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.
‘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.’