Tuesday 18 June 2019

New DNA hope for family of man who disappeared on Irish Ferries ship 16 years ago

David Colman (inset)
David Colman (inset)
Conor McCrave

Conor McCrave

The family of a man who disappeared on an Irish Ferries sailing 16 years ago hope new DNA testing could bring closure.

David Colman was just 23 when he disappeared while working as a chef on an Irish Ferries ship travelling from Rosslare to Wales.

The young man from Rush in Dublin went to work on a late evening sailing as planned on Friday 6th of April 2002 but was nowhere to be seen when the ship docked in Pembroke in Wales.

“They thought maybe that he had fallen asleep or something like that because it was 11.30 at night,” explains David’s sister Jayne.

“He was sent on his break and never came back. Crew didn’t notify anyone until the boat was docking.”

“After that they phoned and told us that he couldn’t be found. I remember saying to my Ma, ‘what do you mean he’s gone missing?’. We went on the boat ourselves the next day.”

His sister says the family have a lot of unanswered questions to this day, especially as David was “terrified of water” but a note that was found in his cabin suggested he might have jumped overboard.

“He had plans to complete his chef training and hopefully open his own restaurant,” she said adding, “we’ll never really know what happened”.

Last week a body exhumed in Wales was found to be that of Irishman Brendan Dowley, who went missing in 1985. He was identified through DNA testing.

A total of 600 unidentified bodies are buried in cemeteries across the UK and 114 of these were recovered from the western British seaboard - fuelling a belief that some may be Irish.

Jayne said this has instilled a new hope that they might find her brother’s body through a similar process.

“When bodies were washed up over here I used to regularly ring the police station to see if it was him. I used to check websites but I never found anything.

“It would put everything to bed and give me somewhere to visit him. Of course it would bring up emotions too after 16 years but it would bring closure.”

"A guard is calling out to the house to take DNA now of everyone," she said.

A Garda initiative is now seeking to establish how many Irish bodies may be among the unidentified bodies buried across the UK.

Anyone who wishes to contact the Garda Missing Person Unit can do so at missing_persons@garda.ie

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