The remains of Limerick man Denis Walsh — who was declared missing for 25 years — are due to be exhumed from a communal grave in Galway and reinterred in his native Limerick this weekend.
The 23-year-old was reported missing on March 9, 1996 but, unknown to his family, his unidentified remains were discovered four weeks later off Galway Bay and held in a hospital mortuary for 18 years.
The remains were eventually buried in a local authority grave along with several other unidentified bodies, at Bohermore Cemetery, Co Galway, in 2014, which is under the remit of Galway City Council.
For 25 years Mr Walsh’s parents Denis, 81, and Mary, 82, travelled around the country and abroad following false leads, and handing out flyers with their missing son’s photograph.
They also visited Garda stations handing in flyers and checking if anyone had information about their son's whereabouts.
The parents visit at Gort Garda station on April 5, 1996, when they handed in more flyers, is the one that pains most, occurring a day before their son’s partial unidentified remains surfaced on Inis Mór, off Galway Bay, the deceased’s brother, Paul Walsh, previously said.
Last February, Mr Walsh’s parents were first notified about remains found on Inis Mór in 1996, and that the buried remains were those of their son.
Confirmation came after a DNA match was made through advances in DNA testing, gardaí said.
According to the Walsh family, the exhumation is due to take place on Friday and that they hope to have the remains overnight at the family home before a funeral service at Our Lady of the Rosary church, Ennis Road, on Saturday.
The family is making arrangements to lay Denis to rest in a family plot at Castlemungret cemetery.
A spokesman for Galway City Council confirmed “this exhumation is scheduled to take place”, but said they would not disclose any further details “due to the sensitivity and confidentiality of the situation”.
Members of the Walsh family said a “documentary inquest” is expected to be held at a later date at which witnesses will not be in attendance, but will have their statements read into the record.
If the Walsh family give their consent to a documentary inquest they will have to be given sight of witness statements prior to the inquest, informed sources said.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions on public gatherings, the family have been told they will not be allowed attend the documentary inquest. If they wish to be in attendance, the inquest will have to be postponed until restrictions are eased.
This could take up to a year due to a backlog of inquests at the office of the West Galway Coroner.
Denis Walsh’s father, Denis Walsh senior, said he would like to attend the inquest and be afforded the opportunity to ask questions “as to why gardaí did not identity Denis’s remains sooner”.
“I’ve been told by gardaí that even though this happened as far back as 1996, details of missing persons cases would be communicated to all garda stations and to Europol,” Mr Walsh said.
“In my opinion, gardaí did not do their job properly, they did not join up the dots,” he said.
“Did the gardaí in Galway know about the Limerick garda missing person case and did Limerick gardaí know about the discovery of the body in Galway, and if not, then why not?”
Gardai have declined to comment.
Last February, after Mr Walsh’s remains were eventually identified, Limerick gardaí sent a letter to the Walsh family acknowledging the family had been left “with lots of justifiable questions on how it took so long to identify Denis”.