AN inquest into the death of a Skibbereen man heard that he was last seen carrying a bag of coal, groceries and some clothes in the town on a stormy night on December 14th 2018 and was never seen again.
At the inquest in Clonakilty on Tuesday, coroner Frank O’Connell was told that the body of Peter John Oliver was found three months later, off the River Ilen, and that his remains had to be identified through DNA from his brother, Geoffrey.
Paul Clarke, who lives outside Skibbereen, said he was working in his garden adjacent to the River Ilen in March 2019 when he spotted two identical boots sticking up from the ground and they caught his attention.
On closer inspection, he realised it was the remains of a body.
He alerted gardaí to the discovery.
The inquest also heard from Matthew Clarke, who had been friends with Peter Oliver since they were teenagers.
Mr Clarke, who owns The Mardyke Magpie Shop in Skibbereen, said the deceased did odd jobs for him and he had last seen him in the shop on December 14th 2018.
He said they had a small disagreement that day over missing money.
He said that Peter would usually cook for him and his family on a Wednesday night, and they would return the favour on Friday nights.
He thought it was unusual when he didn’t show up later that night to cook for them, and reported him missing to gardaí after he failed to show up two days later.
Mr Clarke said because Peter was homeless they let him stay in a shack on their land near Abbeystrowry Graveyard.
He described him as a ‘happy go-lucky guy’.
He said Peter wasn’t eligible for social welfare as he had been back and forth to Ireland from Africa.
Geoffrey Oliver, who lives in Cape Clear, said he had met his brother in Skibbereen earlier that day as he was on his way over to the UK for Christmas.
He wanted to say goodbye to him and give him money.
He said his brother was in a good mood and looking healthy.
He was in regular contact with him but he said that he was homeless and an alcoholic, and would have been worse off only for Matthew Clarke and his family.
He said Peter had been in Africa from time-to-time and had spent summers in Cape Clear too.
But had in recent times he had upset a few people there.
He said Peter had a comfortable place to stay at the Clarkes and had a stove, and a wind turbine provided electricity.
‘It seems unlikely he got home that night and he was last seen at around 8pm, more drunk than usual, with a bag of clothes, groceries and a bag of coal.
‘He was never seen again and he may have dozed off by the river while stopping off to roll a cigarette and fell into the river,’ said Geoffrey Oliver.
The inquest heard that Peter Oliver’s body was found on March 3th 2019 after it was washed up a short distance from Skibbereen Rowing Club.
His distinctive boots were recognised by Matthew Clarke.
His hands were missing and while some flesh was missing too, the torso was protected by the layers of clothing.
The remains were skeletal, but there was no bone trauma, the inquest heard.
A subsequent DNA swab from Geoffrey Oliver confirmed the body found was that of his brother.
Mr O’Connell said it was more than likely that Mr Oliver fell into the River Ilen on December 14th 2018.
He said it was ‘miraculous’ that his body was found at all and said it was a sad case.
‘He had his place in the world, no matter what,’ said coroner Mr O’Connell.