Coroner praises West Cork gardaí for finalising case of torso found in Atlantic

The lower half of the fisherman's body was repatriated to Indonesia after his identity was established through DNA
Coroner praises West Cork gardaí for finalising case of torso found in Atlantic

Coroner Frank O'Connell recorded a death by drowning, "in circumstances which have not been fully established". File photo: Denis Minihane

The lower half of a body caught in dredging nets between Spain and Ireland has ended with the repatriation of a fisherman back to Indonesia and the Coroner sitting in West Cork praising gardaí for their work in finalising the case.

The inquest in Bantry heard that the torso, found 179 nautical miles south west of Ireland, was brought ashore to Castletownbere, setting off an investigation which involved Spanish authorities and Interpol before it was concluded in what was described as a "sad, sad situation".

Coroner Frank O'Connell was told by Sgt Stephen O'Sullivan of Castletownbere Garda Station that on January 19, 2019, the Rio da Bouza was pulling dredging nets in an area known as the Grand Sol when it hauled aboard the lower half of a human body.

The captain in charge, Jose Alvarez Gayo, told gardaí that the body was that of the lower half of a man, from the waist down, and was badly decomposed. He suspected the remains may have been underwater for up to two years and that they were on the sea floor and had not been floating.

In a statement to gardaí, Capt. Alvarez Gayo said the crew never touched the remains, but instead wrapped them in plastic and sailed into Castletownbere.

There they were met by gardaí, who took pictures of the remains which were still wrapped in plastic, before having them removed to Cork University Hospital.

There a post mortem was carried out by Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margot Bolster, as well as a senior forensic Garda and others.

During the course of the post mortem, an ID card was found on the remains. It had remained on the body, in a waterproof pouch, and had been covered by tracksuit pants.

The investigation focuses on Spain

The ID card indicated that the remains were those of Slamet Supriyono, born on November 14, 1981, and who had been working as a fisherman out of the Spanish city of Lugo in North west Spain.

Sgt O'Sullivan then said gardaí contacted Interpol, who with the Spanish authorities instigated a DNA check to try and confirm the identity of the man.

Spanish authorities, in a report provided to gardaí and read out in court, said their investigation had found that Mr Supriyono had disappeared at approximately 2.30am on August 18, 2018, while on board the Nouvo Ebenezer, which had been fishing in the Grand Sol.

A witness statement from the captain of that ship outlined how Mr Supriyono had been last seen working on the deck of the vessel.

"After 20 minutes his clothes were found in the starboard area of the boat, which is why it is presumed he flung himself overboard," the captain said in his statement.

An older brother of Mr Supriyono, Untung Waluyo, was located in Lugo by Spanish authorities and DNA samples were taken to try and record a match at the Forensic Science laboratory in Dublin, under Dr Stephen Clifford.

His findings were that the bones from 'Unknown Male 1' and that of Mr Waluyo indicated "strong support" for the conclusion that the two men were related. It is the fourth highest of six categories of certainty when it comes to DNA matches, but Dr Clifford said it was still 84,000 times more likely that the two men were related than not related, based on DNA.

Through O'Donovan's Shipping Agents in Castletownbere, the office of the Coroner and the Spanish Consul, Mr Supriyono's remains were repatriated to Indonesia on January 28 last year.

The findings of the inquest

Mr O'Connell recorded a death by drowning, "in circumstances which have not been fully established", adding that as for the suggestion that the man had thrown himself overboard, "I do not know".

"A sad, sad situation," the coroner said. "May he rest in peace, is all I can say. The poor man."

He also paid tribute to the efforts of gardaí, saying to find the body and to have the good luck to find something to help identify it and then to follow up helped to give "very important closure".

"I am proud of the Irish authorities," he said.

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