New DNA science helps identify corpse washed up

Rockmarshall Beach on Lout

New Forensics technology in Ireland has solved the mystery of an unidentified body found 10 years ago after it had been buried in Louth.

The man’s body washed up on Rockmarshall Beach on Louth in 2007, six months after the family of Joseph Reilly had reported him missing.

A new DNA database launched in 2015 helped identify that the man’s body was that of Joseph, who was 50 years old when he disappeared in 2006. Reilly’s family have been searching for him for over 10 years to no avail – until September.

“The more time that went on, the more likely it was that we weren’t going to see Joe again,” Reilly’s brother Gabriel told RTE.

Gabriel Reilly and his brother were approached by Forensic Science Ireland in May and asked if they wished to donate DNA samples to try to see if their brother was one of the unidentified bodies. They did so in May and discovered in September that Joseph Reilly was the body that washed up on the beach in 2007.

Forensic Science Ireland’s Dr Dorothy Ramsbottom said: “We have had major advances in DNA technology. We can now work on samples that we previously couldn’t work on before. The main reason why we have identified this man at the moment is because we are able to investigate or compare DNA from singles and we weren’t able to do that two or three years ago.

“The sea water is very corrosive and it’s sometimes very difficult to get a DNA profile from a person who has been in the water. Luckily, in the case of Joe Reilly, we were able to generate a case back in 2007,” Ramsbottom said.

Gabriel Reilly said it had been a relief to finally find out what happened to his brother. “It’s something that’s been hard to come to terms with because his disappearance has been a mystery and we’ve never really understood it.”

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