving the Moonduster pub in his home town of Crosshaven.
He had started work as a fisherman and was due back to Castletownbere on May 2nd, the day after his disappearance.
In 2007 his sister Donna told RTE’s Pobal that there was nothing that she and her only sibling wouldn’t take about. The pair were great friends.