'She played bad husband card well'
THE disappearance of Brian McGrath was a distant memory to the people of Coole when the garda cold case unit came to the village two years ago.
After he vanished in 1987, most locals assumed the father of four had simply walked out on his family and moved abroad.
But the arrival of the high profile garda unit in the Co Westmeath village to exhume human remains finally opened their eyes to the horror which unfolded in their midst two decades earlier.
It was a surprise to many. After all, it is the type of village made up of a pub, a shop and a primary school, where everyone knows everyone else's business.
"It all happened so long ago that nobody really remembered it," said one local woman.
Another woman living nearby said no one had any idea about what had really happened.
"The McGraths seemed to be simple people. They kept to themselves. People were shocked when the true story came out.
"People had just presumed Brian had emigrated. It had been so long, most had almost forgotten about him."
Next-door neighbour Michael Whyte said Mr McGrath's wife Vera had done much to create the impression he was a bad husband who had abandoned his family.
"On her birthday and anniversary, she'd be giving out she never got a card from him, that kind of thing. She played it very well," he said.
"The local people didn't know anything until the investigation was made public. No one knew how he died or anything like that.
"People were shocked when they heard what happened, but at the same time, it had happened years before that and it didn't seem to register as much as if it was something that was freshly after happening.
"A lot of people wouldn't even know Brian or remember him."
Mr Whyte said there had been trouble in the McGrath home, with rows between him and his wife.
"People figured he just got fed up because of the rows and didn't bother coming back," he said
"He was highly regarded in the community. To me, he was a gentle man, very inoffensive. He didn't drink. He never caused trouble. He'd be always working around at something. Nobody can understand why he was killed."