Mother still looking for answers three months after daughter’s body found in canal on St Patrick’s Day

Kelly Lynch, from Northern Ireland, was found dead in the Ulster canal near the Irish border  (Family Handout)
Kelly Lynch, from Northern Ireland, was found dead in the Ulster canal near the Irish border (Family Handout)

The last time Kelly Lynch’s mother saw her alive she was closing the family’s front door to visit friends who lived just an hour away over the Irish border. She never saw her alive again.

“I kissed her and told her I loved her,” her mother Julieanne told The Independent. “There is always a kiss and a cuddle in this house and then she was on her way. Now it is my mission to find out what happened to her.”

The 23-year-old’s battered body was recovered four days later from the three-inch deep Ulster Canal in Monaghan town early on the morning of St Patrick’s Day.

Her mother said Kelly was found with what appeared to be black knuckle marks on her neck, wounds to her hands and her jaw broken.

The phone she had been using to desperately ring around family hours before her fall was still wrapped in her cold hand.

The Garda, based in the Republic of Ireland, has refused to say whether they are investigating the death as suspicious while preparation of an inquest file is ongoing.

Kelly Lynch with her mother Julieanne (Family Handout)
Kelly Lynch with her mother Julieanne (Family Handout)

On receiving the fateful call which caused her “world to fall apart”, Mrs Lynch said: “We were planning to go for St Patrick’s Day dinner but I was sick with worry. I got my other children ready to go in the car.

“I was just pulling in to get diesel when the call came through. I was asked if I was Kelly’s next of kin.

“I asked if she was ok, just hoping she had been drunk and disorderly and had been put in the cells for a night. But he said he regretted to inform me that my daughter was deceased.

“My world fell apart. My three youngest kids were in the car and my 12-year-old daughter heard the call and she was just screaming, I was crying. I have no idea how I got home, I had to get back to tell the boys before they heard from anyone else. I was in shock.

“I wanted to see her in hospital, all I wanted to do was to hug her and kiss her and be with her to see if it was real. But it was denied because we were told she was found in shallow water in a canal. We couldn’t see her because she was going for an autopsy.”

The mortuary assistant told Kelly’s grieving family sent to Navan to identify her body she had died from a head injury but this was later changed to drowning.

“Identifying her was traumatic because we had to do it behind a glass window with a purple blanket pulled up to her nose. We couldn’t see her face and her feet were closest to us.

The Ulster canal where Kelly was found on St Patrick’s Day morning (Supplied)
The Ulster canal where Kelly was found on St Patrick’s Day morning (Supplied)

“I knew it was Kelly because she loved her eyebrows and they were all laminated. But she was so grey-looking, her hair was matted and she looked fragile. It was devastating. It felt so clinical all I wanted to do was go in and hold her.”

She criticised the lack of duty of care the family received from police with no in-person “death knock” or an update from a family liaison officer for more than two months since her death.

“My sister drove by the bridge and there was no crime scene, no tape, no nothing. There was a guard there but only to direct traffic around the St Patrick’s Day parade. It was like two different worlds.”

Kelly’s rucksack was mysteriously dropped into the police station by a person police couldn’t identify, according to the family.

After meeting detectives Mrs Lynch was handed a box with the clothes Kelly was wearing when she died assured they had been tested for fibres and DNA.

She noticed they were torn and muddy, inside and out. Her coat was soaking wet and filthy. Her jumper was stretched with her left arm ripped at the seams. Even Kelly’s underwear was full of mud.

Her white socks were filthy but her black Converse trainers were pristine with “only the tiniest fleck of blood”.

She said: “This stood out to me. All the police said to us was that we could get her clothes tested independently.”

The police told her Kelly fell, banged her head and drowned in the two-inch deep water but Mrs Lynch says she still wants them to prove that to her as she begged her friends or anyone living nearby to come forward.

“All I want is to know what happened to my daughter. Some people just dismiss me as a grieving mother in denial but it’s completely the opposite. If it was a tragic accident, as they say, then give me the facts.

Her mother said Kelly was a brilliant, easy child and her best friend (Family Handout)
Her mother said Kelly was a brilliant, easy child and her best friend (Family Handout)

“If we could get some kind of closure then we can as a family begin to grieve properly and learn to live alongside the loss.

“Her not being here is affecting everyone from her baby brother to her grandparents.

“This is just something we’re not going to get over. Knowing she was in pain and she probably struggled is like a nightmare tormenting us all the time.

“I want to know either way. If there is anyone out there who knows something you can give information anonymously you don’t have to be public.

“I’m not in denial I know my daughter is not coming back - I have accepted that fact. You can’t undo the past but I do believe justice has to be done.

“Her death has been so disregarded to be told in the way we were is just unacceptable and unforgivable.

“Now I just exist for a response from an email or a phone call from the Garda.”

Kelly was planning to go on and become a teacher (Family Handout)
Kelly was planning to go on and become a teacher (Family Handout)

Mrs Lynch described Kelly as beautiful and unique “with a loud cackle of a laugh” which is greatly missed by her siblings Kristopher, Matthew, Rory, Poppy and Finn.

She said: “She did struggle during the pandemic but she was coming back into her own self. She was excited to go back into college and then work with small children because she really was brilliant them.

“Our youngest is four years old he shouldn’t have to understand the finality of death. As Kelly was being lowered into the ground he was crying out ‘Don’t put her down there, pull her back out!’”

“She was my best friend and she gives me the strength to go on.

“She would be so proud of me fighting for her. She would be dying at some of the images I’ve been posting. I fought for her in life and I will honour her in death.”

A Garda Síochána spokesman said: “In relation to the death of a woman in Monaghan town on the 17th March 2024, a post mortem was completed by the State Pathologist.

“As a result of the preliminary findings and consultation with the State Pathologist, the focus of this investigation moved towards the completion of an inquest file for the coroner.

“A Family Liaison Officer was appointed at the outset of this investigation and this information has been relayed to the family of the deceased.

“As the preparation of the inquest file is ongoing, no further comment is available at this time.”