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Dublin: 10 °C Wednesday 24 April, 2019

Gussie Shanahan's dad begs people who know what happened to 'get it off their chests'

The 20-year-old went missing in February 2000 – his family believes he was murdered.

dav Aengus was the youngest of four children and had a close relationship with his mother Nancy.

“HIS MOTHER WAS always hoping before she died we’d get something and I’m the same now. It never leaves you.”

As he sits in the family home in Co Limerick, Bob Shanahan remembers fondly the close and playful relationship between his late wife Nancy and his youngest son Aengus, known as ‘Gussie’, who went missing at 20 years old.

“She’d sit in that room and Aengus would be in and they’d chat away. They’d be having a cigarette together and she’d say to him ‘you took my last one’ and of course he’d have a packet for her, but he’d be teasing her. He was the baby.”

On 11 February 2000, Aengus met his father after work – he had a job at the local Dell factory – and paid him back money he had borrowed, as he always did. He said he was staying that night at a friend’s flat in town as they were planning to go to the Temple of Sound nightclub, which was closing down.

The young man was wearing new clothes his sisters had bought for his birthday three weeks earlier. He headed to a pub across the road from the friend’s flat on Joseph’s Street. 

“He left the pub about twenty past ten and I’d say he’d a few jars on him alright. He went across the road with a bottle in his hand and his coat, you can see it in the CCTV video. He was going to knock on the door across the road but he didn’t,” Shanahan explained.

Instead, he headed down a laneway, which would have been a shortcut to the nightclub. He has not been seen since. 

“He’d only wear his clothes once and he’d always ring his mother to have his clothes ready for him,” his father said.

“She hadn’t any phonecall back the Saturday night. We thought maybe when he was out he met someone, a girl. Sunday evening came and we started to get a bit worried because some of his pals were coming around and he wasn’t back.

They went to all the haunts and we got posters printed straight away. We notified the guards on Monday evening because he was supposed to go on his shift in Dell at four o’clock and we thought maybe he’d turn up for that.

Over the 18 years since his son went missing, Bob Shanahan, who is now in his late 70s said there were a small number of apparent sightings of him and calls from people with information that nothing ever came of. 

But there is one man he received a call from shortly after an appeal seven years ago, who he believes truly does know what happened to Aengus, and where his family might find him now.

I got a phonecall one evening. They said this is a broken phone, or whatever, and you won’t be able to retrace it. He said what happened to Gussie is that there was a bit of a skirmish in town and it went overboard, it went too far. And it was breaking up and I appealed to him, asked him to come back to me – and he did. 

“I was actually just at the bridge going to town and there were people having a dispute in front of me, just as the phone rang would you believe. It was breaking up and I couldn’t hear fully. 

But the story is that he was thrown over a wall. We’ve tried all sorts of places, graveyards or whatever. Our own belief – we accept that he’s been knocked off. There was no bank card used and that would be unusual for him. And I don’t think he took his own life, he was in good form. I think he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Aengus was the type of young man who would talk to anyone and while this is one of the many things his family loved about him, his father thinks his trusting and friendly manner may have got him into trouble that night. 

“I’ll be honest with you, Aengus was the kind of fella who would look after lame ducks, if you understand me. When he’d be coming down town with his pals, he’d be stopping talking to this one, talking to that one and they’d be saying ‘would you come on’.

“He wouldn’t stay in his own company for five minutes, he was so chatty. He was always looking for fun.”

‘She’s with him now’

The 18 years of grief and searching have taken their toll on the family, Shanahan said. 

“I put it into a box and I manage it in that way. My wife though was different.”

She had a stroke in 2001 and Bob retired from his job to care for her. Three years ago she died.

“My wife died of a broken heart. She’s with him now. It would make a difference to get his body back so we can bury him with his mother – that was her dying wish. And I don’t want to hand it on to the next generation of the family, it affects everyone.

dav Aengus was the baby of the family.

“We’d speak about it, we speak about the good side of him. He was a loveable rogue. It’s sad, you can’t believe it happened to you.

And it’s a kind of a double loss now, herself was a character as well and she was great company. The house is empty. The family and grandkids arrive in but… His mother was always hoping before she died we’d get something and I’m the same now. It never leaves you.

“All I’m looking for is the body, or the skeleton at this stage. It’s just the knowing and the giving him a Christian burial.”

There are photographs of Aengus all over the walls of the family home, from the time he was a baby right up until his 20th year. They sit next to photographs of his siblings’ weddings, pictures of them with their spouses and children; family moments that he would have loved to be a part of, Bob says. 

“As a boy, as a son, he was a jolly fella. He’d come in from school and he’d throw the bag in the corner – that’d be the last he’d see of the bag. He didn’t like school,” Shanahan joked.

“He was mad about farming, he wouldn’t walk anywhere – he’d get a taxi from town – but he’d walk a whole farm.  I’d take him as a young lad fishing and Aengus would get bored and he’d be off and calling into the farmers, talking away to them – they couldn’t believe it.

When he was small he was always after money and I’d say to him ‘you can’t be asking for money’. One time then he was with his two aunts and he said to them ‘yes I can’t ask for it – but I can receive it’. 

“Another time I remember, we went to Nancy’s brother and we were in a pub in Kenmare. There was a man sitting on his own with his pint. And they couldn’t believe it, they said ‘that man doesn’t talk to anyone’. Aengus was sat over with him and they were having a fullblown conversation.”

‘Times have changed’

Shanahan said hearing of the recent developments in the Deirdre Jacob case – which has now been upgraded to murder – gave him hope that even after all the time that has passed, there could still be movement in Aengus’ case. 

“I’m delighted they got a break, we know her parents because we have a kind of network. You’re hoping that could happen for us. Times have changed. I know that people know what happened to him.

I think that person who called [seven years ago] was for real. The appeal struck a chord. We’ve asked for that person to come forward. I’ve a feeling they’re in fear, we have a culprit ourselves in mind but we can’t say.

“I could be passing by the people who know. They might not know the whole lot but they know something,” Shanahan said. 

He wants to send a message to the people who know what happened to his on:

“Get it off your chest, you might be more mature now, have kids yourself. You can’t carry it with you, it’ll affect you later in life. So come forward.”

Anyone with information about Aengus ‘Gussie’ Shanahan’s disappearance can disclose it anonymously to Crimestoppers by calling 1800 25 00 25 or to the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111.

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