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Mystery of headless body found washed up on beach finally solved after 10 years

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DNA technology identified a man a decade after his headless body washed up on a beach.

The remains of Joe Reilly were found on Rockmarshall strand, in Louth, Ireland, in June 2007.

He had gone missing from his apartment in in January of that year.

He left nothing in his home to indicate he was going away and there was no evidence to suggest a crime had been committed.

But it was December 2017 when scientific advances led to the 50-year-old’s identification, an inquest into his death heard.

Mr Reilly was buried in a nearby cemetery after generous locals organised and attended his funeral.

The inquest heard the torso and skeletal remains of his lower body were recovered and a post-mortem at the time was carried out by the deputy state pathologist, Dr Michael Curtis.

There was no evidence of Mr Reilly, from Dublin, suffering any trauma but the cause of death could not be determined.

Tissue samples were taken and identified after comparing the DNA profile of the deceased with those of two of his brothers Dermott and Gabriel.

New DNA enabled scientists to identify the body

When asked by the coroner if she had any doubt the deceased was Joe Reilly, Forensic Science Ireland’s Dr Dorothy Ramsbottom replied: “Absolutely not.”

She explained at the time his remains were found “we were not able to compare the DNA profiles of siblings.” Dr Ramsbottom said: “We did not have the forensic tools to compare the profiles of siblings.”

She added it was only in 2016, “we had the tools and expertise to compare sibling profiles. Scientifically we could not do it [before then]”.

The jury at the Coroner’s Court in Dundalk returned an open verdict and found Mr Reilly had died on the June 4, 2007, at Rockmarshall beach and the cause of his death was unascertainable.

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The coroner expressed his sympathies to the family and said they had “waited a long, long time”.

He said Mr Reilly “was treated with great courtesy by the residents of the area and they all went to his funeral”.

Dermott Reilly told his brother’s inquest: “My instinct is he fell into the sea around Dublin and was washed up.

“The only good to come out of this was the real generosity of the community in Dundalk which was inspiring to everybody and took a lot of pain off the family.”

Dermott added: “It shows the good side of humanity we don’t see normally and that it is alive and kicking in this area.”

Mr Reilly, who was a single man, had lived in London for 15 years where he ran his own business.

He then moved back to Dublin city centre in the 1990s.

Joe, a triplet and one of eight children, was described by his brother Gabriel as “an inspiration”.

Speaking at a missing persons event in Ireland last year, Gabriel said: “We don’t know what happened to Joe and how or why he ended up in the sea.

“As time had gone on, we were all becoming aware that we probably wouldn’t see him again.

“It has come as a terrible shock to us to find him in this way.”

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