Garda in fresh appeal over men feared killed in Cork ‘House of Horrors’

Authorities seek information about deaths of Cathal O’Brien and Kevin Ball 24 years ago

Seamus O’Brien, father of Cathal O’Brien, who disappeared in Cork in 1994, with a rose during the annual missing persons ceremony at Farmleigh in 2016. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Gardaí investigating the disappearance of two men feared killed in Cork 24 years ago are to make an appeal on Monday night for any information that can help them find the men’s remains.

Supt Mick Comyns of Mayfield Garda station said that gardaí were hoping that there might somebody with information on what exactly happened to Cathal O'Brien (23) from Kilmore in Co Wexford and Kevin Ball (42) from Wales who disappeared from Cork in April 1994.

“We’re appealing to anyone who may have any information about Cathal and Kevin – about what happened to them and where their remains may be to come forward and contact us in confidence as we want to try and provide some closure for their families,” said Supt Comyns.

“We know that they disappeared 24 years ago and a lot of time has passed since then but people who may have been fearful to provide information back then may now find themselves in a changed situation where they feel they can come forward and we would like to hear from them.”


Mr O'Brien moved to Cork in 1993 after graduating with a certificate in computer studies from Waterford Institute of Technology and he began doing voluntary work with the Simon Community where he befriended Mr Ball.

Mr O'Brien disappeared from a flat at Wellington Terrace near Grattan Hill in Cork in April 1994 along with Mr Ball. Gardaí suspect that that they were killed by local man Fred Flannery, with Mr Ball killed first and Mr O'Brien some days later when he began asking questions about Mr Ball.

Mr Flannery was never charged with the killings of either Mr O'Brien or Mr Ball despite Garda suspicions but he was subsequently charged with the murder of a third man, Denis Patrick O'Driscoll (32) who disappeared in December 1994.

Gardaí suspect that Mr Flannery killed Mr O’Driscoll at the house on Wellington Terrace, subsequently dubbed “The House of Horrors” after he learned what had happened to Mr O’Brien and Mr Ball and Mr Flannery feared he would go to gardaí.


Mr Flannery was charged with the murder of Mr O'Driscoll and during his trial at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin, Mr Flannery's nephew, Michael jnr told how his uncle had shown him body parts and told him he had killed Mr O'Driscoll at the house in Wellington Terrace.

He told the court that his uncle told him that he had hit Mr O'Driscoll with a hammer and the cut up his body with a saw and a Stanley knife.

But it emerged during the trial that gardaí had failed to make some documents available to the defence including one from a witness who told them that Michael jnr had been “on acid or some other such drug” when he made certain allegations about his uncle.

Mr Justice Robert Barr was highly critical of the Garda's failure to disclose this statement to the defence and he discharged the jury and said the case had been so tainted that it could not be satisfactorily retrieved. He ordered Mr Flannery's release and put a stay on him ever being retried.

However, on July 19th, 1996, just 22 days after Mr Flannery's trial collapsed gardaí found body parts in a bag buried in woodland at Lotabeg near Glanmire, which DNA analysis confirmed were the remains of Mr O'Driscoll.

In 2003, Mr Flannery (44) died by suicide.

Supt Comyns said that Mr O'Brien's father Seamus would also make an appeal on RTÉ's Crimecall on Monday night. He urged anyone with any information to heed the appeal and contact Mayfield Garda station on 021-4558510.

“Both the O’Brien and Ball families have been in the dark for nearly a quarter of a century as to what happened to their loved ones – all they are asking for is information that will help them trace their remains so they can give them a proper burial and have a grave to visit and grieve for them.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times