Man brought home to be buried 10 years after going missing

Burial takes place in Co Cavan of Joseph Reilly who disappeared in 2006


More than 10 years after he went missing the body of a 50-year-old man was brought home to be buried next to his parents in a country churchyard in Co Cavan at the weekend.

As the bells rang out in the Cathedral of St Patrick and St Felim,Cavan, at 11am on Saturday the family and friends of Joseph Reilly gathered for a funeral they thought would never happen.

In his homily Father Kevin Fay told mourners that the funeral “brings completion and closure on a very tough time for the Reilly family”.

“We don’t know what happened to Joe, we probably never will,” he said.

The priest said no one could comprehend what the past 10 years have been like for the family “knowing that a brother and a son was on a list of missing persons”.

“So many questions and no answers.

“It is very, very hard for any family to comprehend; frustration also became part and parcel when in the years after 2007 nothing much was happening.”

Mr Reilly had been living alone on Dublin’s Hatch Street when he vanished in December 2006.

In June the following year a woman walking her dog at Rockmarshall beach in north Louth came upon a body which had been washed up on the shoreline. It had been in the water a long time. It remained unidentified and was buried in Lordship cemetery in Co Louth in an unmarked grave.

But major advances in DNA technology finally solved the mystery of the body in the unmarked grave last year after two brothers of Mr Reilly were asked by gardaí to provide DNA samples in their ongoing effort to solve missing persons cases. They proved a match bringing an end to years of uncertainty for the family.

Liverpool to Dublin

Praising the Lordship community where the local graveyard committee tended to the unmarked grave over the years, Fr Fay said: “They carry people in their times of need, all those people are people who give us hope in life.”

Born in 1956 to Agnes and Joseph snr, Mr Reilly was the youngest of eight: Niall, Dermott, Gabriel, Caroline, Joan, Chris and the late Declan.

After his family moved to England he finished his education in Liverpool University and went on to become a successful businessman.

“Joe was a very articulate, intelligent, humble, shy man. He put huge energy into the business scene,” said Fr Fay. “Firm and fair are the words that came to mind.”

After 15 years in London Mr Reilly returned to Ireland in the mid 1990s and took up his passion for writing, poetry and music.

“He had a great interest in history, physiology and sociology and focused on the whole area of writing and poetry,” he said, with one of his plays receiving acknowledgment at the Royal National Theatre in London.

“I am told he was a man who could hold a conversation and could talk about anything,” he said.

Speaking to RTÉ Morning Ireland ahead of missing persons day last December, Forensic Science Ireland’s Dr Dorothy Ramsbottom said while DNA technology had been around a long time major advances in it meant experts could now work on samples they couldn’t work on before.

Sibling DNA

“Our DNA technologies are more sensitive and I suppose the main reason why we have identified this man at the moment is because we are able to investigate or compare DNA from siblings and we weren’t able to do that two or three years ago,” she said.

Forensic Science Ireland set up a national DNA database in late 2015 on which were included the DNA profile of unidentified remains including those of Joseph Reilly. While the repository also includes a criminal database to help solve crimes, it is gathering samples from families of missing persons in the hope they will help make a breakthrough in such cases.

Mr Reilly’s brother Gabriel said at that time that solving the mystery of his brother’s disappearance had “been a big shock for us all” and hard to come to terms with, but now there was a bit of relief that they could bring his brother home.

During his funeral mass on Saturday amid the prayers and hymns was a chance for Mr Reilly’s family to say a final goodbye before his burial with his parents at Coronea cemetery.

“We know that his parting was far too early for this life but we know he is at peace,” Fr Fay told mourners.