Gruesome mystery of headless body washed up on the shore 11 years ago finally solved

Gruesome mystery of headless body washed up on the shore 11 years ago finally solved

In June 2007, people were shocked to hear about a headless body that had washed up on Rockmarshall beach in Louth, Ireland. Nobody had any idea of the identity of the corpse, nor how the man had died or where he had originally entered the water.

For more than a decade, it remained a mystery.

However, in December last year, investigators finally got a breakthrough in the case when they compared his DNA to that of two men whose brother had gone missing in December 2016 - six months before the body washed up. Sure enough, it was a positive match, and the headless corpse was revealed to be that of 50-year-old Joe Reilly.

Initially, Reilly was "buried in Lordship cemetery with the generosity of people in the local area who organised the burial and attended his funeral," but his skeletal remains were exhumed for analysis by the deputy state pathologist some years later.

Dr. Dorothy Ramsbottom, a forensic scientist, said that the DNA profile from a sample of Reilly's remains was added to the national database shortly after the system was established three years ago. Then, two years after that, samples were requested from Reilly's siblings - Demott and Gabriel - and shortly after, a match was established.

The doctor explained that, at the time the body was found, "We did not have the forensic tools to compare the profiles of siblings," but technological advances in the meantime had allowed for new methods to develop.

Despite finally working out who Reilly was, though, investigators still have no idea what happened to the man, and are not even sure of how he lost his head.

The 50-year-old was said to be an incredibly private person, a claim that is backed up by the fact that nobody actually knew he was missing until four months after he disappeared - by which point enough mail had collected by his door for one of his siblings to suspect that he had not been home in a while.

It's not clear whether Reilly was the victim of a violent attack, or whether he somehow accidentally fell into the sea and then lost his head as a result of some later trauma.

Still, the deceased man's family were relieved to finally have an answer to the whereabouts of their brother, and were thankful to the people who organised and showed up to his funeral when nobody knew who he was.

"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," said Dermott Reilly. "It shows the good side of humanity we don’t see normally and that it is alive and kicking in this area."

Speaking at a missing persons event in Ireland last year, his other brother 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."

Reilly was described by his brothers as "an inspiration", and has been sorely missed.