'We have had 25 years of blank purgatory': Father of man feared murdered in Cork's 'House of Horrors'

'We have had 25 years of blank purgatory': Father of man feared murdered in Cork's 'House of Horrors'
Seamus O'Brien

The father of a man who is presumed to have been murdered in Cork’s 'House of Horrors' in 1994 has issued an appeal for information that will lead to the recovery of his son's remains.

Cathal O'Brien moved to Cork from Kilmore in Co Wexford in 1993 after graduating from Waterford Institute of Technology.

He was working as a volunteer with the Simon Community when he went missing in April 1994.

He had befriended Kevin Ball (42) from Wales who also disappeared from Cork City in April 1994.

Even though it was against Simon policy, Cathal kindly offered individuals he met in Simon accommodation in his rented flat on Wellington Terrace in Cork city.

Mr Ball was one of the people he accommodated at his flat.

Gardaí suspect that both Kevin and Cathal (23) were murdered by local man Fred Flannery with Ball killed first and O'Brien some days later when he started asking questions about the fate of his friend.

Mr Flannery, who had lived in a bedsit in Wellington Terrace, was never charged with the killing of either men.

However, he was charged with the murder of Denis Patrick O'Driscoll (32) who disappeared in December 1994.

Cathal O'Brien
Cathal O'Brien

Mr O'Driscoll had also lived in the flat in Wellington Terrace.

The remains of Mr O'Driscoll, who was known as Patch, were found buried in wasteland near Silversprings in Cork in 1995.

Gardaí believe the killer dismembered the corpse using a Stanley knife and a bow saw.

Gardaí discovered that all three men had known each other and had spent time in bedsits at the property on Wellington Terrace.

Gardaí charged Fred Flannery with Mr O'Driscoll's murder.

The trial collapsed because gardaí failed to furnish documents to the defence and a retrial was not thought to be viable in the case.

Mr Flannery died by suicide in his home in Carrigaline, Co Cork in May 2003.

Gardaí heavily suspect that he was responsible for the death of all three men.

During the murder trial his then 17-year-old nephew Micheal Flannery Jnr, said that his uncle Fred had shown him body pieces and told him that he had killed Mr O'Driscoll and had cut up his body with a saw.

Fred Flannery
Fred Flannery

Over the last quarter of a century Seamus O'Brien, father of Cathal, has done everything in his power to keep the memory of his son in the public domain in the hope of finding a body.

The Wexford man, who is a retired school principal, met Mr Flannery on three occasions.

However, he never confessed to the murder.

Mr O'Brien told Neil Prendeville on Cork's Red FM that the collapse of the O'Driscoll trial continued their purgatory.

He said he had asked Flannery to tell him the truth "man to man".

"He was more adept than me. I had honesty and he had deviousness. He did not have a human side," said Mr O'Brien.

"I went down to Macroom where he was living in a caravan to talk to him.

I did not feel safe with him. I wore a butchers apron under my clothes because I felt so unsafe.

"But he had to be faced and to be given a chance to face up to what he did. I wasn't dealing with someone who was inclined to do that.

"His whole way of life was stealing motorbikes and this kind of stuff. He wasn't of the normal society.

"He didn't live his life according to our norms. Double-crossing was one of the pluses of his existence."

Mr O'Brien said the death of Fred Flannery was of little consolation to him because they were left without answers.

He is critical of the judicial system and of gardaí for failing to bring peace to the grieving relatives of those left behind.

"The trial judge should have ordered a retrial. I do not believe the guards did all they could.

"I reported Cathal missing in early July. I was told 'they all turn up, they all turn up - 95% of them'.

"That's when I knew I was kinda on my own and I started knocking on doors and doing what I did.

"If the guards had come with me then, up to Wellington Terrace on that evening, we might have got somewhere, in a way of putting it up to Flannery.

"It was easier for him to hide from me than the forces of law and order.

"If he had been held and questioned things might have turned out differently but they didn't do that. They didn't do enough early enough.

"We have had 25 years of blank purgatory and are still none the wiser. It's unreal."

Seamus says somebody has to know what happened to his son.

"I absolutely believe there is information still out. There a lot of people who were in that circle and knew the Flannerys and Cathal.

"I believe they have background that can lead to a resolution of this.

"We would be eternally grateful even after 25 years if there was information that could lead to where Cathal is buried.

"Gardaí have assigned two detectives to continue investigating and they are working on the case."

Seamus says Cathal is frozen in time at just 23 years old.

When I look at his brothers and sisters and how well they are getting on it sears your heart.

"Cathal was a big deal. He was part of us and we part of him and that will never change."

It is understood that Cathal O'Brien was a warm-hearted and generous man who fundraised for Simon in addition to doing volunteer work for the charity.

His family last saw him on Easter Monday in 1994. He was an IT and Business Studies graduate.

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