Father of missing murder victim issues plea for information

Cathal O’Brien (23) disappeared from a flat in Cork in April 1994 and is believed to have been murdered

Seamus O’Brien, father of Cathal O’Brien,  who disappeared 24 years ago in Cork, at Farmleigh, with a rose during the  Missing Persons Ceremony. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Seamus O’Brien, father of Cathal O’Brien, who disappeared 24 years ago in Cork, at Farmleigh, with a rose during the Missing Persons Ceremony. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times


The father of missing murder victim Cathal O’Brien has pleaded with anyone who has information about the whereabouts of his son’s body to come forward and give his family closure after 24 years of not knowing what exactly happened to his son.

Retired primary school principal Seamus O’Brien made the heartfelt plea on RTÉ’s Crimecall programme Monday night, when he urged anyone with any information, no matter how seemingly insignificant about his son’s disappearance to contact gardaí.

“I’ve thought about this and the best way I can put is in terms of grains of sand - information that people have they might think that it’s infinitesimal and it’s too small to matter but every grain of sand goes to make a brick and bricks build.

“And in this case, information is the only thing that will build a resolution so if people have something that they think can contribute for our sake and for your own sake and for Cathal’s sake, please give it in,” Mr O’Brien told Crimecall.

A native of Kilmore in Co Wexford, Cathal O’Brien (23) moved to Cork in 1993 after graduating with from Waterford Institute of Technology and arriving on Leeside, began doing voluntary work with the Simon Community where he befriended Welsh New Age Traveller, Kevin Ball (42).

Mr O’Brien disappeared from a flat at Wellington Tce near Grattan Hill in Cork in April 1994 along with Kevin Ball. Gardaí suspect they were murdered 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.

Flannery was never charged with the killings of either Cathal O’Brien or Kevin Ball despite garda suspicions. He was subsequently charged with the murder of a third man, Denis Patrick ‘Patch’ O’Driscoll (32) who disappeared around eight months later in December 1994.

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

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.

However 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 Flannery 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 gardaí’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 Flannery’s release and put a stay on him ever being retried.

On July 19th 1996, however, just 22 days after Flannery’s trial collapsed and some 18 months after Denis Patch O’Driscoll disappeared, gardaí found body parts in a sports gearbag buried in woodland at Lotabeg near Glanmire - DNA analysis confirmed the remains were those of Mr O’Driscoll.

In 2003, Flannery (44) took his own life in Carrigaline having maintained a steadfast silence about the killing he had been charged with and the disappearance of Cathal O’Brien and Kevin Ball, despite several public appeals for information from Mr O’Brien’s father, Seamus.

Speaking last night on Crimecall, Mr O’Brien, who was joined on the show by his daughter, Ailse Whelan, spoke about what it would mean to the family to finally get back his son’s body after almost quarter of a century of wondering what exactly happened to him.

“It would give Cathal the dignity and decency of the proper conclusion of a short, perhaps, but fine lived life,” said Mr O’Brien who previously stressed that he and his family were not interested in retribution or revenge but simply to bring their son back for burial in his homeplace.

Supt Mick Comyns of Mayfield Garda Station urged people in Mayfield, who may have information but because of loyalties or fear were unable to come forward previously, to now come forward with information to help find both missing men and provide closure for the O’Brien and Ball families.