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remains found 'Our hopes are shattered' - family told that body found 25 years ago is missing son​​​​​​​

Denis Walsh (23) left his family home at Caherdavin, Co Limerick, in March 1996 and his family never gave up hope that they would one day be reunited with him.

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Mary and Denis Snr Walsh from Caherdavin, Limerick, hold a photo of their son Denis who at the age of 23 went missing in 1996. Photo: Liam Burke

Mary and Denis Snr Walsh from Caherdavin, Limerick, hold a photo of their son Denis who at the age of 23 went missing in 1996. Photo: Liam Burke

Denis Walsh (23) left his family home in March 1996

Denis Walsh (23) left his family home in March 1996

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Mary and Denis Snr Walsh from Caherdavin, Limerick, hold a photo of their son Denis who at the age of 23 went missing in 1996. Photo: Liam Burke

THE family of missing man Denis Walsh, who were unaware until last week that his body had been found 25 years ago off the west coast, have spoken about their feelings at finally learning the fate of their son.

Denis (23) left his family home at Caherdavin, Co Limerick, in March 1996 and his family never gave up hope that they would one day be reunited with him.

Last Friday they received the crushing news that his body was found on the shore of Inis Mór on the Aran Islands on April 7, 1996. His remains went unidentified for almost 25 years.

Denis's brother Mike last night said gardaí had informed them his remains were buried in a communal grave at Bohermore Cemetery in Galway in 2014.

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Denis Walsh (23) left his family home in March 1996

Denis Walsh (23) left his family home in March 1996

Denis Walsh (23) left his family home in March 1996

The family now want Denis's remains to be exhumed so he can be laid to rest closer to home.

Mike said he "thought about Denis everyday" and while the news of his death "was a bolt, a part of you is always expecting it".

"It's hard to describe how I am feeling, that his body was found so long ago and within a couple of weeks of him going missing, it's certainly a lot to take in," he said.

"Denis was very, very outgoing and very friendly. Everyone had great time for him. He never had a bad word to say about people and he always saw the good in people."

Denis was the youngest of five children and regarded as intelligent, sporty, kind, and outgoing. However, his family said his personality changed after he experimented with drugs while on a working holiday in Holland when he was 17 years old.

Later on, Denis had to step away from a college course in economics after he suffered a breakdown, which his family believe was fuelled by a "bad reaction" to a drug.

"When Denis came back he had had a bad reaction to something he had taken there," said Mike.

"He wasn't a wild kid or anything, it would have been purely experimentation, it was like something had tripped in his mind, and that brought on the mental illnesses that ­followed.

"It does serve as a warning to young people - it didn't agree with him and it did change his life and the person he was, ultimately. Denis was one of the unlucky ones."

In the years since Denis disappeared, the family had travelled around the country and to England, following up on possible sightings.

His father, Denis Walsh Sr, said he was "thankful" gardaí had identified his son after so many years, but he also felt "upset" and "bewildered" as to why Denis was not identified sooner, particularly around the time his remains were found.

"I would have to say I am mad at what has gone on for the past 25 years. At least we'll hopefully be able to get the remains back and have a Christian burial," he said.

"We lived for 25 years hoping that some day he might ring or come back in the front door and now our hopes have been shattered."

Denis Sr said he wanted further information from the authorities, including whether dental records were checked and fingerprints taken.

"There were posters of Denis up around Galway and we gave in posters to the gardaí, shortly after he went missing. We handed out flyers all over the place," he said.

Denis's mother Mary Walsh said it would come as a relief to finally have a grave to visit.

"To be honest, I have thanked God that I am finally getting Denis home and that some of the mystery is solved," she said.

"We have had 25 years of worrying, and wondering where was he, and I felt that something serious had ­happened to him.

"So, it is a sense of relief to know that we are finally getting closure, and that we will have a grave to visit and finally be able to talk to Denis.

"Every morning, noon, and night, I would just think, 'Where are you, Denis?'

"That morning he had his breakfast with us, but he was very nervous in himself.

"He said he was going into town and he said he'd be back for his dinner that evening.

"There were sightings all over Ireland and we followed them all up, and little did we know that all that time his body had been recovered."


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