A family 'tortured': The mysterious disappearance of Mark Burke

Remains were dismembered by chisel, with face, hands, teeth and organs still missing

Noel Burke, father of Mark Burke. “It was not unusual for Mark to go missing for weeks on end, says Noel, “but we’d always know where to find him”. Photograph: Tom Honan

Noel Burke, father of Mark Burke. “It was not unusual for Mark to go missing for weeks on end, says Noel, “but we’d always know where to find him”. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

Mark Burke disappeared in Dublin on July 28th, 2014, and his partial remains, which had to be identified through DNA, were found at Thornton’s recycling plant in Ballyfermot on July 31st of that year.

Searches located about 60 per cent of his body, but his teeth, face and internal organs were never found. An inquest in 2016 heard that tools were used to dismember his body.

His family have been “living a tortured existence” since he died. They have appealed to the public for any information that might help with their “search for truth and justice” in Mark’s case.

A painter and decorator from Sandyford, Co Dublin, Mark Burke was the second eldest in a family of seven. He had a partner and seven children of his own, but things dipped for him in 1998. He began a drinking a lot.

Gardaí believe people have information which could help their investigation into the death of Mark Burke.
Gardaí believe people have information which could help their investigation into the death of Mark Burke.

“From a happy-go-lucky young fella, pleasant, lovely personality, he started going into himself, wouldn’t talk to anybody,” is how his father, Noel, remembers it.

Mark eventually became homeless.

“We had him in St John of God’s twice” and “brought him down to Sr Consilio in Athy”, Noel says.

But nobody got to the bottom of what was troubling Mark. “To this day, we don’t know,” his father says. It was not unusual for Mark to go missing for weeks on end, “but we’d always know where to find him”.

Robbed

In 2009, he was robbed of €40 in Dún Laoghaire and badly injured.

“They put him into Beaumont Hospital – nearly killed him,” says Noel. “That’s when the plates were put in [his head] in an operation.” The culprit was caught and sentenced to five years.

Mark Burke, a painter and decorator from Sandyford, Co Dublin.
Mark Burke, a painter and decorator from Sandyford, Co Dublin.

In July 2010, “he got another beating” with “another plate put in his head”, says Noel.

On Sunday, July 27th, 2014, he was arrested and kept overnight in Dún Laoghaire Garda station. “He was known to the guards, but for nothing bad. The guards openly say that. And he wasn’t a well man,” says Noel.”

You know when something is niggling at you, at the family? Myself and my son Noel went searching for him. We were getting worried

He was brought to Dún Laoghaire District Court the next day. The judge gave him his own bail. “She knew him. He wasn’t a threat to anyone. That was the last time.” He left the court at about 2.30pm and “that was the last sighting of him until…”, his father says , his voice tailing off.

The following Thursday his remains were found at the recycling centre in Ballyfermot, but the family would not know for weeks.

Remains found

“We were watching Crimecall [on RTÉ One television] in early August. It came up that the remains of a man between 35 and 50 years of age, average around 6ft height [had been found] and he had injuries. So immediately I thought that was Mark. They said after that ‘he’s foreign’. So that put us off the scent. We said it can’t be him,” says Noel.

But, he continues: “You know when something is niggling at you, at the family? Myself and my son Noel went searching for him. We were getting worried.” They went to Dundrum Garda station and reported Mark missing.

Noel recalls how the body in Thornton’s was troubling him. “So I asked the guards to check that. I said: ‘I think that’s my eldest son because no one’s seen him’.

“So they identified him. And it was Mark. They took DNA from his mother and it matched.”

Dismembered

The inquest was about a year and a half later. The family knew Mark’s body had been dismembered. His brother Noel believes he was dismembered before he was put into the skip in Dún Laoghaire, from where he was taken to Thornton’s.

Mark had tattoos. They poured acid and all on him. Why would they go to this length?

He remembered how Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis said at the inquest that “a two-inch screwdriver or a chisel, but most likely a chisel” was used to dismember Mark’s body.

“Why would anybody want to do that to Mark? They’re out there. They haven’t been caught. Why do this to Mark? He was defenceless,” Noel says.

Mark Burke (37) of Dún Laoghaire has been identified as the man whose body parts were found at a recycling plant.
Mark Burke (37) of Dún Laoghaire was identified as the man whose body parts were found at a recycling plant.

Missing were “his hands, teeth. They’re all gone.” His organs were gone. Up to 40 per cent of his body was never recovered. “Mark had tattoos. They poured acid and all on him. Why would they go to this length?” he asks.

Pursuing justice

The Garda investigation is ongoing but with no new information.

Since 2014, Mark’s family have been pursuing justice for him, particularly at this time of the year, every year. “We just want the killer, killers to, be brought to justice,” says the dead man’s father.

Noel Burke. Photograph: Tom Honan
Noel Burke. Photograph: Tom Honan

Mark’s brother Noel, who was eight years his junior, says it was “a very cruel crime and the nature of it was very vicious so, not only for our family but for the country and society, someone has to be brought to justice for it.”

Anyone with information should contact any Garda station or Crimestoppers Freephone at 1800 250025.