Man and teenage girl held over disappearance of William Delaney
Gardaí believe he was killed in Co Laois by a person known to him over a personal matter
Brothers and sisters John Paul, Ann-Marie, Bridget(wife), Mary Theresa, and Thomas Delaney, all relatives of William Delaney can be seen close to the rock of Dunamase in Co.Laois Photograph: James Forde/ The Irish Times
“This is the worst thing that could happen to anybody,” said Mary Therese Delaney as she and her family stood at the Garda tape blocking access to the site where a search is under way for the body of her father William.
The last confirmed sighting of the 56-year-old father of eight from Portlaoise was on January 31st. He was not reported missing for about another six weeks as he had taken time away on his own in the past, meaning his absence did not initially cause concern.
While his disappearance was treated as a missing persons inquiry for a number of months, the case has now been upgraded by the Garda to a murder probe.
Gardaí believe Mr Delaney was killed by a person known to him over a personal matter, and a suspect has been identified.
After receiving information that he had been tortured and murdered and then buried in a shallow grave in the shadow of the ruins of Dunamase Castle outside Portlaoise, gardaí began a major search operation on Tuesday.
Units from the Garda and Defence Forces continued to search the site just off the main Portlaoise to Stradbally road through Friday. Approach roads to the area remained blocked off and searching was expected to continue this weekend.
Mr Delaney’s wife, brothers and sisters visited the scene briefly on Friday morning and spoke of their heartache as they waited for news. They were all holding posters appealing for the safe return of Mr Delaney. As they spoke, a drone flew overhead capturing aerial footage of the scene.
With a wedding due to take place in the area on Friday evening, plans were being put in place to reduce the Garda and Defence Forces presence for at least a portion of the day while ensuring the area remained secure.
Through the morning a team of about 40 gardaí and troops carefully combed the 30-acre site looking for Mr Delaney’s remains or any signs the earth had been disturbed.
However, gardaí believe he was killed around the time of the last confirmed sighting. Sources added that because any disturbed earth would have settled and significant growth may have taken place on it in recent months, signs of a burial may not be obvious.
The Irish Times understands the information the search is based on came from a teenage girl who claims a man known to her confessed to the murder of Mr Delaney. That information came to the attention of the missing man’s family who passed it onto the Garda.
The teenage girl has since been interviewed by the Garda and it was decided to search around Dunamase Castle for the remains of Mr Delaney.
As well as the search operation, a man in his 30s and a teenager were being questioned by the Garda last night in relation to the suspected murder of Mr Delaney.
The male suspect has been a central person of interest to the Garda for months. He had recently spent time abroad and was arrested in the midlands when he re-emerged there this week after a long period overseas.
The male suspect was being held at Portlaoise garda station and the teenager in Tullamore station. Both were detained on Thursday afternoon, during the third day of searches, under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act.
Mr Delaney’s son John Paul, who was also present close to the search site on Friday morning, had previously told Midlands 103 radio station he had received a phone call from a woman who claimed her brother had admitted killing Mr Delaney after torturing him.
He said this woman had told him a man she was close to claimed to have buried the body in a shallow grave near the Rock of Dunamase.
He said this woman made a statement at a Garda station on Tuesday about the disappearance of Mr Delaney, who was originally from Co Tipperary and was living in the Fieldbrook estate in Portlaoise.