Missing Dublin pensioner found on Blackpool beach.

THE BODY of Thomas Kennedy has been found on a Blackpool beach. He was last seen putting out the bins at his home in Finglas on the evening of July 29, 2014.

And the 81-year-old’s family had been frantically searching for him ever since. But on Wednesday evening, they received the news they said last night they had never wanted to hear.

Although his body had actually been found on Blackpool’s south shore district last August, Lancashire Constabulary police officers were only able to formally identify him a dew days ago.

His widow Patricia said: ‘It was the moment we had all been dreading.

Poster appeal for information about Mr Kennedy after he disappeared.
Poster appeal for information about Mr Kennedy after he disappeared.

‘In my heart of hearts, I never really expected to find the man alive again but I had held onto hope.

‘We are, however tragic this is, glad to have the closure.

‘The worry and anxiety about it all had being going on for a long time.’

Patricia, 67, who had only recently launched on on-air appeal for information on RTE’s Liveline, added: ‘It’s very, very unfortunate.

‘We are all devastated at the news. It’s the news we never wanted to hear.

‘I’m not feeling very good about it as you can imagine but I just have to get on with it and prepare for his funeral.’

Mr Kennedy had been on the EU police agency Interpol’s Missing Persons website as well as a number of other such sites, including one set up by his family after he went missing on July 29.

A spokesperson for Lancashire Constabulary said: ‘We can confirm that a body found near to Starr Gate at Blackpool in August last year has this week been confirmed as that of Thomas Kennedy, 81, who went missing from his home in Dublin in July last year.

‘The body was identified through DNA. Mr Kennedy’s body will now be returned to Ireland.’

Patricia had gone upstairs to watch TV as usual and the last thing she heard was her husband putting out the bins.

He would normally stay downstairs for a while, watching his favourite science-fiction films or potter about, preparing plates for the next day’s breakfast.

‘I remember that evening very well,’ Patricia recalled. ‘The last thing I heard was him putting the bins out and I just thought he had come back in to watch his films.’

When her grandson Ross came into the house from work around 9.30pm, she had called down to him to ‘Tell granddad to take his tablets’.

But he wasn’t in the house and after a few hours searching locally and calling neighbours and friends, they alerted gardai around midnight.

Family, friends, neighbours and members of the Scouts – which Mr Kennedy had been heavily involved with – all rallied round, mounting searches.

As well as gardai dogs helping in the search, volunteers had come from all round the country to help find him.

The pensioner, who had been described as a ‘gentle, quiet’ man, had left without either his wallet or mobile phone.

Within the following weeks and months, there were more than 250 suspected sightings of him.

One of those sightings was in August when a Dublin taxi driver told gardai he was convinced he had picked Mr Kennedy up in Finglas around midnight on July 29.

He said he took him to either Belmayne or Balgriffin but that the man he believed was Mr Kennedy changed his mind and they went to Baldoyle, where one of his sons lives.

As well as gardai, volunteers from Civil Defence searched the old race course at Baldoyle, which is about seven minutes drive from Balgriffin, but they found no trace of him.

While he was missing, Patricia and her family couldn’t bring themselves to tell his young grandchildren they didn’t know where he was. Instead, they said he was in hospital.

Shortly before he had gone missing, he had actually been in hospital and had undergone a number of brain scans.

He had a history of heart trouble, had an abscess in his lung and a problem with one of his legs had meant he was unable to drive.

Last Christmas, one of his grand-daughters had asked Santa to bring him back to her and his younger grandson used to joke that he was away playing hide and seek and that he was the best man in the work at playing the game.

They routinely asked when their doting grandfather would be coming back. Patricia was putting on a brave face yesterday about the discovery by Lancashire Constabulary.

She said: ‘The police found him on Wednesday as far as we can tell. They called us at 6pm.

‘We’ve no idea how he died or even when exactly. We won’t know anything until he is released from the coroner in Blackpool.

‘At the moment, I don’t really know when I will go over or if I will. We are waiting for family to gather before we decide what the next step.

‘We also have to wait for the English coroner to release him and then the Irish coroner to accept him back into the country, as far as I know.’

She added: ‘I never expected to find the man alive because he hadn’t got medication with him for his heart, which had six stents in it.

‘Although his health was stabilised, he always needed his medication. To this day I have absolutely no idea what might have happened to him. I really haven’t got a clue.

‘Although there were posters put up on Manchester when he went missing because he had family and friends over there, I never believed he travelled there.

‘He had no money and or any means of getting money. All the man had when he left this house was his travel pass. He had no medical card, no credit cards and if he had any money, it would have been loose change.’

And she recalled the day she last saw him.

‘I remember to this day when I last saw him him on the July 29, it was on a Tuesday,’ she said. ‘I went upstairs to watch my programmes and he put the bins out.

‘I heard him put them out and I thought the man came back into the house but obviously he went out for a walk.

‘Despite his age and his heart, he was a fit man. He hadn’t shown any signs of being disorientated or had any episodes where that might have happened.

‘The only thing the man used to do was dose off on the couch for a few minutes when he ‘d sit down with a cup of tea. He had just come out of hospital and had had brain scans to make sure he wasn’t having seizures.’

She added: ‘He had had his disappointments. He was 81 and he couldn’t drive, his brother Tony died and his sister Kathleen died in the one year.

‘I think he took not driving badly although he said he didn’t but if you’ve been driving for years and you’re told you can’t drive, you’d be disappointed.

‘He was disappointed but we just got on with it and took the bus if we had to go into town, so it was not problem. Besides, he’d walk quite a bit for a man of his age.

‘He could walk around Finglas and down into the village.’

Carbon monoxide suspected in death of Trevor Wallwork and children

Trevor Wallwork with wife Susan

A FATHER and his two young children died from carbon monoxide poisoning as they watched Christmas TV in their family home.

Trevor Wallwork’s body was found in a chair in front of the television set – his 12-year-old daughter Kim and nine-year-old son Harry lying beside him and the Christmas tree lights still flashing in their newly decorated bungalow.

Although further toxicology tests have to be carried out, it appeared last night that carbon monoxide poisoning had caused the deaths of Mr Wallwork and his children.

Their two dogs were also found dead in the house.

The tragedy came to light at around 9.40pm on Sunday night after Mr Wallwork’s step-daughter Vikki Whitehorne went to the remote, rural bungalow two miles from the village of Gurteen, Co. Sligo.

Miss Whitehorne, 22, who lives in nearby Tubbercurry, is said to have tried to phone the house but became concerned when she couldn’t get an answer as she had been expecting them to be in.

She immediately called the emergency services.

Trevor Wallwork’s daughter Kim

She is believed to have warned them that she could smell gas in the white, 1970s bungalow where she found her stepfather sitting in his chair.

The two youngsters, who attended nearby Mullaghroe National School, were lying on the floor near his feet in the sitting room.

Mr Wallwork was still in his chair as if watching television. The set was still switched on, as were the lights on the Christmas tree, which the family had only recently decorated.

A local doctor who attended the scene pronounced all three dead at around 11pm. It was not immediately clear last night how long the bodies had lain undiscovered at the house.

Shortly after entering the house, gardaí are said to have discovered a cylinder of gas attached to a heater in a room near the sitting room.

Mr Wallwork’s wife Susan – who he is said to have been a full-time carer for – is seriously ill in hospital with an unrelated condition and was not in the house at the time he and the two children died.

The children’s mother, Donna Wallwork, is disabled and has been living with her parents Richard and Margaret Farrimond in Leigh, Lancashire since about 2008.

It is understood that gardaí had contacted the family in Manchester last night. The couple, who are in their 60s, only found out about the tragedy yesterday evening.

Mr Wallwork, who is from Manchester, is believed to have moved to the bungalow off Moygara Road, Gurteen, about six years ago.

Trevor Wallwork’s son Harry

This is believed to have been around the time he and Donna split up. He had lived in one of the bungalows for about three years before moving to the one where he and his children were found on Sunday evening.

Yesterday, a single car was parked outside the house, which had a large satellite TV dish to one side and a white caravan parked nearby.

An orange gas cylinder was visible outside the porch.

He and Susan were described last night by locals as ‘a quiet family who kept themselves to themselves’.

As shocked locals came to grips with the news, Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis examined the bodies at the scene before they were removed for a post-mortem examination at around 2.30pm.

Toxicology tests are still to be carried out but because of the festive season the results of these tests are not likely to be known for at least two weeks.

However, the post-mortem tests indicated death was due to carbon monoxide poisoning and there was no evidence of any other type of poisoning.

Last night a Garda spokesman said: ‘It was a terrible tragedy.’

Gardaí found the gas container linked to a heater in the hallway. They believe the family was heating the rest of the house with that.

In addition, there was a coal-fire burning in the sitting-room where the three of them were watching television.

Forensics officers will continue investigations today to try to establish what the ventilation was like in the sitting-room.

A variety of toxicology tests will also be carried out.

All three bodies are expected to be returned to the UK once they are released. Earlier in the day, Inspector Colm Nevin, who is in charge of the investigation, said: ‘Gardaí have taken possession of a gas container which was found in a separate room and it was connected to a heater.’

He added: ‘There is no suggestion at this stage of foul play.’

The family’s only neighbour, a woman called Paula who has three young children, said the first that she knew of the tragedy was when she heard the ambulance arrive just after 10pm on Sunday night.

She said: ‘I didn’t even hear Vicky’s car arrive earlier. ‘We heard later that she couldn’t get in contact with her step-dad or the children and she drove to the house.’

Paula, who refused to give her surname, added: ‘At first, when I heard the ambulance, I thought Trevor’s wife may have died.’

When Trevor and Susan moved from their home in England six years ago they first lived in the house that Paul eventually moved into for three years before moving to the council house next door three years ago.

Paula, also from England, said she and her partner had moved in a few weeks after the Wallworks moved next door.

She said: ‘They kept themselves to themselves.

‘I only heard Sue wasn’t very well a few months ago when she went for an operation.’ She added of Mr Wallwork’s stepdaughter’s discovery: ‘What she discovered was appalling.

‘She told us about it but what she said is her own business.’ Farmer Michael McKeown, who lives nearby, said that he knew the two children – but not their parents.

He said: ‘I would give the young boy and his sister a lift up the lane if I ever came across them when they were coming back from school.

‘They were lovely. One time their mother gave me eggs because of the lifts. ‘They seemed like really nice people.

‘It’s an awful terrible tragedy, especially just before Christmas.’

UCC student Neil Fleming pal tried to save his life after River Lee fall

Parliament Bridge, Cork.

A POPULAR student drowned after falling into a river when he lost his balance on a wall.

The third year University College Cork business studies student was with a friend and due to attend a UCC departmental ball near the city later that night.

The two pals were on their way to get a lift out to the annual Commerce Ball at Rochestown Park Hotel, Rochestown when Neil Fleming stopped by a wall.

But the 19-year-old is said to have slipped off it at Wandesford Quay near The River Lee Hotel just after 9pm and plunged into the water below him.

Almost immediately, he was dragged under the water by the current.

It was so strong that his friend – who wanted to jump in to save him – is believed to have had to be held back in case they ended up being dragged under as well.

Instead a lifebuoy was thrust over to him as he reappeared very briefly but the current got the better of him again and he was swept away.

Gardai who were carrying out a check point nearby also tried to help after they saw Neil enter the river.

It would be another 20 minutes before his body was finally found at Parliament Bridge, where two Cork City Fire Brigade officers rescued Neil’s body and brought him onto a bank.

Together with a HSE ambulance crew, they frantically tried to revive him for more than two hours but were unable to.

Neil’s body was brought out a few yards from The Sober Lane pub, which is a regular for students.

A member of staff said last night: ‘He was pulled out just across form us. It’s very sad.’

The news has shocked the student community in the city, which is still coming to terms with the death earlier this year of another student.

In February, 21-year-old Adam Buggy was killed when he was struck at around midnight by two cars as he crossed the South Ring Road in Douglas, Cork.

The third-year UCC Arts student had been attending the UCC Arts Ball with 600 other students at the Rochestown Park Hotel.

Messages of condolence started appearing on Neil’s Facebook site about 3am yesterday morning as news of his tragic death started filtering through to the student community.

And by about 5pm last night, more than 140 messages had been left by well-wishers on the site – where he had some 575 friends.

One friend wrote: ‘Can’t believe it man . . . sickened . . . gona miss you big time Flemdog’.

Another simply said: ‘Such a huge loss’ while another read: ‘I’m going to miss you lad. It will never be the same without you’.

A fellow UCC student at the Sober Lane pub said last night: ‘I didn’t know Neil personally but one of my friends does and he says he was just a lovely guy.

‘He was one of those people who were very bright but also a great laugh.

‘He was always one for a bit of a joke and what happened was just one of those freak accidents.

‘Neil appears to have gone up on a wall and just misjudged the width and slipped in.

‘It’s a terrible thing. People who knew him are just shocked. Really shocked, as you can imagine.’

Last night, UCC Students’ Union deputy president Daithi Linnane said: ‘UCC Students’ Union are deeply saddened at the passing of a friend and classmate of so many of our students.

‘The thoughts and sympathy of UCC students are with the family and friends of the deceased at this difficult time.

‘Support is available from UCC’s Counselling and Development Office and from the UCC Chaplaincy Service and the Welfare Officer who can be reached at welfare@uccsu.ie.

A Garda spokesman said last night: ‘What happened was a total accident  and very sad altogether.

‘Apparently he was sitting on a wall and just fell backwards.

‘There was a very strong current that night and he was swept under very quickly.’

They added: ‘We would urge people to be very careful, particularly at this time of the year when rivers all over Ireland swell up.’

Originally from Gneeveguilla, just outside Rathmore, Co Kerry, he had attended Tureencahill National School followed by Rathmore Secondary School.

A former neighbour of the Scholarship student said last night: ‘He was a very, very bright guy.

‘He was expected to do very well with himself and his family had good reason to have high hopes for him.

‘They were always especially proud that he had won a scholarship to UCC.’

Neil is survived by father – plant hire boss Michael – mother Susan and 11-year-old brother Michael and 18-year-old sister Joanne.

They were last night being comforted by friends and family.

Parish priest Fr Larry Kelly, who visited the family yesterday afternoon, said last night: ‘Neil’s whole family are utterly devastated.

‘They are in a state of shock. Their whole world has been turned upside down by this.’

He said Neil, whose body arrived back at the family home just after 8pm last night before a 9pm rosary service, was a ‘very helpful sort of boy’.

He added: ‘There was never any bother on him.’

Neil’s removal will be at 8.15pm this evening and his funeral will be held the following day at 12.30 at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, Gneeveguilla.

Sinister end to former boyfriend of Irma Mali

AS IRMA Mali shifts from youthful confidence one minute to distraught confusion the next, you can hardly recognise her as one of Ireland’s top models.

Normally polished and very much the statuesque Lithuanian beauty who has taken the catwalks of Ireland – and beyond, to Paris, Milan and London – by storm, she sits at the table of a central Vilnius restaurant with her head in her hands.

She plays nervously with the 20 or so bracelets on her right arm, visibly struggling with the realisation that the first love of her life – the father of her daughter – is dead.

But his is no ordinary death, and the curious circumstances in which it happened are looking more sinister by the day.

Given that she has only just buried Marius Simanaitis – a martial arts expert and personal bodyguard to some of Ireland’s

wealthiest businessmen – she is understandably ill at ease. After all, this is the first time she has spoken publicly about

anything other than her modelling career.

Painfully shy by nature, she is fully, albeit reluctantly, aware that since her relationship with Script singer Danny

O’Donoghue became public earlier this year, she has been thrust into an unwelcome limelight of sorts.

But the suspicions around 28-year-old Marius’s death won’t let her be silent. She must speak out, she is convinced, for

the sake of his family and the Garda’s ongoing investigation into his death. It merited little more than a few paragraphs in

a newspaper report just over a week ago, and it was suggested that Marius, who was not named in the article, had

committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

His body had been discovered at 6.30am in an apartment near the Phoenix Park on March 11. He had died from a single gunshot to the head.

The pistol – which had been fitted with a silencer – was found firmly clasped in his hand. He was in the company of at least two other people and a large quantity of drink had been taken.

For Irma, the trauma was compounded by the way she found out. The shocking news didn’t come in the form of a polite

knock on the door from an apologetic garda. Instead, it came in a text message hours later from mutual friends, who have known each other since their teens.

Trembling nervously, Irma – who moved to Ireland with Marius more than six years ago – said: ‘They simply asked if I had heard. I hadn’t.

‘Finding out your ex-boyfriend is dead by text message is a very painful experience and I just didn’t believe it. I called his

brother and he came over with friends.’ What deeply troubles her is the suggestion that he could kill himself. As to the

possibility he could have been murdered, she cannot even bring herself to talk, let alone think, about it.

But his family are in no doubt he was murdered and even believe – because of what they have been told by witnesses

who stopped by Marius’s flat on the night he died as well as the accounts given by the last people to see him alive – that

his killer may actually have been a hitmanfor-hire from the internet, chillingly called Absolut after the vodka of the same

name.

Donatas Simanaitis, Marius’s older brother and president of a respected Lithuanian martial-arts federation, said: ‘There is

more to my brother’s death than meets the eye and I will not rest until I find out what happened and who was involved.

‘There is no doubt in my mind he was murdered. He didn’t just have a gunshot wound to his head.’

According to the family, Marius had severe bruising and a fractured skull to one side, a gunshot to the other, and defensive wounds on his

hand. Of course, the hand wounds could have pre-existed due to the fact that Marius, as stated, was a keen martial-arts

exponent.

Irma, whose surname is a shortened version of her family name, Malinauskaite, came to Ireland when she was 18, from

her home town of Alytus, near Vilnius.

She and Marius – who had recently been planning to return to Lithuania to go into business with Donatas – had been dating for some time. He got offered ‘a good job’ and left for Dublin. She, naturally, followed.

They set up home together and, three months after moving, she fell pregnant.

In 2003, she gave birth to Nikoleta. At the time, the couple were living in the north inner city, on Parnell Square.

He was working as a security guard and she was employed as a cook, though she took on occasional modelling

assignments.

Two years later, Irma – who had been modelling in Lithuania since she was 13 – walked into First Option modelling

agency in Dublin and was signed up on the spot.

By 2007, however, she and Marius had run their course and the couple parted.

The split was amicable and she made sure he received plenty of access to Nikoleta.

Irma’s modelling career took off and, last year, she was cast in the video for an up-and-coming rock band called The

Script.

The band’s lead singer, Danny O’Donoghue, was instantly smitten and they began, to use his phrase, ‘ courtin’. Last November, Dubliner Danny, 25, and

the statuesque Lithuanian were pictured after the Cheerios Childline concert, heading to the after- party in Lillie’s

Bordello.

They arrived at the star- studded bash arm- in- arm and were then spotted out together again the following month, at the

U2 Christmas bash in Bentley’s.

Now the couple are extremely close, and O’Donoghue has been extremely supportive during Irma’s fortnight of trauma.

While she knows that her relationship with the Meteor Award-winning star – whose band have enjoyed a No. 1 album here and in Britain and seem set to crack America next – will push Marius’s death further into the limelight, she is also

determined not to let that cloud the key question: how did her first love end up dying in a Phoenix Park apartment, shot in

the head with a silenced pistol?

Irma is trying to be strong for herself as well as six-year-old Nikoleta but she finds it hard to articulate the thought that her ex-partner was murdered.

Nevertheless, she is adamant he did not kill himself..

‘ I don’t want to believe he was murdered because of any implications that this realisation brings,’ she says carefully, ‘but

one thing I do know is that everything I know about Marius from our time together says he was definitely not the sort of

person to kill himself.’ ‘For a start, he was always very happy and positive, and had such an open, optimistic and

ambitious outlook on life. In all my time with him, he never showed any signs of depression whatsoever. He did not have

a dark side or a part of his character that I could not understand. He was an open book. I trusted him.

‘Secondly, he was devoted to his daughter. He adored her and was not the sort of person to forego his responsibilities.

‘He was utterly devoted to her.

‘Thirdly, in all the time I have known Marius – and I have known him since I was 14 – he has never taken drugs, never

been convicted of any crime and I have never known him to be associated with criminals.

‘I can understand that, because we are Lithuanian, there might be some narrow-minded people who will jump to

conclusions but he was one of the good guys.

‘I cannot believe he was found with a gun because I never saw any guns when I was with him. And yes, okay, he was a

fighter and whatever connotation martial arts has for people is one thing, but he was also a sportsman.

‘So, too, might be any connotation some might associate with security guards in general and bodyguards in particular but

if I did not believe he was anything other than what he was – a fit, strong, hard-working, decent guy – I would not say it.

‘I have lived my own life since we split more than two years ago and, as much as I loved him and stayed in touch with

him, if I suspected he was involved in anything unsavoury, I would say so. But he was a decent man.

‘I cannot bring myself to entertain too many thoughts about what did or didn’t happen because I have to be strong for

Nikoleta as much as for myself.

‘He only ever wanted the best for me and for our daughter. He was never a jealous man and we have led separate lives

for some time now.

‘If anybody thinks there is any relation between his death and my relationship with Danny, they are wrong.

‘He had his own relationships and plans for his future. We once planned a future together but we just grew apart. These

things happen.

‘Danny has been great. He has been very supportive but I do not think it is appropriate for me to bring him into this

situation,’ added Irma.

‘To be honest, I am just very confused right now, and reality just hasn’t sunk in yet. I am taking each day as it comes.

‘I have told Nikoleta that daddy is gone but I cannot explain everything to her. This is partly because I do not know myself but also because she is just very scared and doesn’t really know what to make of the situation.’ Marius was found in the early hours of Wednesday, March 11. The Friday before his death was the last time

Irma had spokes to him. Tears welling in her eyes, she insisted: ‘He was his normal self. He mentioned he was going to

Lithuania to meet up with his family.

‘It was normal for him to do that. I didn’t ask too many questions because it all seemed so normal, and I certainly don’t

think he was trying to tell me anything or say goodbye.

‘We talked all the time, although usually about access and when he was coming to see Nikoleta or take her somewhere.’

Donatas, however, is convinced Marius’s death was murder – not least because of the apparently conflicting accounts by

people who were in the flat on the night he died.

He said: ‘I have heard three versions of what they say – he committed suicide after they went to bed, he lost in a game of

Russian roulette or he was just fooling around with a gun and it went off by mistake.’ Bristling with grief-stricken anger,

Donatas added: ‘I wish they would make their minds up.

‘I wish also somebody would answer a few key questions – like why there were no powder burns on his face.

Why was the pistol still in his hand when he was discovered and where on earth did the gun come from? ‘Where is all the

money he was going to invest in the partnership with me? He had about E10,000 that he said he was going to bring over

and that money is now missing,’ he claimed.

Donatas, who is president of the Lithuanian Bushido Federation, also points to a number of other factors, namely that his

brother was not a big drinker and had never owned guns.

He and his family believe that the severe bruising and smashed skull are not consistent with a self-inflicted gunshot.

Instead, Donatas is convinced, his brother was beaten and shot and his death made to look like suicide.

Irma cannot bring herself to focus on these details in the way that Donatas does. For her, the overwhelming emotion is

loss.

‘I miss him, and I am devastated that he has gone,’ she says.

‘I have lost a friend and a former lover but, most importantly, my daughter has lost her father.’

Last minutes in double-drowning tragedy to be made public

THE last moments of the men at the centre of the recent double drowning drama in Ireland are to be made public for the first time as moves are afoot to award them the Irish State’s highest bravery award.

Lee Cooley – the man who husband-to-be Peter O’Keefe and honours graduate John Herlihy died saving off the coast of west Cork just over two weeks ago – said last night he is planning to attend their inquest.

Because the cause of their deaths is unlikely to be disputed, the 29-year-old English traveller is not legally obliged to attend.

But last night, Cooley – who ran into difficulty in choppy waters off Owenahincha Beach with swimming pal Cliona Murphy – said: “It’s something I feel I have to do, for the sake of those brave men and their families.

“I don’t want to talk about what happened because it is still very painful for all concerned at the moment and because I think the inquest is the appropriate place for whatever I might be expected to mention.

“I also hope to be able to finally meet members of Mr O’Keefe and Mr Herlihy’s families and thank them personally, as well as to tell them how sorry I am about what happened.”

Since the two men drowned, Cooley has been staying at a number of locations around Bantry, west Cork.

Before the tragedy, he had been staying at a secluded airstrip on the outskirts of town, but had to move on when part of a planned agricultural show was held on the spot where he was camping.

He helps make ends meet by selling second-hand books in Bantry’s Friday carboot market on Wolfe Tone Square, although a fellow stall holder said last night he has not been seen on the market for the past two weeks.

Indeed, he rarely ventures into the town, except in the evenings.

When approached on Saturday night, Cooley had just visited a local shop to buy some food and fruit juice and was walking along a pier used by local fishermen.

He is said by locals to be concerned about the negative publicity about his criminal past and the fact that he is expected to attend a court hearing in the UK in connection with an incident in 2004.

A man claims to have been attacked by Cooley on the Isle of Wight.

Cooley’s life was saved when he ran into difficulties at a notorious spot off Owenahincha Beach, west Cork.

Peter and John were strolling at different parts of the beach when they both heard Cooley’s cries for help.

Despite pleas from his fiancee Ann Riordan, Peter – due to get married in five months – dashed into the water after grabbing a life buoy and closely followed by 23-year-old John.

Although they managed to reach Cooley and Murphy and throw them the life ring, they were overwhelmed by a huge wave.

It dragged them under the water before effectively pushing the saved swimmers into land where they were both treated for shock after their ordeal.

If Cooley changes his mind about attending the inquest, he also later has the option to provide a statement in suppport of current moves to have Peter and John posthumously awarded the State’s ultimate award for bravery.

Clonakilty Gardai have started the process whereby the heroic pair are likely to each be awarded a bronze deed of bravery award, An Bonn Ghniomh Gaile.

Usually awarded to Gardai, fire officers and service men, they are the highest honour for bravery that an Irish person can receive and it is rare for civilians to get them.

Part of the process involves statements from witnesses before a file is sent to the Deeds of Bravery panel, Comhairle na Mire Gaile for consideration.

The panel cannot decide on an award until after an inquest.

But once approved – which in this case would appear to be a forgone conclusion given the extraordinary bravey of the two men involved – the awards would be given to the men’s families by the Lord Mayer at a Cork County Council civil ceremony early next year.

The last time a Corkman received An Bonn Ghniomh Gaile was in 2003 when Detective Garda Jim Kelly’s bravery in saving two people from drowning more than two years previously was recognised.

ENDS

.

Drifter vows men who saved him “did not die in vain”

THE English traveller saved from drowning off the coast of Ireland spoke for first time last night about the incident that has gripped the country.

Fighting back tears, 29-year-old Lee Cooley – who husband-to-be Peter O’Keefe and 23-year-old honours graduate Johnny Herlihy died saving last Sunday week – said: “The one thing I want to do is throw my arms round the families of those two men and say two words – sorry and thank-you.

“I feel so bad about what happened and everything has just been a complete blur ever since.

“I can’t get over what those men did and I have nothing but absolute admiration for them.

“I have so much to thank them for and have a real problem with the fact that I can’t grab them by the hand and tell that to their face.

“It’s a scenario I’ve played over and over in mind every night since they drowned – being able to find a way to say thank-you.”

And Cooley, who is known to both South Yorkshire and Hampshire & Isle of Wight Police forces, added: “I am so sorry for their families that they have lost two very special people.

“I will never ever get over what they did. And I am so very deeply sorry for their families’ loss.”

And of reports – including two incidents in 2004 which led to his arrest in the UK – about his violent past, he said: “A number of people have come out of the woodwork and said what they have to say about me.

“OK, so I am no saint but however I have lived my life, I can say with absolute clarity that my life will never be the same again.

“I am turning over a completely new leaf in what has perhaps not been the most traditional of lives and I hope that in time, I will be able to make it clear to the families of these men that they did not die in vain.

“I know I can only prove that by my actions from now on.”

He said his recollection of events is still hazy, and still finds it hard to go over the course of events in his mind.

Cooley was swimming with Cork pal Cliona Murphy when he ran into trouble off Owenahincha Beach, west Cork.

Buried last Friday, O’Keefe – who was walking along the beach with fiancee Ann Riordan at the time – managed to reach the stricken swimmers with a lifebuoy, but moments later a gigantic wave pushed him and Herlihy under the water.

The same wave pushed Cooley and his partner ashore to safety.

After the incident, details of his past emerged.

Former friends had spoken about how he had bitten two men in separate incidents in 2004, and at one point had spent time in a bail hostel normally used to house offenders.

Since leaving home more than ten years ago, his lifestyle has invariably involved living in a variety of travellers’ camps and odd-jobbing round Europe.

Although it was initially believed he had left Ireland, Cooley is now at a secret address.

It is not known if he will attend the inquest into O’Keefe and Herlihy’s deaths, although at the moment it is unlikely he will be compelled to attend as the cause of their death is unlikely to be disputed.

ENDS

Relatives thank families of husband-to-be and honours graduate who died saving drifter

THE MOTHER of an English drifter saved in a drowning tragedy has praised the two Irish “heroes” who lost their lives saving him.

Carmel Cooley, who hasn’t spoken to Doncaster-born Lee Cooley for two years and doesn’t even know where he lives, said her heart went out to the families of the deceased.

And she said her 29-year-old son – who ran into trouble swimming off west Cork with a friend before being helped to safety by husband-to-be Peter O’Keefe and UCC Honours graduate Johnny Herlihy – would be feeling very guilty about what had happened.

O’Keefe, 37, had been enjoying a romantic stroll along Owenahincha Beach last Sunday after a family wedding celebration the night before with fiancee Anne Riordan when he spotted Cooley – who he had never met in his life – struggling in the water with a female pal.

Despite his fiancee’s pleas not to go into the water, he grabbed a life buoy and dashed out to their aid along with another passerby, 23-year-old Herlihy.

But despite being able to coax the stricken couple to safety and throw them the life ring, the two men were dragged under water by a massive wave and tragically drowned.

Speaking from her home in Doncaster, Cooley said last night: “I know Lee has always done things for himself, and never needed anybody else and I no longer have much to do with him.

“He will be so shocked and devastated about what has happened, and will be struggling to cope with feelings of guilt over the fact that these men died saving him.

“Hopefully, he will need to talk to someone about it so it would be good if he calls home when he needs to speak.”

She added: “My heart goes out to the families that have been affected by this and I sincerely hope they can find some way of getting over it. I just wish there was something I could do.

“Those two men are heroes for saving my son’s life and for that I am so very, very grateful. But it’s such a tragic thing and I’m so sorry for them and the extraordinarily selfless sacrifice they paid.”

Little is known about her son Lee, who walked out on his family more than ten years ago after leaving school and has barely been in touch ever since.

According to his distraught 72-year-old grandmother Frances Farrell, also from Doncaster, he went off travelling round the UK and Europe.

He is believed to have earned some money odd-jobbing round the south of France, Wales and Holland.

He has only kept in touch with the family a handful of times – notably in around 1999, when he turned up to remove some personal belongings from the family home.

By around 2004, he was believed to be living in a bail hostel in Fareham, in Hampshire. It is not known why he was there but he is “known to police”, according to reliable sources.

The premises he is believed to have stayed in is used to house people bailed awaiting a court case in the nearby Fareham Magistrates Court, on probation after being convicted of a criminal offence or after being released from jail and out on licence.

A resident there said last night: “I’ve never heard of anyone by the name Cooley but then there is a quite a turnover of residents here. People come and go all the time, depending on what they are in for.”

No members of his family – who are still reeling at the extraordinary price that has been paid for his life – were able to either offer any contact numbers him or any of his friends. Indeed his mother Carmel didn’t even know where Lee’s father David Forey is even living anymore.

Grandmother Frances said: “It’s such a terrible, terrible story. I can’t believe how brave those men must have been to save him. It’s such a tragedy that two people have to die to save his life.

“He was a bit of a wanderer, we never know where he is. He rarely contacts us and we don’t know if he has a partner or not. As far as I know he doesn’t have children.”

Fighting back tears, she added: “He doesn’t really have much to do with his family at all. He and his parents don’t speak anymore. What can I say apart from it is a shock to hear he has been involved in something so awful.

“It would be good to know how he is now. I’m not sure what he did after he left school even, it’s been so long. He checks in now and again to say hi, but we never really know that much.”

Cooley and his swimming partner were treated for shock after their own ordeal, which began around 1pm. O’keefe, from Owen, was one of the first to hear their please for help as they found themselves swamped by high waves in the choppy water.

Due to get married next February in Dingle, Kerry and just having completed building a new home, he had been strolling along the beach barefoot, one hand clasped with his fiancee’s, the other his shoes, excitedly discussing their future together.

The Cork couple had the night before attended her cousin Derbhail Gildea’s wedding at Celtic Ross Hotel in West Cork, and were so looking forward to their own nuptuals.

A strong swimmer, he immediately dropped her hand and his shoes to the sand when he heard Cooley crying out for and raced over to pick up a lifebouy before diving into the water, followed closely by Herlihy.

The graduate had just arrived from Glanmire to visit his parents new holiday home near the beach and had been planning to bring them and his grandparents for lunch before they watched Cork play Kilkenny in the All-Ireland hurling final.

His heartbroken mother had also pleaded with him not to enter the water but – like O’Keefe – he pressed on regardless.

O’Keefe managed to reach the stricken swimmers with the lifebuoy, but moments later a gigantic wave pushed him and Herilhy under the water before pushing Colley and his partner ashore to safety. ENDS