A boot containing a foot found on a Dublin beach was identified as that of a man who’d gone missing 10 months earlier.
Further remains of Stephen Davitt, 47, from Stamullen in Co Meath, were trawled by a fishing vessel off Howth. Forensic DNA evidence was used to link the body parts, an inquest at Dublin Coroner’s Court heard.
Mr Davitt was last seen alive at Mornington Beach in Co Meath on January 24, 2015. Witness, Barry Mullen, noticed a jeep driving along a dirt track near the shore and later saw Mr Davitt swimming out to sea.
Almost 10 months later members of the Irish Coast Guard and gardaí boarded a fishing vessel that had trawled human remains east of Howth on October 8, 2015. Garda Stephen Byrne met the skipper at 10am and viewed the remains, which were caught in the vessel’s fishing nets. The remains were brought to Connolly Hospital for examination.
Photographer Dominic Cuniffe was walking at Portmarnock beach early on October 20 when he saw a boot on a manhole cover. The boot was laced up and when he examined it he saw a bone. He contacted gardaí.
Detective Garda Brian Pentony said the human foot, which was encased in a Timberland boot, was brought to the morgue at Marino. A full search of the beach was conducted but yielded no further remains.
The foot was examined by pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan two days later. She noted that the foot was that of an adult male and had become separated from the body after death. Muscle samples were taken for analysis and these connected to the DNA sample taken from the remains returned from the sea to Howth Harbour.
Sgt Ciara McGovern of Ashbourne Garda Station told the court that a search for Mr Davitt was launched on January 25, 2015 and sea searches were conducted by the Irish Coast Guard and Boyne Fishermen’s rescue and recovery service: “Family members were at the beach side on a daily basis.”
The cause of death was not possible to determine given the nature of the remains, Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane said. She returned a narrative verdict setting out the timeline of events due to a “significant lack of evidence in relation to the totality of the circumstances”.
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