THE body of a woman found near the Catholic shrine town of Medjugorje in Bosnia has been officially identified as that of missing Irish pilgrim Winnie Brady.
The identification was made initially by Ms Brady’s husband, Stephen, who travelled to Bosnia this week and was able to tell police that jewellery and other personal items found on the body belonged to his wife. Dental records yesterday confirmed the identification.
Bosnian authorities said they expected to be in a position to disclose the results of a post-mortem examination and have already ruled out foul play in the 59-year-old Dublin woman’s death.
It is now believed she lost her footing while walking alone on the rugged, mountainous terrain near Apparition Hill where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to a group of local children in 1981.
The mother of five, who knew the area well as she had been on two previous trips, was found at the bottom of a gorge. She suffered from arthritis in one knee which would have made it impossible for her to climb out without help and it is thought that she may have died from exposure.
Although her remains were exposed to the elements for four months, pathologists found them in relatively good condition and were able to determine that there was no evidence of assault or deliberate physical injury.
The fact that Ms Brady’s jewellery, camera and a modest sum of cash were also found with her has also provided her family with the small comfort of knowing she was not the victim of a mugger.
Extensive searches were carried out in and around Medjugorje after Ms Brady’s travelling companions from her local pilgrimage group in the north Dublin parish of Kilbarrack reported her missing on the fifth day of their trip there last September.
Although she was eventually found just a mile and a half away from the guesthouse where she was last seen, it is thought the dense vegetation of late summer would have made her invisible even to searchers who passed close by.
Local man, Vidan Kozina, who had taken part in some of the earlier searches, was led to the body by his dogs who picked up the scent when he was out hunting in the area last Sunday.
The Department of Foreign Affairs, which sent a representative from the Irish Embassy in neighbouring Slovenia to assist Mr Brady, said yesterday every assistance would be given to him and his family in making arrangements to bring their loved one home.