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The search for Gussie Shanahan: "It's my dying wish to find out what happened to my son"

The Limerick 20-year-old was last seen on 11 February 2000. His father is making a fresh appeal to find out what happened.
Dec 2nd 2015, 10:20 PM 43,545 18

Updated 10pm

GUSSIE SHANAHAN WILL always be 20 years old.

He should be 35 this year – but for his parents, Bob and Nancy, he remains perpetually 20.

Always sociable, always bright, always funny. But always 20.

Aengus (Gussie) Shanahan Source: Garda Press Office

Aengus ‘Gussie’ Shanahan was last seen on 11 February 2000 when he was enjoying a night out with friends.

It was, in many ways, a typical Friday in February.

What happened to Gussie?

Gussie finished work at Dell at 3pm that day, which was pay day. He travelled to Limerick City and withdrew one hundred pounds from a Bank of Ireland ATM in the branch where his father worked.

He met his dad and returned sixty pounds he had borrowed from him the week before. Then he went across the road to Supermacs to catch up with a friend, where they discussed their plans for the evening.

Later, Gussie and two close friends travelled to a pub known at the time as Cooper’s Bar on St Joseph’s Street where they had a few sociable drinks and chatted with other customers.

josephs St Joseph's Street in Limerick. Source: Google Streetview

The two friends were renting a house across the road from the pub. Shortly after 9pm, one of them went home to prepare some food. The other friend followed shortly afterwards. It was arranged that Gussie would stay with them for the night.

Gussie stayed behind and had another drink.

He made two phone calls to some other friends to see if they wanted to meet up with him later in the night. One of the calls went unanswered. The other friend was working on an early shift the following morning and passed on the invitation.

Gussie was captured on CCTV leaving the pub wearing dark blue jeans, a blue top and a red, white and blue Adidas jacket and crossing the road towards his friend’s house.

A witness recalled how she saw Gussie raise his hand as if to knock on the door of the house and then lower it again.

He did not knock on the door. He placed a bottle of beer he was holding onto the ground and walked towards a laneway known locally as School Alley Lane.

He was never seen again.

PastedImage-22779 Schoolhouse Lane in Limerick Source: Google Maps

‘You’re always hoping that it would have been solved before now’

Bob Shanahan – now retired from the bank – told TheJournal.ie he believes his son was murdered.

He’s appealing to those he believes to be responsible for his son’s death to let him and his wife know the truth.

“You’re always hoping before now that it would have been solved. It’s long and drawn out. It still doesn’t get any easier. We’re hoping that people would tell us something.

“It’s horrible.”

The idea that their son is still in an unmarked grave somewhere in the Irish countryside has haunted the Shanahans.

When Gussie’s birthday comes around on 23 January every year his parents like to mark it – but have nowhere to visit.

When you’re waiting for 15 years it can feel like a long time… It’s like waiting for a kettle to boil.

The Shanahans are holding out for an answer.

Now 71, Bob has said that getting some form of information is “his dying wish”.

He could still be alive, who knows?… Stranger things have happened.

Gussie CCTV of Gussie the night he vanished

What happened?

In the weeks following Gussie’s disappearance, there were sightings – there invariably are when someone goes missing, often they’re inaccurate – but nothing ever turned up.

The case remains open and a group that searches for missing people has taken more than 70 witness statements. The Garda Serious Crime Review Team – which oversees cold case probes – carried out investigations in 2013. Still nothing.

Bob maintains that Gussie had no personal problems and believes he was murdered, but does not know by whom.

That nothingness, that void, can be hard to fill, says Bob.

“You obsess over it, but what can you do?”

Eight years ago, while sitting in traffic, Bob received a phone call. The call came after an RTÉ Crimecall appeal about Gussie.

Bob asked the person on the other end of the line to call back, which they did, giving him a location of a grave.

Bob told TheJournal.ie that the line was bad, but he fears he missed something.

I asked them to call back because I was in traffic and the line was unclear. They said that there’d been a row that had been taken too far.

“But if one person knows something, then two people have to know.”

Earlier this year, the case was featured on Crimecall for a third time. Sergeant Gearoid Thompson, from Roxboro Road Garda Station, said that gardaí still believe that someone out there knows something.

“We feel that somebody somewhere knows what happened that night and what may appear small and trivial to one person could actually end up being of pivotal importance.”

Those little details, scant memories, may give the Shanahans closure and, right now, they’re all they have of their son.

After the 2007 phone call, Bob searched in vain on his own, determined to find something and maybe those responsible.

Now, it’s not about a search, it’s not about justice, it’s about knowing.

“We hope that someone will let us know something.

“We just want peace.”

No ending. No closure. 

Last year, TV viewers voiced their ire when the RTÉ drama Amber – which is about a family searching for a missing girl – simply ended. No answer, no closure, just an ending.

Twitter exploded with frustration about the lack of a conventional ending.

It was a feeling Bob knew all too well.

Speaking to Limerick Live 95′s Joe Nash about the drama, he said that the show accurately portrayed the lives of those left behind when a loved one goes missing.

“That is the way it is for people like us. It does become an obsession and takes over your life and it plays on your mind the whole time when you have no closure.

“There has been no happy ending and the nightmare continues for us and countless other families. It is called Amber and that is where a lot of people are on, not knowing, one way or the other.

We have visited psychics all over the country and we would get a lead and go down this road and that road and were told Gussie might be here and he might be there. He might be in the river.
When you hear there was a body found in the river, you are hoping that you would have closure.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Roxboro Road Garda Station on 061-214340.

The national Missing Persons Helpline can be reached on 1890 442 552 or through this website.

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Originally published 5pm

Read: 15 years on… The search for Gussie Shanahan continues

Read: The mystery behind the unidentified remains in Ireland’s morgues

Read: 20 years ago, a woman’s body washed up in Wexford – we still don’t know who she is

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Paul Hosford

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