Possible bid to ‘dissolve’ homeless man’s body, inquest told

Dismembered remains of Mark Burke (36) were discovered in a recycling plant in 2014

 Noel Burke Snr and Noel Burke Jnr, father and brother of the late Mark Burke pictured leaving the Dublin City Coroners Court this afternoon. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Noel Burke Snr and Noel Burke Jnr, father and brother of the late Mark Burke pictured leaving the Dublin City Coroners Court this afternoon. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

 

There may have been an attempt made to dissolve Mark Burke’s body in acid before his dismembered remains were discovered in a recycling plant in 2014, an inquest has heard.

The jury at the inquest into the death of Mark Burke (36) of Moreen Park, Sandyford returned an open verdict today as neither the cause nor the time and place of Mr Burke’s death could be established.

Body parts including remnants of a foot and limb belonging to Mr Burke were found at the Thornton’s Recycling facility in Ballyfermot on 31st July 2014, and a Garda investigation into the homeless man’s death remains ongoing.

Giving evidence at a sitting of Dublin Coroners Court, Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis said approximately “55 to 60 per cent” of Mr Burke’s body had been found during searches at the facility between July 31st and August 3rd and subsequently autopsied.

Vital clues to the victim’s identity such as his teeth, face and internal organs were never recovered, and Mr Burke was eventually positively identified by comparing DNA samples with those of his mother Bernadette Murphy.

Dr Curtis told the court that he and forensic anthropologist Dr Lorraine Buckley found “conclusive evidence” that the deceased’s body had been dismembered prior to being disposed of due to the presence of toolmarks on the ends of bones.

He further described a “pungent” odour emanating from the limbs retrieved, which was later attributed to the presence of glacial acetic acid, a vinegar-like substance which he said may have been used in an attempt to dissolve the body.

“Maybe somebody could have had the misconception that they could have ‘dissolved’ the body, but I’m only speculating,” he said.

In a deposition read out to the court, recycling plant worker Dinas Plenpa who was the first to discover Mr Burke’s foot and a leg fragment on a rubbish conveyor belt said he originally thought they belonged to a manikin due to the “absence of blood”.

On further inspection Mr Plenpa, who no longer works for the company, realised that they were human remains and informed gardaí.

Addressing the court, David Duff, environmental manager at the facility, described how the body parts would have gone through various sorting processes before they were discovered by workers.

Mr Duff added that the remains were deposited in skips brought to the plant on or before July 31st, and that a full body would have been discovered almost immediately once the waste was dumped.

Senior investigating officer Detective Inspector Colm O’Malley said Garda Robert Keogh was the last known person to have seen Mr Burke alive after he took him into custody in Dún Laoghaire Garda Station on 27th July 2014.

Mr Burke was picked up by gardaí after he was seen entering and leaving gardens in the Foxrock Park area, and was brought to a district court sitting in Dún Laoghaire the following day on foot of existing bench warrants.

Mr Burke entered a guilty plea for the warrants, according to Garda Keogh, and was released from custody at around 2.30pm on 28th July.

When asked if Mr Burke mentioned any concern regarding his personal safety at the time, Garda Keogh responded: “He didn’t indicate anything of that nature himself.”

Det Insp O’Malley said a “suspicious death/homicide” investigation remains open into the case, and said some 500 interviews have been conducted and almost 600 statements made in relation to the discovery of Mr Burke’s remains.

Gardaí attempted to locate the exact skip which contained the body parts and reviewed CCTV footage around the 345 skips processed by Thorntons in the days leading up to the discovery, but no significant headway has been made.

Speaking to reporters after an open verdict was returned by coroner Dr Brian Farrell, his father Noel Burke issued a renewed plea for public assistance.

“My son was murdered. It was proved here today he was murdered. If anyone knows anything please come forward,” he said.