NewsCrime Desk

Worker's gruesome discovery of discarded body parts

Mark Burke
Mark Burke

DARKNESS had fallen outside the Thorntons Recycling facility in Ballyfermot on one of the hottest days of summer 2014 when the first body part was found.

Dinas Plenpa had worked at Thorntons for a year and was used to the stench of the waste that arrived every day.

The dad-of-two worked from 3pm to midnight and was employed to find construction metal and wood which had been passed onto a conveyor belt.

At around 11.10pm, Dinas noticed a leg cut from the knee. Seeing no blood, he let it go thinking it was part of a plastic mannequin.

Twenty metres later, a foot came along the belt, cut from below the ankle. He got a sickening smell, much worse than the odours he was used to. He called his supervisor and the line was stopped.

Within 24 hours the enormous plant had become a crime scene and a Garda forensic team had the unenviable task of sorting through Dublin city’s waste for the body parts of an unidentified human.

At a coroner’s court two years later, David Duff, Environmental Manager at Thorntons, described how lorries arrived at the plant from all over Dublin and Wicklow.

A machine picked out larger items for landfill before smaller materials moved into a crusher to compact them for sorting. Anything that passed through the machines and was deemed non-recyclable went straight to the landfill where one of the body parts was found – it would be identified as a portion of pelvis.

The rubbish had been compacted, but not chopped in any way with blades. By the time Deputy State Pathologist Michael Curtis started the examination, Gardaí had collected almost 60 per cent of a body.

In his report, he noted that the body parts emitted a vinegar-like odour that irritated the eyes, nose and throat. Curtis later described the odour as a glacial acetic acid-like substance – often used in hospitals.

A bone expert brought in also discovered that there were surgery screws on a portion of the skull which had been retrieved from Thorntons.

Their mystery jigsaw man had, at some point, had an operation and Gardaí hoped that would help identify him.

Of the almost 40 items bagged and delivered to the mortuary slab, many were not human remains. Those that were involved roughly broken bones.

On closer examination a Garda Technical Bureau officer noticed that marks on the bones suggested a machined tool was used and suggested a screwdriver or chisel.

The leg bones were sent on for further examination and Curtis noted: “The examination revealed the presence of multiple striated tool marks. Knife injuries on the bone were also confirmed.

“The presence of tool marks on bones is conclusive evidence that the body had been dismembered prior to its disposal.”