An open verdict has been returned on the death of an Irish woman whose body was found washed on an Anglesey beach over 24 years ago.
Pauline Finlay disappeared while walking her two dogs on Old Bawn beach near Ballygarrett in County Wexford in March 1994.
Leg and hip remains were discovered in seaweed on Cable Bay, near Holyhead, seven months later – but North Wales Police failed to identify Mrs Finlay at the time and she was buried in an unmarked grave at Ynys Wen.
An inquest at Dublin Coroner’s Court heard detectives were finally able to establish her identity when they tested DNA from the remains with a sample taken from Mrs Finlay’s brother Joseph Hanlon.
Mr Hanlon confirmed that Mrs Finlay had been identified before the death of her widowed husband, Joe, last year. The hearing was told Mr Finlay has feared his wife – a non-swimmer – had slipped while washing her dogs in the surf and was washed away by the tides.
He raised the alarm when Mrs Finlay did not return from her afternoon walk for dinner. They owned a mobile home at a nearby caravan park and were preparing to go to a play that evening.
The only trace found at Old Bawn was two wellington boots, around 10ft apart, washed up on the sand. A Garda officer, giving evidence at the time, said the two dogs would not leave the water’s edge by the beach.
There were several sightings of a body in the water a month after Mrs Finlay disappeared. The following October, a woman discovered partial humain remains at Cable Bay while she was tending to seagulls covered in oil.
Mrs Finlay’s remains were exhumed in December last year after further tests on the DNA by a Home Office pathologist had concluded they belonged to the 49 year-old. They were sent home to Ireland earlier this year.
Dr Myra Cullinane said it was now possible to make a formal identification – but she could not determine the cause of death because there no witnesses at the time.
Returning an open verdict, she said it was likely that Mrs Finlay had slipped and drowned.