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DNA hopes Gardaí to exhume body washed up on beach in 1986

The body was discovered on the rocks on Tullaghan Strand in north Leitrim in May, 1986


Tullaghan Strand

Tullaghan Strand

Tullaghan Strand

GARDAÍ will exhume the remains of an unidentified man washed up on a Co Leitrim beach in the 1980s in a bid to solve a 34-year mystery.

The body, which was later buried in Manorhamilton, was found on the rocks on Tullaghan Strand in north Leitrim in May 1986.

An exhumation is due to take place later this month under the supervision of detectives from the Garda Missing Persons Bureau.

A source involved in the case said it is hoped that advances in forensic science, in particular DNA identification, will help investigators to finally identify the man.

He is believed to have drowned, and no foul play is suspected.

The body, which was discovered shortly after 10am on May 1, 1986, is thought to have been in the water for some time.

Despite being badly decomposed, a number of distinctive tattoos on both arms could provide vital clues.

The word "Éire" was found on the upper left arm while the right arm had a green shamrock alongside a dagger and scabbard.

One theory, given the time period, is that the man may have been from the North.

At the time, however, the RUC nominated a missing man as a possible match that was later ruled out.

The remains had no upper body clothing, but there were a pair of Wrangler jeans with a belt that had a silver buckle with a dog on it.

A post-mortem was carried out before burial, but no DNA profile was obtained.

The Department of Justice confirmed that a ministerial order for the exhumation had been granted by minister Helen McEntee.

This followed a request from the coroner for Co Leitrim for the exhumation, for the purposes of DNA retrieval.

"Ireland's DNA database, administered by Forensic Science Ireland (FSI), has made a significant contribution to missing persons cases since its establishment five years ago," a department spokesperson said.

"The DNA database contains valuable close family samples alongside profiles of persons whose identity is not yet known."

Chris Enright, the director general of FSI, recently told a National Missing Persons Day event that a number of cases of missing persons had been solved last year by DNA technology.The exhumation of bodies involves a complex application process and is allowed only in the rarest of circumstances.

The law requires that the exhumation be carried out "with due care and decency, and in such a manner as not to endanger public health".

A forensic anthropologist, the state pathologist, gardaí from the technical bureau and a forensic scientist from FSI are expected to attend the exhumation in Manorhamilton.

The remains must be reburied or cremated within 48 hours.

There are around 20 cases of unidentified remains in Ireland.

The oldest is that of a male found in the sea off Co Wexford in 1968.