Bodies found off the Welsh coast 40 years ago have still not been identified. The remains of three people – two men and a woman – washed up on the coast between 1978 and 1982, with police still trying to find out who they are and where they came from.
Detectives believe the bodies – which were found off Holyhead, Barmouth and Aberdyfi – may have crossed the Irish Sea from southern Ireland. This is due to the direction of the tidal inundation from the east coast of Ireland, which tends to flow up towards the northern parts of Wales.
Although the clothing and some distinguishing features provided clues to police, the deceased were never identified. These bodies are just some of dozens of unsolved deaths in Wales, some dating back decades and the mystery surrounding each one.
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The detective investigating the three deaths now says there is a “very good chance” of finally solving the mystery of their identity. North Wales Police Detective Don Kenyon is working on Operation Orchid and has been liaising with the Garda Missing Persons Office in Ireland, believing the bodies have in fact drifted across the sea from Ireland to Wales.
Speaking to Irish broadcaster RTÉ in 2019, Detective Kenyon said: “”Our experts tell us that someone entering the water in Wales is less likely to be stranded in Anglesey. This is more likely and the bodies have now been shown to travel across the Irish Sea from the southeast coast of Ireland.
“I’ve worked with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the flooding of the east coast of Ireland tends to flow up to the west coast of mainland UK. It’s a bit of a two step forward and a step backwards with the ebb of the tides and flows into the channel between the two countries.”
He added: “The Anglesey area has a tendency to catch objects floating in the water and if it misses it may go further north and never be found. Of the 11 coastal bodies I have in my books, the three we’ve identified all have I’m originally from the south of Ireland, so there’s a good chance that others of those not yet identified are all from the same place. three that I think we have a very good chance of identifying due to the circumstances.
We’ve outlined what we know about each case below. Get the latest news from across Wales straight to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletters here.
Barmouth – June 28, 1978
The body of a woman was found at sea a mile off Barmouth in June 1978. She was 55, white European, 152-168cm tall and of average build.
She was discovered wearing a swimsuit from Marks & Spencer’s St Michael brand, which was navy blue and featured a white floral pattern. She is believed to have died on June 7 and was in the water for three weeks before being found.
“To me that would tend to indicate an accidental drowning,” Detective Kenyon said, adding: “Maybe [someone] know a family history or know their mother, sister or aunt who went swimming in the summer of 1978 and never came back.”
Holyhead – May 30, 1982
A man’s body was recovered from the sea off Holyhead in May 1982 with a rucksack still strapped to his back. He was between 25 and 30 years old, white European, 183-188cm tall and tall while also having short black hair.
He was found wearing outdoor clothing with Detective Kenyon suggesting he may have had an accident which led to him falling overboard. He was found wearing a blue Berghaus jacket, a Santa Fe blue anorak and blue jeans.
He also had on red socks, brown leather calf-length boots, a blue sweater, and a brown leather belt. The backpack he was carrying also had Ponderosa Camp trail badges on it.
Aberdyfi – December 28, 1982
The body of a man was washed up on Aberdyfi beach and was believed to have been in the water for around three weeks. He was between 55 and 60 years old, white European, 178cm tall and of average build.
He was found wearing a Richard Davis shirt – made in Dublin – along with a gray jumper, blue trousers, waistcoat, brown socks and brown shoes. He had a scar on his neck, false teeth and was also wearing a black watch when his body was discovered.
The trousers the man was found wearing suggested to Detective Kenyon that he might have previously served in the Royal Navy. He said: “This guy was also wearing a pair of trousers, Ambassador brand, which were supplied to the Royal Navy, so he may have been ex-Navy. He may also have been wearing them. picked up at a surplus store. .”