The Mystery of the Missing Postman
It was a normally severe winter and snow falling as it did a few days before Christmas had blanketed town and countryside providing the little village of Kilmacthomas Co. Waterford with a picturesque setting. The year was 1929 and the inhabitants were busy preparing for the festive season. The local postman, one Larry Griffen was hard pressed. His area comprised Kilmacthomas and the neighbouring village of Stradbally together with the outlying countryside. The snow lay deep all around and he was forced to proceed on foot pushing his heavily laden bicycle through the slush which had formed ledges on the roadway. Christmas morning found him in Stradbally having at last completed his rounds and preparing to return home to his wife and their children.
Christmas day wore on and when he did not arrive for his dinner the prevailing weather conditions somewhat allayed the anxiety which was being felt by his wife and family. By evening when he had not appeared neighbours were informed but they hastened to assure the wife that because of the weather he had been delayed and was no doubt being awarded the traditional welcome in a friendly house in the next village. By nightfall when he had not appeared a search of the area in the immediate vicinity was organised and proved fruitless. The nearest Garda barracks was contacted.
Next day his bicycle was found by the side of the roadway a few miles from Stradbally. It was undamaged. An examination of the ground did not reveal any signs of a struggle and neither did it appear that there had been an accident. There was not a clue to indicate the whereabouts of Larry Griffen, living or dead.
The affair became known as the mystery of the missing postman and soon got front page heading in the Provincial and National newspapers. Large forces of police carried out one of the most intensive searches ever to take place in Ireland. Peats, quarries, woods, fields and even graveyards were examined without success. Particular attention was given to the shaft of a disused copper mine at Bunmahon a country village in the Kilmacthomas area. Special grappling rods were made, screwed together and pushed down the mine. It was all to no avail – an ancient copper bucket dangling from a grappling hook was the only item recovered from the derelict lookings.
Police interest quickly mounted when a local inhabitant came forward with a startling statement. He alleged that on Christmas Day he looked through windows of a public house in Stradbally, the blind was drawn but he was able to see into the far through a rent in the covering. He stated that a card game was in progress and as he looked an argument was taking place – heated and a brawl ensued. He saw Griffen fall to the ground before he went away. Matters took a dramatic turn when a search of the licensed premises disclosed signs of human blood near a stove in the public bar a square 56 lbs weight which had been used to hold back the front door was also missing and despite a thorough search could not be found. This immediately gave rise to the theory that it had been used to weigh down a body immersed in water.
Attention was straightaway concentrated on the rivers, lakes and ponds in the area and many weeks were spent in unsuccessful dragging operations. The possibility of a body being put into a boat and the boat rowed out to sea (which was not more that 3 or 4 miles from the place), the missing ½ cut being used to sink the body into the depths, was not excluded. If, however, this was the case that its recovery was well nigh an impossible task.
Eight people from the locality were arrested including the owner of the licensed premises, his wife, son and daughter. Two members of the civic guards and a local schoolteacher. They were charged with the murder of Larry Griffen and with secretly disposing of his body in order to prevent a coroner’s inquest. They were remanded for a week whilst the search for his body continued.
It was alleged that during a brawl in a licensed premise in Stradbally, Griffen was thrown to the ground and in falling struck his head against a stove. He did not move after the fall. The state further alleged that he was wrapped in a blanket while not dead and probably not beyond medical aid, thrown into a motor car and driven away. This was the last that was seen of Griffen.
An adjournment was granted for a month to allow the police to renew and intensify the search for the body. Again swarms of civic guards and detectives scoured the countryside cutting the undergrowth in woods, digging fields and waste grounds, dragging rivers and probing marshes. It was all to no avail. The body of the missing postman could not be found.
At the resumed hearing on 9th March State Counsel informed the Court that the police had been unable to find the body. The search would be continued but as it was likely to take a considerable time, he withdrew the charges against the ten accused. They were immediately set free.
Today, almost 28 years after the event, the mystery of the missing postman remains unsolved. Technically the search for the body still continues and the demise of the state counsel in 1929, ‘that it was likely to take a considerable time’ has been prophetically justified.
William O’Donnell 12/10/1957.
©2013 The estate of William O’Donnell (Chiswick)