Gardaí investigating the disappearance of Limerick man Aengus "Gussie" Shanahan, who went missing 18 years ago, have begun a "complete review" of the case after partial human remains found in 2001 were identified as his.
The foot-bone fragments were found by members of Bunratty search and rescue service at Quay Island, Bunratty, on October 28th, 2001 – more than a year and half after Mr Shanahan disappeared in February 2000.
The remains were finally identified as belonging to Mr Shanahan following improvements in DNA testing by Forensic Science Ireland (FSI), which finally linked DNA taken from bone marrow to his parents.
Describing the breakthrough as “major and significant”, Supt Eamon O’Neill of Roxboro Road Garda station urged anyone with information to come forward.
The 20-year-old from Ashbrook, Ennis Road, was last seen exiting Cooper's Bar, on St Joseph Street in Limerick, before walking on to Old School House Lane at about 10.30pm on February 11th, 2000.
Remains kept intact
Praising FSI for “tirelessly seeking ways” to identify the fragments, Supt O’Neill said the remains had been “kept intact” throughout the years.
The remains were tested repeatedly without success over the years, but the DNA could not previously have been extracted from the remains. “That difficulty has been overcome,” he said.
Shanahan's father Bob, who has campaigned for years to find out what happened to his son, and his late wife Nancy had provided fresh DNA saliva swabs several times since 2000.
Following her son's disappearance, Mrs Shanahan suffered a stroke. Before she died in 2016, she said: "I miss him everyday. I'd love to know where he is before I die."
Describing the discovery of his son’s partial remains as “a mixture of joy and sadness”, Mr Shanahan said: “Sadness, because it means that [Aengus] is dead; and joy, because we now have some closure.”
He and his remaining children cried after they were told the news on Monday: “It’s surreal. Nancy was always of the view that he was dead,” Mr Shanahan told The Irish Times.
“She also used to say to me: ‘You’d think our dead [relatives] would tell us somehow where he was.’ When she passed away, I said to her: ‘It’s you’re turn now, Nancy’, and, she has delivered,” he added.
The family had always known of the 2001 remains, but they had “long lost hope” that they belonged to his son, he said, because a DNA link could not be made.
He remains convinced that his son was murdered, he said: “That’s still my belief.” His son’s remains will now be buried alongside his mother in the family plot.
Saying there was “no doubt” about the identification, Supt O’Neill urged anyone with information to call Roxboro Garda station on 061-214340, or the Garda confidential line, 1800-666-111.
Families find it hard to “ comprehend” how long investigations can take, Supt. O’Neill said, but this week’s success showed “the commitment of the [gardaí]” involved over the years”. He said he hoped the case review would end “prior to Christmas”.