It’s been a year now and David (Dick) O’Flaherty’s family still doesn’t know how or why he died.
“This last year been hard,” said his niece, Tammy Earle. “Every day this is on our mind.”
It was the evening of June 3, 2013 when the 51-year-old man was found dead in his bed-sitting room, located at the rear of an apartment building and bar on Main Street in Corner Brook.
His family and friends say a couple of days before he was found, Mr. O’Flaherty had been in a fight with someone. To this day, they don’t know what, if any, role that alleged struggle might have played in his death.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary treated the death as “suspicious” and spent two days processing the scene before removing Mr. O’Flaherty’s remains from the apartment. His body was sent to St. John’s for an autopsy, which was inconclusive as to how he died.
No charges have been laid in relation to Mr. O’Flaherty’s final days.
“We have called the police many times,” Earle said. “They can’t give us any answers ... We weren’t given any information because it’s a police investigation, but the police investigation is going nowhere.”
The RNC was asked for an update on the investigation and an interview with the lead investigator about why it has been taking so long. The police confirmed the investigation is ongoing and that it is now being handled out of St. John’s, but would not comment any further. The RNC was also not willing to grant an interview about why some investigations can be so difficult to manage generally.
Most of what the family knows is gleaned from the condition of Mr. O’Flaherty’s body when it was turned over to his family, the state of his dwelling when they were permitted to enter it again and what witnesses have said of the last time they saw him alive.
When his body was returned to the family, Earle said they had to decide whether to have an open-casket wake for him because of extensive bruising on Mr. O’Flaherty’s face.
“We kept it open because they put enough makeup on him,” said Earle. “There was a lot of makeup.”
Earle also cleaned up the apartment where her uncle had lived and died. She said the place “was wrecked” and, judging by the four chairs that had been set up in the room, he likely had company not long before he died.
There were others who said they saw him being beaten up a couple of days before he was found dead.
“If there is not going to be any homicide or murder charges, we know he was in a scuffle that night and it was witnessed, so why hasn’t that person been charged (with assault) yet?” said a frustrated Earle.
“His face wasn’t beat off him by nothing.”
Friends and family of Mr. O’Flaherty plan to remember him with a rally tonight, but they also want to send a message to police that they won’t be going away until they get some answers concerning his death.
The rally will start at 45 Main St. — where Mr. O’Flaherty’s apartment was located — at 6:30 p.m. Those taking part will then march towards the RNC headquarters on University Drive. From the police station, some of those taking part plan to go to the Castaway Lounge on Herald Avenue, where Mr. O’Flaherty worked. There, they plan to release balloons and lanterns in his memory.
Earle still finds it hard to even believe her uncle is gone. She said she has to actually go to his grave in order for the reality to sink in.
“There’s no dealing with it,” she said of the persisting dissatisfaction. “We just can’t move on because we’re just stuck in the same position as we were last year.”