Sunday 16 December 2018

House of Horrors: Fresh appeal for information about two men killed 24 years ago

Seamus O’Brien holding a photograph of his missing son Cathal
Seamus O’Brien holding a photograph of his missing son Cathal

Ralph Riegel

A FRESH appeal is to be made for information about two men who were killed 24 years ago.

The father of Cathal O'Brien (23) is to appeal via RTE's CrimeCall programme for public information on what happened to his son and also to Kevin Ball (42), in a case that has become known in Cork as the 'House of Horrors'.

Seamus O'Brien and his Wexford family have waged a tireless campaign since April 1994 to trace their son and to find out what happened to him.

Cathal O'Brien and Mr Ball, a Welsh national, vanished from Cork just days apart in April 1994.

Gardaí suspect both men were the victims of foul play and met violent deaths.

Mr O'Brien moved to Cork the previous year having graduated from college in Waterford.

He enlisted as a volunteer with the Simon Community and vanished without trace from a flat on Wellington Road in Cork. Mr Ball had vanished several days earlier.

It is believed Mr O'Brien may have been killed after he began asking questions about the whereabouts of Mr Ball, being concerned for the welfare of the formerly homeless man.

Gardaí suspect Mr Ball had already been killed at this point.

Supt Mick Comyns from Mayfield Garda Station said the investigation remains ongoing and he appealed to anyone who may have information to contact them.

“We are urging anyone who may have information about Cathal or Kevin to come forward and help our inquiry," he said.

"People can contact us in confidence as we want to try and provide some closure for these families.

“A substantial period of time has passed since 1994 but people who may have once been fearful to provide information may now be in a position whereby they can come forward, help us and bring some closure to these families.

"We would like to hear from anyone who may have information about these disappearances, no matter how trivial they believe the information to be."

Fred Flannery, a man who was living in the Wellington Road area at the time, took his own life on May 13 2003 at a property he was living at outside Carrigaline. He was 44 years old.

Gardaí believe Mr Flannery killed Mr Ball, who had been a client of Cork Simon.

The circumstances of the crime remain unclear.

However, detectives suspect that Mr Flannery became concerned when Mr O'Brien began asking questions about Mr Ball's whereabouts.

It is feared he killed Mr O'Brien in the belief he may have heard or suspected something about the circumstances of Mr Ball's disappearance.

In December 1994, a third man - Denis Patrick O'Driscoll (32) - also vanished from the Wellington Road area.

Mr Flannery was never charged in connection with the disappearances and suspected killings of Mr Ball and Mr O'Brien.

However, he was charged in connection with the death of Mr O'Driscoll.

It was believed Mr O'Driscoll was killed because Mr Flannery suspected he had overhead something in connection with the deaths of Mr Ball and Mr O'Brien.

The jury in the subsequent Central Criminal Court case were discharged after it emerged gardaí had failed to make specific data available to Mr Flannery's defence team.

The trial judge, Mr Justice Robert Barr, was critical of the gardaí in his comments and the case against Mr Flannery was thrown out.

However, the trial had heard that Mr Flannery's nephew, Michael Junior, told gardaí his uncle informed him he had killed Mr O'Driscoll with a hammer.

His body was then dismembered with a saw and a sharp knife. The body parts were then disposed of. The details of the dismemberment led to the Cork property involved being dubbed 'The House of Horrors.'

Following the trial judge's comments, Mr Flannery could never be retried on the matter.

He took his own life seven years later.

His inquest heard in November 2003 that the last thing he did before taking his own life was to smoke a cannabis joint.

Mr O'Driscoll's body parts were located in a wooded area between Tivoli and Glanmire in 1996.

His remains had been so badly mutilated - and reburied at least twice by his killer - that he could only be identified by dental records and clothing fragments.

Gardaí said they were hopeful that a fresh appeal for information could held end a 24 year nightmare for the families involved.

The primary aim of the appeal is to locate the remains of the two men so they can be given a Christian burial.

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