Open verdict on missing man’s death, 33 years on

Family photo: North Wales Police

A second open verdict has been returned on the death of a missing Irishman whose body was found on an Anglesey beach over thirty years ago.

An inquest heard human remains exhumed from an unmarked grave in June did belong to Joseph Dowley from Kilkenny. He disappeared in October 1985 after boarding a ferry, following a return visit to his hometown.

Mr Dowley’s body was found the following the month by an RAF airman at Rhosneigr – it was thought to have been brought ashore by the tide.

But at the time, a police investigation failed to establish the identity of the remains, which were buried at Menai Bridge cemetery.

An inquest the following year returned an open verdict – but that was quashed following a High Court injunction by the North West Wales coroner Dewi Pritchard Jones.

Detectives working on ‘Operation Orchid’ carried out DNA tests on the remains. It was reopened last year after Mr Dowley’s son, retired policeman Alan Dowley, contacted North Wales Police amid new forensic efforts to solve similar cold cases using advanced forensic techniques.

The hearing in Caernarfon was told the identification was delayed because Mr Dowley’s widow had provided ”completely wrong’‘ information about her husband.

She claimed he did not have a scar on his abdomen, contrary to the one found on his body. But records from a London hospital, obtained by Alan Dowley, revealed that his father had hernia and kidney operations, which explained the scars.

Mr Dowley’s remains are now expected to be returned to his family to allow a funeral service to take place.

It’s the second such case to be solved by North Wales detectives in the past year. In April, an inquest returned an open verdict on the death of Pauline Finlay, whose body was found at Cable Bay in October 1994.

Mrs Finlay 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.

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