Joseph Dowley: remains to be exhumed in cold case

RTÉ News

Human remains will be exhumed from a graveyard to establish whether they belong to an Irishman who went missing 33 years ago.

Menai Bridge Cemetery will be closed on Tuesday (19th June) to allow police and forensic experts to exhume unidentified remains discovered on Rhosneigr beach in 1985.

Police believe there is a ”strong possibility” they belong to Joseph Dowley, who was living in London at the time.

Mr Dowley disappeared in October 1985 following a return visit to see his relatives in Kilkenny. The 63 year-old was last seen being driven to the ferry terminal at Dún Laoghaire for his return journey to Holyhead.

On 9th November that year, the body of a man was discovered on the shoreline at Rhosneigr by an airman from nearby RAF Valley. It was thought to have been brought ashore on the tide.

The death was not treated as suspicious, but police efforts at the time to establish the identity of the body were unsuccessful. An inquest by the then-coroner for Anglesey returned an open verdict and the body was buried at Menai Bridge.

Last month, a High Court judge quashed the inquest verdict and ordered the remains to be exhumed, after granting an injunction by North West Wales coroner Dewi Pritchard Jones.

Mr Dowley’s family contacted North Wales Police last year amid new forensic efforts to solve similar cold cases using advanced forensic techniques.

His son, Alan, told RTE’s Prime Time programme that they had uncovered new evidence from a woman who lived with Mr Dowley in London, suggesting that the body could belong to him.

DC Don Kenyon from North Wales Police said if the identity of the body was confirmed by the coroner, it would be returned to his family as soon as possible to allow a full funeral to be held.

He added: ”The purpose of the exhumation is to gain a DNA profile for comparison with the DNA of family members of Mr Dowley in Ireland who have been kept fully aware of developments.”

North Wales detectives have been working with the Missing Person Bureau and Gardaí on solving cold cases, using DNA technology to establish the identity of human remains.

In April, an inquest returned an open verdict on the death of Pauline Finlay, whose body was found at Cable Bay in October 1994. She was only identified late last year after new DNA evidence linked her to leg and hip remains, which were buried in an unmarked grave at a cemetery in Ynys Wen.

DC Keynon said: ”We combine the latest advances in DNA technology and traditional investigative methods to help conclude enquiries started years ago to help bring some closure to families who have lived with uncertainty for such a long time.”

”Criminality is not suspected in any of the cases and the focus of the operation is simply to identify, reunite and allow the dignity of a funeral service for family and friends to pay their respects.”

”I am also very conscious of the feelings of the families of all those buried in the cemetery and sensitivities in the surrounding community. I can assure all that due regard and respect will be paid during the process which we hope to have concluded by late afternoon.”

A local Catholic priest will conduct a brief graveside blessing at the family’s request before the exhumation begins.