Ten years ago, a father sat waiting to find out if his son’s body had been found. In part four of our Unsolved series, Brian Fetherston tells Conor Feehan of his hope that justice may now finally be delivered
n the cold of winter in early February 2010, Brian Fetherston was parked in the Dublin Mountains, anxiously watching as a search party combed their way along the boggy edge of a forest.
Not far away, Ashley Dempsey was also waiting and watching.
The lives of Brian and Ashley had never crossed, but fate brought them together that day.
Brian’s son Ken (26) had been missing since September 2009. Ashley’s son Paul (20) had been missing since July of the same year.
On January 31, 2010, skeletal remains were found in the mountains where many murder victims have been disposed of before and since.
Neither Brian nor Ashley wanted the remains to be those of their missing son, because that would confirm they were dead and most likely murdered.
Yet both fathers craved closure and to give their child a proper burial. They hoped the discovery would put an end to their “not knowing”.
The remains were those of Ken Fetherston, and a murder investigation was launched after a post-mortem found he had been stabbed several times, with injuries to the skull and neck.
Ashley Dempsey had to wait until July 2010 before Paul’s remains were found, buried in a separate area of the Dublin/Wicklow Mountains.
Now, more than 10 years later, Brian is hoping a cold-case review launched a few months ago will bring his son’s killers to justice.
Ken, who lived in Tallaght, was the doting dad of a three-year-old daughter, Nicole, when he disappeared on September 22, 2009.
He had gone to a garage in Landy’s Industrial Estate in Knocklyon to ask for money owed to him by some men he had started a business with six months earlier.
His family reported him missing the next day when they could not contact him, and three days later his car was found abandoned on a slip road near Gorey, Co Wexford.
A later forensic examination revealed a bloodstain in the boot that matched Ken’s, yet his remains were found in the Dublin mountains.
Clearly, somebody had made an attempt to divert attention away from where he was killed.
Four people were arrested but later released, and a file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who decided there was insufficient evidence to bring charges.
An inquest into Ken’s death heard he was last seen at 10am on September 22 at the rented garage in Knocklyon.
One of the men he was in business with, William Smith, told Dublin District Coroner’s Court they had discussed money he owed Ken, which he was not then in a position to pay.
He denied the debt had caused tension.
Smith and his father, Patrick, said that when they last saw Ken, he was leaving to buy new brake pads for his car.
Brian Fetherston’s hopes, and those of his family, now lie in a cold case review being conducted by the Serious Crime Review Team overseen by Detective Superintendent Desmond McTiernan.
“We met with senior gardaí last December, and again in February, and the case is undergoing a review now, but I’d imagine the Covid pandemic has slowed things a bit,” Brian said.
“However, we’ve waited 11 years at this stage, so we’ll give the gardaí the space they need to do what they need to do.”
The unsolved aspect of the case plays heavily on Brian’s mind.
He said he feels that if Ken’s killer or killers were already in prison, it would bring him and his family some peace, even though it would never bring his son back.
“It depresses me,” Brian said. “It worries and saddens me that whoever did this has more or less committed the perfect crime, and I don’t believe there is such a thing as the perfect crime. We can only live in hope.
“The unsolved aspect of it adds a whole lot more grief and pain to the situation. Every day Ken is on my mind. I talk to him every day.
“I brought my kids up to respect the law and respect the gardaí, and it’s getting to a stage where I can’t understand how whoever did this can outwit professional, edu-
cated people like the gardaí and the DPP.
“It really upsets me when I think about it, because the mind just wanders from one thing to the next.
“Ken was stabbed from behind, and he was well able to take care of himself. He used to play rugby on the Templeogue College team.
“He was stabbed from behind and he was stabbed a hell of a lot of times. It goes through my mind that the first time Ken was stabbed, what were his initial thoughts?
“The horror he must have felt, knowing there was no way out of this.
“He was never going to see his daughter again. Never
going to see his family. Noth- ing. ‘This is the end. I’m going’. That image runs in my head regularly.
“The terrible thought of what he went through in those last couple of minutes of his life upsets me a lot.”