After 36 years of wondering what happened to him, Conor Whooley’s family finally know

After 36 years of wondering what happened to him, Conor Whooley’s family finally know
Conor Whooley

Until recently, Wicklow man Conor Whooley’s grave on a windswept island in north Wales had been marked by just two words “Plot 322”.

It is where his remains had lain since his body washed ashore on Anglesey in October 1983.

But after 36 years of wondering what happened to him, his family now finally know.

As his brother Sean told RTÉ, news of where he now lies came as a ‘bolt from the blue’.

In the first five or so years of his disappearance, they had expected to get a call about him. His father had died in 2015 never knowing what had happened to his son.

As soon as the family was told Conor had been identified, they put a plaque on his grave.

It reads: “Conor Whooley, Ireland, 1959-1983. A loved soul is never lost".

Detective Constable Don Kenyon, of North Wales Police’s Force Major Incident Team tasked with identifying the bodies of missing people, was with the Whooley family in Wales today.

They visited the beach where he was found all those years ago as well as Conor’s grave.

“It’s very personal, so there is not much I can tell you but I think they found it very valuable,” he said.

I think they had a very worthwhile visit. They visited both the grave and the beach.

That Conor has at last been found is testimony to the efforts of detectives on both sides of the Irish sea working with their respective forensic experts.

On our side, it is the officers working in the Garda Missing Persons Bureau working with Forensic Service Ireland as part of Operation Runabay.

And in Wales it is the detectives working as part of Operation Orchid.

To date, they have successfully uncovered the identified two other Irish people whose loved ones have gone through the same years-long agony as the Whooleys.

And they have eight cases in which they are looking for help - and especially DNA samples from parents and full siblings - in solving.

After 36 years of wondering what happened to him, Conor Whooley’s family finally know

The other cases solved so far are those of Pauline Finlay, who was last seen alive walking her dogs on a Wexford beach in 1994, and Joseph Brendan Dowley.

The 63-year-old was last seen getting on a bus in Kilkenny in October 1985.

He had been due to take the ferry in Dublin bound for Wales.

While Pauline’s body was found on the north Welsh coast in 1994, Joseph's body was found in 1985.

The fact that both could be identified - thanks to the huge advances in forensic science - went some way to easing the anguish of their respective families.

But for the families of the other eight bodies still awaiting identification, that anguish still continues.

Among the bodies is one of a woman who was found off the coast of Yarmouth on June 28, 1978.

She was wearing a blue St Michael’s branded swimsuit, and it is likely she got into trouble while out for a summer swim.

She was 5ft 6in, medium build, and the swimsuit had a 38 bust.

Detectives can’t say for sure the woman is Irish but believe there is a chance she is because of the way the tidal flood system works in the Irish Sea between the two coastlines.

He also has details of another woman who was found on January 2, 1980.

“She was 160 to 170 cm tall, and she was wearing two pairs of knickers,” he said.

“That sounds quite unusual but speaking to the girls in the office of a certain age, that is what they used to do is put their knickers on and then the tights and then another pair of knickers to keep the tights up.”

If you want to provide Dt Con Kenyon with DNA, you can do so by providing it to gardaí via the Garda Missing Persons Bureau. It can be contacted on 01 666 9476 or missing_persons@garda.ie

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