PSNI divers recover man’s vehicle in huge breakthrough, writes Ralph Riegel
The discovery of a rusted, mud-covered Mitsubishi car in a Co Fermanagh lake has offered hope that an 18-year mystery about a missing Monaghan-based father of four can finally be solved.
Michael 'Tony' Lynch (54) vanished without trace in 2002. No clue as to what happened to him was found until an astonishing discovery last weekend when members of the public noticed "an anomaly" in Lough Corradilar, by Upper Lough Erne, near Lisnaskea in Co Fermanagh.
Gardaí have now confirmed that PSNI divers, in a painstaking operation, recovered the white Mitsubishi Galant owned by Mr Lynch from the lake.
The car - with the registration TIL4670 - had vanished with Mr Lynch in 2002 and gardaí always believed locating the car held the key to finding out what happened to the 54-year-old.
The discovery now offers the Lynch family the first hope in almost two decades of finally discovering what happened to Tony, who was last seen at 2pm on Sunday, January 6, 2002, calmly strolling down Fermanagh Street in Clones.
The family were briefed by gardaí yesterday on the PSNI discovery and were unavailable for comment.
Just last year Tony Lynch's wife, Angela, said all they wanted was to know what happened to him.
The Lynch family admitted that, over the years, they had slowly come to accept that he might not be alive.
"I just want to find Tony for my children," said Angela in an RTÉ 'Crimecall' appeal.
Her husband had been working in Co Cavan at the time of his disappearance and was reported missing on January 9 when his family became concerned about him and realised he had not attended work over the previous two days.
For work reasons he had been using a flat in Clones for two months - and, when searched, all his possessions had been left untouched.
"Every single thing he owned was in that flat. It was like he just went out to the shop and just didn't come back," Angela said.
"I just want to find Tony for my children. They loved him very much. They will always look for their daddy, just like I want to find my husband."
She said her family had come to the painful realisation many years ago that the story may not have a happy ending.
"All we want is the right to find him and, if he is dead, to bury him," she added.
Her children echoed their mother's determination to get closure for the entire family.
Daughter Mary said they had waited for years for the painful mystery to be solved. "Different things go through our head all the time about what could have happened. We just really need some answers," she said.
Her brother Peter said it had been difficult for the family not knowing what happened - and dealing with memories of their beloved and hard-working father.
"During the summertime, he used to take me to work with him. I would sit up on the back of the digger all day with him," he said.
Gardaí will now liaise with the PSNI over a detailed technical and forensic examination of the car and its contents.
Further searches of the lake have not been ruled out.
Inspector Graham Tolan of Monaghan garda station said their investigation remained ongoing with the close co-operation of the PSNI.
"We are grateful to the members of the public who alerted us to this anomaly in the water," he said.
"I would like to remind the public that small pieces of information, no matter how insignificant they may seem, can often prove vital, as is the case today.
"We will continue to work with police in Lisnaskea who are investigating the circumstances surrounding the discovery."
Gardaí are hopeful that the discovery of the car could mirror the critical breakthroughs achieved in previous missing persons cases.
In October 2012, divers on an exercise in the River Blackwater in Fermoy, Co Cork, came across a badly rusted Daihatsu Charade car partially buried in the river bed.
It was confirmed to be the vehicle of William 'Bill' Fennessy (54), who had vanished without trace in March 1990.
Partial bone remains were later found in the car during a painstaking Garda technical examination - and subsequent DNA testing confirmed the remains were those of Mr Fennessy.
The discovery of Tony Lynch's Mitsubishi car followed numerous searches of lakes and quarries in the Monaghan and Fermanagh areas, including the deployment of special scanning drones.
Last January, some 10 lakes and flooded quarries in the area were checked by gardaí with the assistance of the Civil Defence and local sub aqua groups.
The breakthrough finally came after two men were by Lough Corradilar over the weekend and noticed something in the water by the lake bed. They contacted Clones garda station and the matter was referred to the PSNI.
PSNI officers were brought to the specific spot by the men - and the car was successfully recovered in a painstaking operation which began at 2pm on Monday.
A forensic examination of the silt-filled car interior is now expected to take some time.