Gardaí appeal over four unidentified bodies found in last 12 years

Remains discovered in counties Clare and Sligo have been buried in unmarked graves

The discovery of the bodies of four people in counties Clare and Sligo over the last 12 years has prompted a major Garda appeal for information to help identify the deceased people, who have been buried in unmarked graves.

The deaths of all four unidentified deceased people are not believed to be linked in any way. However, senior Garda management has decided to make an appeal in relation to the discovery of three of the bodies as each of them was discovered in the sea off Co Clare, and a separate appeal in a fourth case in Sligo. Foul play was ruled out in all four cases and DNA samples taken from the remains yielded no matches at home or abroad.

The oldest of the three unsolved cases in Co Clare began when Doolin Coast Guard took the body of a man from the water off the Cliffs of Moher on July 30th, 2010. Tests concluded the man's dental work was most likely completed in Continental Europe.

Investigating gardaí say clothing on the deceased man included black socks and black Velcro strapped runners, with the label "Indonesia and Budapest". A craniofacial reconstruction was carried out to produce an image of the man's likeness. However, its publication in the media did not lead to a breakthrough in the case and the man was buried in an unmarked grave at Drumcliff Cemetery, Ennis, Co Clare.

The second case in Co Clare now being highlighted in the Garda’s public appeal is that of a woman whose body was found near Doolin on August 14th, 2016. Partial clothing was found on the remains, including denim jeans with the label “Esmara”, another item of clothing which was purple and sized 40-42 along with a black belt “with a woven pattern”. The remains were buried at Drumcliffe Cemetery in Ennis, Co Clare, on January 3rd, 2018.

The third case in Co Clare is the most recent as the remains, of a woman, were found on October 4th, 2018, floating in the water off the Cliffs of Moher. The deceased was described an Asian female. She was approximately 5ft 8in in height, of slim build and estimated to be aged in her early 50s.

A gold ring bearing the word “Caby” on the inside was found on the remains, as well as a gold ring with green stones and a gold bracelet. The woman was buried in April 2nd last year at Drumcliffe Cemetery in Ennis.

A second, and separate, Garda appeal has also been made on Sunday as part of the Garda force's ongoing efforts to identify a man who checked into Sligo City Hotel under the false name Peter Bergmann in on June 12th, 2009. His remains were found on a beach at Rosses Point four days later.

That man’s death and the Garda investigation into it was two years ago the subject of an award-winning Irish Times podcast Atlantic – The Unsolved Mystery of Peter Bergmann.

While it was assumed he had drowned, a postmortem revealed he was terminally ill and that he had had a heart attack on the beach. Images of the man were harvested from CCTV during his last days in Sligo but while they were circulated in the Irish media and to European law enforcement, he was never identified.

He is buried in an unmarked grave in Sligo cemetery in a plot purchased by the Health Service Executive. Some people who met him in Sligo described him as speaking with an Austrian or German accent and he was believed to be in his 60s.

Issuing an appeal for public assistance on Sunday, Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin, said items found on the rocks near where the man's remains were discovered included black leather Finn Comfort shoes, size 44, that were manufactured in 2002 in Germany.

Also discovered were dark socks, as well as a black leather C&A jacket and navy C&A chino trousers, a black sleeveless Tommy Hilfiger jumper, and a black leather Key West USA belt made in Italy.

Anyone with any information on any of the three cases in Co Clare is asked to contact Kilrush Garda station on 065 9080557 while information on the case of Peter Bergmann can be passed on to the Garda in Sligo on 071-9157000. Alternatively, callers could also use the Garda confidential line on 1800 666 111.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times