WHEN devoted dad Mike O’Leary sent a mysterious text to his family, reading ‘I’m so sorry’, they instantly knew something was seriously wrong.
O 55-anos, from Carmarthenshire had not returned home from work on January 27, 2020 and the text – in English rather than his usual Welsh – raised fears that he had come to harm.
Na verdade, Mike had been lured to a derelict farm and shot by his lover’s husband – but his body is missing to this day.
Andrew Jones killed his pal of 20 years after discovering wife Rhiannon’s fling and tracking her movements.
A fragment of flesh found at his builder’s yard suggested he then dismembered his body and burnt it on a bonfire.
The new documentary No Body Recovered, which airs on ITV tonight, follows the painstaking police operation to catch Mike’s killer and build enough evidence to convict him in the absence of a corpse.
It details the mistakes made by Jones, who was convicted of murder at Swansea Crown Court in October 2020, and the race against time to prove Mike was dead, ahead of the trial.
Despite the conviction, grieving son Wayne O’Leary tells the documentary the family are still searching for answers.
“We still don’t know what happened that night because Jones was telling lies from the start," ele diz.
“It’s such a cowardly act, It’s something that only a monster would be capable of.”
Missing report turns to murder enquiry
Mike O’Leary was the proud father of three sons with wife Sian, and Wayne says he was a joker.
“The village idiot, you’d call him," ele diz. “He was a great father. He’d do anything for us. Growing up he’d work all hours to get what we wanted for birthdays and Christmas”.
On the night of January 27 ano passado, the family reported him missing after he failed to come home at the normal time and they all received the mysterious text.
“That text wasn’t from Dad," ele diz. “He was a proud Welshman and would never text us in English. Even though it was just three words, it didn’t sit well with me.
“Also the fact it wasn’t a Whatsapp, it was a text message. Those two things went hand in hand. I knew something wasn’t right at the offset.”
Police took the matter seriously and within hours, Mike’s truck was found abandoned beside the River Towy, less than four miles from his home, with his work phone still inside.
A search was launched, using helicopters, thermal imaging and dog handlers and a footprint found beside the river initially appeared to tie in with a possible suicide.
But further investigations soon uncovered a secret affair between Mike and Rhiannon Jones, the wife of his friend, Andrew, 53.
“Once you’ve exhausted the physical search you start looking into the person, his state of mind and so on, and gathering intelligence,” says leading investigator DCI Paul Jones.
“We spoke to family members and they thought he might be having a relationship with somebody else. It took a while to find out who that person was and that person was Rhiannon Jones.”
Derelict farm ‘like a horror movie’
When questioned by police, on the night Mike went missing, Andrew Jones claimed he had last seen his pal at the local rugby club, two days earlier.
But GPS data recovered from Mike’s work phone showed he had driven to a derelict farm near his home – which belonged to Jones.
The creepy property, consisted of acres of land, a crumbling farmhouse and numerous ramshackle buildings,
“It’s unsafe, there’s no lighting and it was described to me as like the scene of a horror film,” says DCI Paul Jones.
After being confronted by the new evidence, Jones changed his story and admitted he had found out about the affair and used Rhiannon’s phone to lure Mike to the farm to confront him.
He claimed that the pair argued and Mike drove off.
Stash of firearms in attic
After deciding his story didn’t add up, the team decided to arrest Jones, a successful businessman who owned a building firm.
Although he had not been in trouble with police before, they were keen to act quickly because, as DCI Paul Jones explains: “He has access to machinery, ongoing building sites, foundations. His capability to dispose of a body is the most difficult one to investigate.”
He also had a ‘concerning’ interest in guns, and police found eight licensed firearms and further 21 imitation guns in his attic.
Despite his lack of previous convictions, officers found him “surprisingly calm” when arrested on suspicion murder, as if it “wasn’t a massive shock.”
Although he refused to answer any questions, when asked if he wanted anything to read in the cell, he joked: “As long as it’s not a Midsomer Murder novel.”
With their suspect caged, the detectives were up against the clock – with only four days to find enough evidence to charge him before they would be forced to release him.
Forklift truck smeared with blood
Hundreds of officers searched the acres of land and tumble-down buildings at the farm and finally discovered a forklift truck, hidden in one of the sheds with blood on the prongs of the fork.
Forensic teams also found two shirt buttons outside the farmhouse. The cotton was still tightly wound around them, suggesting they had been yanked off in a scuffle.
The sniffer dogs also showed interest in an area of loose gravel outside the house – and a closer look revealed the casing of a bullet from a .22 rifle.
“Knowing he’s a firearms holder, knowing that’s where the button was and looking at the layout of the place, I was relaying it in my own head thinking ‘he’s lured him here and shot him,’” says DCI Jones.
Tests found that a tiny trace of blood on the buttons and the blood on the forklift matched Mike’s DNA, showing he’d used the machine to move the body.
Jeans seized from Andrew Jones’ bedroom were also found to have traces of Mike’s blood on them.
But the team still had one big problem – without a body they couldn’t prove that Mike was dead, and would be unable to charge Andrew Jones with murder.
With the clock ticking down, they needed evidence fast.
Charged in the nick of time
A new breakthrough came when CCTV footage showed Mike’s truck being driven to the river and mobile phone data showed Jones was inside.
Footage also showed a cyclist heading from the same spot back to the farm – revealing how the killer got back to his own car.
“We literally had hours on the clock when we got the call through to say ‘charge him with murder’,” says DCI Jones. “But that’s just the beginning of the enquiry.
“We had a huge amount of work to do. We hadn’t found Mike, we hadn’t tied up all the loose ends, there was so much more to do.”
Caught out by his own cameras
Andrew Jones’ builder’s yard was next to his home and protected by seven CCTVs.
After trawling through hours of footage, detectives spotted Jones making several trips to a quarry area at the end of his yard, carrying buckets, on the night of Mike’s disappearance.
He then lit a fire in the early hours of the morning, which he kept alight for five hours.
Believing he had moved the body of his victim and burnt it, the team removed 70 tons of soil from the fire site and sifted through to look for bones, teeth and skin.
Three fragments, later confirmed to be bone, were so badly damaged that it was impossible to extract DNA but inside a rusty barrel nearby, they found a fragment of human flesh which proved to be a small piece of Mike’s intestine.
“At this point, I’m satisfied he had dismembered and destroyed the body of Mike O’Leary, which ramps it up even more,” says DI Jones.
“Whatever’s happened, killing someone is one thing but taking the body back to your property to dismember and burn it is an absolutely different level.”
Story changes as trial gets underway
While he had done nothing to help the investigation, Andrew Jones came up with a new story at his murder trial.
Pleading not guilty, he told Swansea Crown Court he lured his friend to the derelict farm and tried to scare him with the gun, after finding out about his wife’s affair.
He claimed the pair had fought and the gun had gone off accidentally. He also burnt the body in panic.
But police found one final bit of evidence to prove the death was no accident.
DCI Jones explains that you would expect to find blood on a gun if it was fired in a scuffle, but there was no trace – suggesting the pair had not been in a clinch when it went off.
To the relief of the police and the family, Andrew Jones was found guilty of murder and will serve at least 30 anos de prisão.
“It’s never going to bring dad back and the sentence is not enough,” says Wayne. “But it’s better than him walking the streets and the chance of him possibly doing something like that again.”
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For the family, the pain of Mike’s death is harder to bear without a body to bury.
“I sit in my chair at night and think ‘he should be sitting over there but he’s not’” says wife Sian in the documentary. It’s just an awful emptiness.”
No Body Recovered airs on ITV at 9pm tonight