Two mothers meet in a place of desolation, hoping that one may be able to bury a son
TWO mothers, filled with a mixture of dread and hope, met on a desolate mountainside yesterday and embraced.
The mothers of Paul Byrne and Kenneth Fetherston have already faced that impossible hardship, the loss of a child.
After the discovery of human remains in the Dublin mountains on Sunday, they have feared news that will extinguish that last ray of hope, but also longed for whatever peace burying their son would give them.
At the very best, only one of them will be able to put an end to endless nights of lying awake, wondering what happened to their beloved son and imagining the worst.
Yesterday, close to the scene where an unidentified body was discovered on Sunday, the two mothers hugged.
Later, Kenneth's dad Brian Fetherston said: "This is just a living nightmare for both families. It could take days to know for sure."
And Ashley Dempsey, mother of Paul, said: "I know in my heart Paul was murdered, but I don't know what to think right now, whether I want this to be him or not".
Paul Byrne was last seen getting into a car outside his Tallaght home on July 15. His partner is due to give birth to their second child soon.
Ken Fetherston, the father of a three-year-old daughter, disappeared on September 22. He was last seen in the Rathfarnham area of Dublin.
Their disappearances are not believed to be linked.
But both families believe their sons were murdered and have appealed to have their bodies back so they can give them Christian burials.
Mr Fetherston said: "Hopefully, by the end of the day, somebody's misery might end. I hope it doesn't sound selfish, but I hope it's us. It is a dreadful thing for both families to face, and at least it would bring some finality.
"You spend your time waiting, knowing it will happen some day and hoping to get it over with, and then you wish you didn't have to go through it," he said.
The final, lonely resting place where the remains were found was partially obscured by the roots of fallen evergreens, forced over by winter gales, evidence of the harsh winds that sweep up the valley.
Known as the Viewing Point, on Military Road, the place is so-called because of the panoramic views it offers west towards the snow-capped mountains and north over the outskirts of Dublin city.
But biting winds chilled the teams of gardai combing the rough grasses and heather for clues yesterday, and ensured that families waiting patiently for any news of a their sons remained sheltered in their cars.
Two mountain walkers, a woman and her son, stumbled across the skeletal remains on Sunday afternoon.
What lay in the sunken hollow among the tree roots was too decomposed to allow for a visual identification, but the pair were certain they had discovered human remains, and contacted gardai immediately.
With only partial remains and a few items of clothing to go on, officers have called in an expert to assist in the post-mortem examination.
Her grim task is similar to that of Dr Brennan in the TV series 'Bones'.
Dr Laureen Buckley is a forensic anthropologist -- skilled in the analysis of skeletal remains -- and her expertise will help to determine whether or not the person concerned suffered a trauma leading to their death, as well as the exact age and sex of the victim, and the approximate time of their death.
Teams of gardai combed the exposed hillside close to where the body was found yesterday, occasionally bagging some item that may eventually point to what happened there.
They also stopped all passing cars, heading up to the Sally Gap or into Dublin's suburbs, and have appealed to motorists who may have used the route in the past few months to help them solve the case.
The families of the missing men face an agonising wait as it is likely to be today, at the earliest, before gardai can tell them definitively if it is their loved one that was found in that lonely spot, or some other missing person -- some other mother's son.