A graveyard in north Wales may hold the answer to a missing Irish person.

The family of missing Irishman Joseph Brendan Dowley are waiting for news from a team of forensic police specialists who are set to exhume the body of man from a grave at a cemetery in Anglesey in north Wales.

The man's identity has remained a mystery for the last 33 years.

A recent cold case review by North Wales Police and gardaí has led detectives to believe there is a strong likelihood the body is that of Mr Dowley – who was known as Brendan – and who was 63 years old when last seen alive in October 1985.

Mr Dowley was living in London at the time of his disappearance.

The last sighting of him was by his daughter who dropped him off at the bus station in Kilkenny city, where Mr Dowley was due to travel to Dublin and from there by ferry to Wales.

He never arrived home to London, and his whereabouts have remained a mystery for more than three decades.

However, based on a review of medical records from England obtained by the Dowley family in recent years, it seems that scars on the unidentified body are a match to the medical history of Mr Dowley.

The unidentified body was found washed up in Wales on 9 November 1985, and had been in the water for a number of weeks.

In July of last year, RTÉ Prime Time interviewed Joseph Dowley's son, Alan, as part of a report about the growing awareness that a number of bodies found washed up in Wales were Irish people last seen on the east coast of Ireland.

Alan Dowley and his siblings have now given their DNA samples, which will be compared to a sample taken from the body being exhumed in Wales today.

Alan Dowley, who himself is a retired Garda, had again contacted Welsh police in recent years about his father's case after seeing how another long-term unidentified body in north Wales was identified as an Irish national last seen in Co Wexford.

Pauline Finlay was last seen walking her dogs on a beach at Kilmuckridge in 1994.

Last December, a body was exhumed in Wales close to where today's exhumation will take place and was finally identified as Mrs Finlay.

Her body has since been repatriated to Ireland.

The police officers in charge of today's exhumation are the same team whose work identified her.

Detective Constable Don Kenyon has been liaising with Sergeant Richie Lynch in the Garda Missing Persons Bureau as part of the North Wales Police's Operation Orchid, which is examining more than a dozen unidentified bodies washed up on the north Welsh coast in the last five decades.

"We combine the latest advances in DNA technology and traditional investigative methods to help conclude enquiries started years ago," said DC Kenyon.

"The focus of the operation is simply to identify, reunite and allow the dignity of a funeral service for family and friends to pay their respects."

The exhumation has been ordered by the North Wales Coroner Dewi Pritchard Jones, who also oversaw the exhumation of Ms Finlay's body last December.

Before the exhumation begins, a local Catholic priest will conduct a brief graveside blessing.

It is hoped a DNA profile will be generated from the body within weeks, and this in turn will then be compared to samples provided by the Dowley family.

Only then will it be known if the body that has lain at Menai Bridge Cemetery in Wales since 1985 is in fact that of Mr Dowley.