Father of man feared murdered in Cork’s ‘House of Horrors’ appeals for information

The father of a man who it’s feared was murdered in Cork’s notorious ‘House of Horrors’ 24 years ago has issued an emotional plea for information that will lead to the recovery of his son’s remains.

Seamus O’Brien, who has campaigned relentlessly for information about his son, Cathal, since his disappearance in 1994, made the appeal on Crimecall last night with his daughter, Ailse.

He said people have information — and that information is the key to resolving the case.

“They may think it doesn’t matter, that it’s too small to matter,” he said. “Every grain of sand goes to make a brick. And bricks build.

“And in this case, information is the only thing which will build resolution.

“If people have something that they can contribute, for our sake, for your own sake, and for Cathal’s sake, please give it in.”

Mr O’Brien’s plea comes as part of a new Garda appeal for information in relation to the disappearance of Cathal O’Brien and his friend, Welshman Kevin Ball, in Cork almost a quarter of a century ago.

Supt Mick Comyns, of Mayfield Garda Station, said gardaí hope that given the passage of time, people may feel that they can come forward now with information about what happened to the men, and about where their remains are.

Cathal, 23, from Kilmore in Co Wexford, moved to Cork in mid-1993 after graduating from Waterford RTC, and began working with Cork Simon, where he met Kevin Ball, 42, who was homeless in Cork at the time.

Even though it was against Simon policy, Cathal offered some of those he met in the Simon hostel, including Mr Ball, accommodation in his rented flat on Wellington Terrace on the northside of the city.

Mr O’Brien disappeared in April 1994, several days after Mr Ball vanished. It was initially believed that the two men may have travelled together to England.

But when a third man, Denis ‘Patch’ O’Driscoll, 32, vanished in December 1994, gardaí began to suspect foul play.

Their investigation would uncover a brutal murder, suspicions that Mr O’Brien and Mr Ball met violent deaths, and led to the property on Wellington Terrace being dubbed ‘the House of Horrors’.

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

Garda attentions focused on a local man, Fred Flannery, who had also lived in the property.

During searches, gardaí found a sock, some human hair, flesh, and a toenail on a wooded site in the Lota area in May 1995.

The material suggested that human remains had been buried there at the time, but had been moved.

Even though the material failed to provide any DNA of evidential use, Flannery was subsequently charged with the murder of Mr O’Driscoll.

While he was never charged in relation to the disappearances of Mr O’Brien and Mr Ball, it is suspected that Mr Flannery killed Mr Ball first after a drink-fuelled party, before killing Mr O’Brien several days later when he began enquiring about Mr Ball’s whereabouts.

Detectives believe Mr Flannery killed Mr O’Driscoll in the flat later that year when he learned what had happened to the other two men, and amid fears that he would tell gardaí.

Mr Flannery’s nephew, Michael Jr, told his murder trial in the Central Criminal Court in 1996 his uncle had admitted killing Mr O’Driscoll at the flat by hitting him with a hammer, had cut up the body with a bow-saw and a Stanley knife, and had shown him body parts.

However, the trial collapsed sensationally when it emerged that gardaí had not provided some documents to the defence. Mr Justice Robert Barr ordered Mr Flannery’s release and ruled that he never be retried.

Just over three weeks later, butchered remains were found in bags buried in Lotabeg Woods between Glanmire and Tivoli. The remains were later identified as those of Mr O’Driscoll.

Seamus O’Brien and his son Diarmuid digging in the woods near Glanmire, looking for the body of his son Cathal O’Brien who disappeared in April 1994

Mr Flannery took his own life at home in Carrigaline in May 2003.

Anyone with information about the disappearance of Mr O’Brien or Mr Ball can contact Mayfield Garda Station on 021-4558510.


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