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Gardai believed dad found dead on Howth Cliffs was at religious retreat


Patrick Douglas

Patrick Douglas

Patrick Douglas

Gardaí believed a man who was found dead on a Howth cliff-face three months after he went missing was at a religious retreat and had not come to any harm, an inquest heard.

The body of Patrick Douglas (64) from Aldrin Walk in Coolock, Dublin 5, was recovered by the Howth coastguard 100 metres down a steep cliff-face on April 12 last year.

The father-of-two had been missing since January 5 and later that month a witness told Gardaí they had seen him getting a bus to Howth that day. However, Detective Garda Michael Owens told Dublin Coroner’s Court they initially believed Mr Douglas, a devout Catholic who went to Mass every day, had gone on retreat and did not search the Howth area.

“Initially, the majority of our inquiries were concentrated on persons who knew him. He was a very religious man. It was believed that he may have attended a retreat. There was contact made with retreat centres in the UK and Ireland… We were aware that he had left home on previous occasions and had very little contact with the family for a period of time,” he said, “Maybe wrongly, initially we did not believe that any harm had come to him; that he had just gone somewhere where he did not want to be contacted”.

DG Owens said gardaí became more concerned as the investigation progressed and “more and more people” contacted had not seen or spoken to him. At that stage, it was decided to concentrate efforts in Howth.

The dead man was reported missing by his daughter Marie Douglas on January 11, six days after the family had last seen him. She told the coroner they believed he may have been staying with friends, as he had done on previous occasions.

He was last seen on January 5 by his friend Christopher Kelly who told the coroner they met briefly on the street in Fairview. They had a general conversation and Mr Douglas told him twice that he was going to Howth. He last saw him catching a bus going there. Mr Kelly said he and his wife, who was with him when he met Mr Douglas, had reported this to gardaí at Coolock Garda Station on January 26 after they became aware he was missing through media reports.

The body was found on April 12 after the Howth coastguard included a search for Mr Douglas in a training exercise. He was found 100 metres down the cliff-face in a remote area not easily accessible to walkers.

The post-mortem found he died from musculoskeletal injuries consistent with a fall from a height.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said he did not believe Mr Douglas’s death was a homicide but there are no witnesses to what happened. He probably died on or around the day he went missing, he said, but the precise circumstances are unknown. He returned an open verdict.