Archive for November, 2014

Tommy Tiernan

Sunday, November 9th, 2014

Getting Personal With The Jokerman

tommyt

Mike Fitzpatrick Talks To Tommy Tiernan Ahead Of His Appearance At The Comix Comedy Club In New York

You know, we could just go overboard with the superlatives and the County Meath references (folk down Navan, Kells and Trim-way will tell you they go hand-in-hand anyway) when describing Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan, or indeed, we could just let the man himself get a word in.

The Irish Examiner’s Mike Fitzpatrick caught up with Tommy, the man who’s sold more DVDs than any other act (besides U2, naturally) in Ireland, as he prepared for another side-splitting assault on the Big Apple. And you know something? He’s not quite as mad as they say. Well, maybe just a little bit.

Mike Fitzpatrick (MF): You’re performing in New York later this month?
Tommy Tiernan (TT): I’m actually performing in Navan tonight, my home town and then New York next week. You know, I’ve never headlined at a comedy club there before, I’ve done theater work there, and ten-minute spots and stuff like that, but never my own night at a comedy club, so to speak, so I’m really looking forward to it.
It’s the only country in the world where they really do comedy properly, the States, it’s kind of the home of nightclub comedy. I was over there last March, I think it was, and played at Town Hall. And when you have that amount of people, it’s very hard to be intimate, or to react to something any individual says, the show (at a larger venue) has to be kind of pumped up, slightly anonymous, from a performer’s point of view.
So, even though I’ve already done a six-week run in New York a few years ago and the Town Hall last year, for me, going to New York to headline a comedy club, is a big thrill, and I hope to do a lot more of it, rather than do the theaters, which slightly formalizes the whole experience.
Stand-up comedy is fantastic in stand-up comedy clubs, and that’s kind of where it belongs. The best live stand-up comedy albums were recorded in small rooms.

MF: What can you remember about your first impressions of the city?
TT: The first time I was in New York, I did an unannounced spot at a comedy club in front of about six Mexicans. Probably slightly easier than a Navan audience.
I remember once I stayed up all night in New York, and I couldn’t believe the smell of the city the first thing in the morning. An unbelievable stench at about half five.
I was staying at the Gansevoort Hotel, it was kind of a salubrious place, down near Union Square. There were a lot of quite famous people staying there, and I came out of the hotel and there was a load of paparazzi, and the hotel itself is very dark. Obviously, the more expensive the hotel, the darker it is.
You could be standing beside Naomi Campbell and not know it, so I went over to this photographer, and I put my hand on his arm, and said: ‘Excuse me, do you know who’s inside?’ And he turned to me and said, ‘I have no idea, and don’t ever f***in’ touch me again’. So, I find New Yorkers very helpful, very eager for conversation, but also, there are certain lines you don’t cross. Like touching people on the arms.

MF: What is it that somebody needs to venture into Stand-up comedy?
TT: There needs to be a huge want in your life. The tongue needs to be hanging out of you looking for love! That’s one side of it. I think you also have to have a kind of generosity of spirit. A sense of humor is something you can develop, like a way of looking at the world and a way of seeing people. But the first two you need to be born with.

MF: You’d a memorable cameo in ‘Father Ted’. Do you see yourself venturing into television again?
TT: Well, that’s funny, I’ve just been offered a TV show by the BBC. I don’t know if I’m going to do it or not. I suppose years ago if you got a TV show you were guaranteed a huge crowd at your gig, and that became the aim for a lot of people.
My aim has just been to try to do great stand-up. If you’re able to do one thing well, like if you’re a great plumber, people don’t ask you to tile roofs, or to landscape gardens. But if you’re a great comedian, people ask you to host television shows and to act.
Just because you can do one, doesn’t mean you can do the other two, and my talent lies in stand-up, it doesn’t lie anywhere else really.

MF: Is there a performer that you’ve particularly enjoyed watching recently?
TT: There’s a woman called Eddi Reader, who I think is just unbelievable. I was on holiday in County Cork, and she was playing in someone’s garden, and it was phenomenal. I’d never seen a performer like her, really funny stories and great music.
There’s a few American guys that I listen to a lot too. Doug Stanhope, and a guy called Doug Benson, and Demitri Martin, they’re the three guys I really like. I trawl iTunes looking for good stand-ups, and I find them. You know there’s some people out there doing some great work, some wild work, taking chances, advancing the art in a very effortless way.

There’s a few American guys that I listen to a lot too. Doug Stanhope, and a guy called Doug Benson, and Demitri Martin, they’re the three guys I really like. I trawl iTunes looking for good stand-ups, and I find them. You know there’s some people out there doing some great work, some wild work, taking chances, advancing the art in a very effortless way.

MF: You’re a fan of Lenny Bruce, what other comedians have you admired over the years?
TT: Lenny Bruce I know, was Mr. Trouble. But also, I’d be a big fan of Bill Cosby’s stand-up as well. I mean his story-shaping was unbelievable. The stories he told about his brother, and Fat Albert, were just fantastic.
I listen to a lot of old American stand-up, a lot of Jackie Mason, he’s brilliant. There’s a great woman I discovered recently, just in the past month. She was famous in America in the ’60s, her name was LaWanda Page. She played a character called (Aunt Esther in ‘Sanford and Son’). She did stand-up, you know the call and response thing, with the African-American preachers. You know, the ‘I believe in Lord Jesus’ and the crowd responds, that fantastic style of oratory, well she does that, except it’s filth. It’s fantastic, I’d absolutely recommend it. It’s on iTunes, just filth. ‘You tell them, mother*****rs, I say you tell them mother******s…’. So, I’m always discovering people like that, that I really like.

MF: Are you a fan of situation comedy?
TT: Not really, I didn’t watch much telly. I’d watch a lot of movies, but in terms of sitcoms, as a kid obviously, ‘Cheers’, you know when your parents would let you watch ‘Cheers’ it was fantastic. Not really anymore.
I’d a brief look at ‘Two and a Half Men’, but it’s not really my cup of tea.

MF: Has Irish and British comedy changed in the past number of years?
TT: Well, it’s going through an evangelical stage at the moment, English stand-up. I’m not sure if people in America are wise to this but stand-up comedy went underground in England for about ten years.
Just in the past two or three years there’s been, I’d say, four or five shows maybe even more, with stand-up comedians on them, and you have guys, clean-cut kids, their humor is broad, family-based, kind of ordinary observational humor, and they’re playing 10,000-seaters, and it’s because comedy disappeared for a while and all of a sudden there’s a generation of people who’d never seen stand-up comedy before.

MF: How do you think comedy differs on either side of the Atlantic?
TT: I don’t know really, I think that Irish audiences are more used to general waffle. So, you can kind of string a story out a bit longer for an Irish audience. American audiences tend to be slightly more (demanding) maybe?
It’s a big thrill for me to go to places where everything is different, you know, to get out of the comfort zone as often as I can. It’s funny, but no matter how you try and I can come up with generalizations about comedy around the world, and comedy in the States, but there are comics in America who are doing as varied a type of work as you’d ever see. I don’t think there’s one particular type of comedy on either side of the Atlantic.

MF: The mid 1990s saw the emergence of yourself, Ardal O’Hanlon, Graham Norton, Pat Shortt and Dylan Moran, do you consider that era something of a golden age in Irish comedy?
TT: It’s hard to see people coming through the way we all did back then. We all came through though independent of one another, D’Unbelievables worked on a completely different circuit than the ones the stand-ups were doing. Dylan was mainly working in England, I was working in Ireland, Graham was doing the TV route.
Maybe there was nobody ahead of us when we started, the only ones (on the scene when we were starting) were Sean Hughes and the cabaret circuit, but there wasn’t alternative stand-ups like there are now. Sometimes I’ll do a club date in England or America when I’m not on the bill and I go out and there’s no Irish people in the room, I love that, I love the challenge of that and still being able to leave an impression on the room and making them laugh.
I get fierce proud of Irish people and I’m very proud to play to them and very proud that they come to see me when I’m abroad. I would have a lot of sympathy and a lot of fire in my belly for an Irish crowd.

MF: Some time ago, you made a move to radio, how’d you enjoy that?
TT: Well, I stopped doing that actually, because I found that stand-up was what I loved doing the most, and I lost a little bit of my soul every day doing (radio).
That kind of sounds weird, but when you’re doing things in front of an audience, you get that immediate feedback, you kind of know what you’re doing, you have control of it to a certain degree.
It’s a relationship that you can work on, but when you’re doing it to the whole country, and there’s no one in the room with you apart from (co-host) Hector, it wasn’t my thing. I was very grateful to do it with Hector, who makes me laugh, probably more than anyone. Radio wouldn’t be a long-term thing for me now. Nicest place I’ve visited but I wouldn’t want to live there. As my dad said about heroin.

In the States you have this huge middle ground, but there’s this wild stuff on the edges. I wouldn’t go along with the view that Americans are easily offended. Maybe the middle part of America, I don’t mean geographically, the middle of the road Americans, are very easily shocked, much more so than Irish people.

MF: What have you come to expect from American audiences?
TT: You could make a very broad generalization and say that American audiences are more literal and ‘easily-shockable’, but the audience that goes to see Doug Stanhope, or even Doug Benson, wouldn’t be like that at all.
In the States you have this huge middle ground, but there’s this wild stuff on the edges. I wouldn’t go along with the view that Americans are easily offended. Maybe the middle part of America, I don’t mean geographically, the middle of the road Americans, are very easily shocked, much more so than Irish people.
I think they probably have more in common with the people who live in the south of England, they have a belief in the way they think things should be, and I know Americans have a great belief in manners, and being brought up right and positive thinking, that kind of thing. If you go against the grain, then I think the middle ground will find it quite shocking.

MF:: A different outlook than in Ireland?
TT: The edge in America is wilder than anywhere else, probably because the middle is so conservative. In Ireland, the edge isn’t that wild, but the middle is. It’s almost like punk in Ireland, it didn’t have the same kind of effect as it did in other countries. There’s a lunacy to middle Ireland.
You know, middle Ireland drinks a lot, every family has a couple of alcoholics. Every extended family has one child whose father is not his father. We have a very on-off and on again relationship with mental health. We’re kind of self-destructive and we drink a lot, so punk, it was a little bit mad, but it wasn’t as shocking as it was to middle posh England, or like someone like Marilyn Manson would be to middle America. So, yeah, that’s my theory for today!

MF: You’ve had your share of controversy, is that something you just manage to move on from?
TT: Yeah and you know, it’s never premeditated. What gets me into trouble is, trusting the audience. The last time I did the Letterman Show, I had this line, I was talking about when one woman was upset and all her girlfriends gather around to protect her.
And I painted this scenario of a woman upstairs in her house crying, and it had a line where there were a lot of fat lesbians walking around the house with machine guns in case a ‘man-bastard’ happened to walk by.
So I wanted to do the piece on Letterman, but they told me that I couldn’t call the lesbians fat, because they’d be inundated with calls from gay rights groups, stereotyping lesbians as fat.
There was another one where I wasn’t allowed use the word ‘lunatic’, because I’d have been exploiting mental health. It doesn’t make easy talking, but you get a television show like that, which is conservative up to its eyebrows, but it’s hosted by someone who is the funniest most irreverent guy on mainstream television. It’s amazing that the two things can co-exist. I mean if it was the Bill O’Reilly show, or what’s your man’s name, Glenn Beck, you’d kind of understand it, but Letterman?!

Mammy, Mr. Men and a Sickness That Never Was

Friday, November 7th, 2014

It all built up towards 1.45pm. By that key time, just one thing could transform a magnificent afternoon into a delightful day. The tummy-ache, if it did indeed exist at all, had long since faded into memory, joining the stuffed nose, hoarse throat and sore back on the junkyard of fabricated childhood ailments. The day would have begun with sniffing or coughing, at least loud enough to be heard, for if they weren’t heard, then what was the point?

This led to a little groaning, grumbling, moaning and mumbling, followed by some at-first skeptical comments and looks from a concerned mammy, then yells of disbelief and cries of treachery from incredulous siblings. How come he gets to stay home? The storm would pass though, the Dad was long gone to work, hours before the rest of the house awoke, and the brother and sisters all trundled off to school, looking over their shoulders not in sympathy at my supposed ailments, but with one of those ‘We know what you’re at’ looks. Leaving me at home, with Mammy, the packed lunch she’d already prepared for me, and one would hope, at 1.45pm, ‘Mr. Men’ on BBC1.

It was a time before the Internet, Smartphones and Google. If you wanted something you had to move more than your thumb and palm to find it, obtain it, achieve it or give it a nasty review because your calamari was soggy and the waiter forgot your soup. The newspaper didn’t appear in the house until the Dad arrived home much, much later, so until then, it was a lengthy, nerve-wracking wait until 1.45pm. Would it be ‘Mr. Men’? Perhaps, because if it were, then life, or at least that particular sick-day, would be complete. Just me, Mammy and the ‘Mr. Men’. Who needed a hammock on a sandy beach, with a cocktail in hand? Not me, because I was six.

At 1,30pm, nerves would reach reasonably worrying levels. So concerning, that perhaps a fake doctor might be needed, my morning-time illnesses had long since passed, but the worry connected with what was about to appear on our television screen was, well, doin’ me head in. Who knew what the BBC Director of Programming had in store for us? He could go for ‘Mr. Men’, and be a perfect human being. He could also decide upon ‘Jamie and his Magic Torch’, ‘King Rollo’, ‘Mr. Benn’ or ‘Bod’, all acceptable substitutes, but lacking the big game experience of the wonderful antics of Messrs Bump, Tickle, Strong, Sneeze and the guys. But what if there was no children’s show at all? Maybe there’d be a news bulletin, or even worse, a party political broadcast, that’d happened before, my friend Liam had told me about it, what was, without a doubt, the worst day of his young life.

At 1.44pm, I’d sit alone in the living room, enjoying the lunch that really I should be having in the playground with my schoolpals, instead snacking while mammy would have her umpteenth (that’s not a real number, but I used to think that it was) cup of Lyons Tea, as she listened to Gay Byrne and did the ironing. Our ironing, the clothes of which she’d later often say; ‘What’s the point of me ironing that if you’re just going to wear it?’. We’d hear the magic words from the BBC announcer, speaking from Shepherd’s Bush in London, but right in front of me all the same. ‘And now for our younger viewers, here’s ‘Mr. Men’. Arthur Lowe’s voice would come creeping through the airwaves, and for the next fifteen minutes, life was perfect. Me, Mr. Men and Mammy. School could wait.

Tragic Amy Joins Doomed Club

Friday, November 7th, 2014

 

In June 1989, a young man named Pete De Freitas died after his motorcycle collided with a car, as he was traveling home to Liverpool from London. Nineteen years earlier, Boston-born Alan Wilson was found dead in Topanga Canyon, California. Although he didn’t leave a note, it’s believed he died following a deliberate overdose, having attempted suicide twice before. Michigan-born and raised Dave Alexander, meanwhile, passed away in 1975, after he was admitted to hospital with pancreatitis, which subsequently led to pulmonary edema (a fluid accumulation in the lungs). Welshman Pete Ham hanged himself in 1975, and his fellow countryman, Richey James Edwards, disappeared twenty years after that, and is long since presumed dead.

Though none of these five men are likely to have ever met one another, they do all have, at least, two things in common. All were musicians, and all died (or in the case of Edwards, are believed to have died) at the age of 27. With last week’s untimely passing of Amy Winehouse at the same age, much has been made of the so-called ’27 Club’, a mythical society that noone actually formed, and nobody requests to join. For the ’27 Club’ is made up of deceased musicians, who passed away at the reasonably tender age of, that’s right, 27.

The aforementioned five individuals, while not household names by any stretch of the imagination, are all perhaps, second-tier ‘members’.Not quite in the executive class, with the high-rollers, such as Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Brian Jones, but fully-fledged associates all the same. There is little doubt that Amy Winehouse, the reluctant star whose voice could melt hearts, tingle spines, bring a tear to the stoniest eye and swathe an audience in goosebumps, will hold court in business class, rather than hang with the lesser-known talents in the economy section of the mythical society.

Her five Grammy Awards, three Ivor Novellos and various World Music, Vodaphone Live Music, Urban Music, Q, Meteor, MTV Europe, NME, Mojo and Mobo awards, may however, confirm her fate where her supposed ‘membership’ is concerned. Winehouse, at her best, was a formidable talent; a charismatic mountain of charm, whose throaty, authoritative vocal performances, coupled with her sultry persona, swaggering air and eclectic personality belied her humble upbringing, a childhood which kept her on the on the right side of arrogance, but once passed, led her on towards fame and the darker trappings associated with it.

At her lowest, she was a pathetic addict, destroyed by drugs and ravaged by excess; yet another cliche of the ‘live fast, die young’ rock’n’roll existence. The nature of her all-round style made her impossible to categorize. She was a pop star, a media sensation, a soulful diva and could well have been a jazz icon for the ages, had her inner demons and all-conquering addictions not taken over and pillaged her weakened body and tortured mind. Beneath the swarthy take-no-prisoners facade, was the same young, often timid, occasionally ferocious woman that had made the big time, not with an army of producers, songwriters, music executives and talent show judges urging her on and rubbing their collective hands while laughing all the way to their banks, but for the most part, alone, just her songwriting ability and that voice, to keep her company.

Amy Winehouse singing on the Main Stage at Oxegen in 2008 (Photocall).

Hear her sing, watch her move and listen to her talk, and one could place her in any era. On any given day, she could be a Dusty or a Doris, a Janis or a Joni. She could have lived like a Diana Ross, but wound up as a Billie Holliday. She was hounded throughout her professional career, until she had little left to offer. The tough cookie persona that a section of the media had helped create, had become a simple morsel of what had once seemed destined to become one of music’s immortals.

After wowing the music world with her debut offering, ‘Frank’, in 2003, when she was barely out of her teens, Winehouse went on to become a magnet for awards recognizing her stellar songwriting. In a time when so many artists’ second offerings suffer from a sophomore curse, her critically acclaimed follow-up album ‘Back to Black’, propelled her into the mainstream, and on towards international superstardom.

As the A-list celebrity lifestyle beckoned however, her health, arguably both physical and mental, deteriorated, and reports of her erratic behavior began to surface. Appearing noticeably drunk, and ever thinner, at public events, added to her plummeting weight, confessions of self-harming (she once carved the name of her then boyfriend into her stomach with a shard of mirror during an interview with an American rock magazine), eating disorders, accusations of assault, and one British newspaper’s claims that she’d been photographed smoking crack cocaine, all took their toll on the singer, and she soon became known more for her offstage endeavors than for her obvious talents.

It is however, the problems, thrown up by that portion of the press, that will remain in much of the public psyche, where she is concerned. Amy Winehouse, in her all-too-short career, provided us with too much to remember from a life too difficult to forget. The barstool philosopher will comment on addicts, and their place in society, completely missing the irony as he sips at his own necessity. The media darlings, the pretty girls who sing, dance, wear revealing clothes and, well, do as they’re told (even if it’s like, really naughty, just to keep in the public eye), will never hold a candle to her legacy.

We’ll remember the fun times, like when she was asked into the DJ booth at a nightclub, immediately fought with the DJ, and was thrown out. The time she punched a fan for fondling her at a concert. Her haunting, tear-jerking version (possibly one of the best covers of all-time?) of ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’, her performance at the 2007 Mercury Awards, where, her reputation preceding her, guests were surprised to see her turn up, never mind take the stage. When she did, and eased into ‘Love Is A Losing Game’, it was one of those moments, where breaths were taken away, held onto briefly, and returned moments later accompanied with a sense of awe. The era (of Amy)-defining anthems such as ‘Back to Black’, ‘You Know I’m No Good’, ‘Rehab’ and ‘Valerie’.

Amy Winehouse, in her all-too-short career, provided us with too much to remember from a life too difficult to forget. The songs and the sadness, the music and madness, if there is indeed a ’27 Club’, then Hendrix, Cobain and the gang may well have to step aside for a moment, for a lady’s just entered the room.

Notes:
Pete De Freitas was the drummer with English ‘alternative rock’ act, Echo and the Bunnymen.
Alan Wilson was the singer with Canned Heat, perhaps best known for their hit song, ‘Going Up The Country’.
Dave Alexander was the bassist with Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Pete Ham was a founding member of seminal British rock act, Badfinger, and Richey Edwards was the guitarist with Manic Street Preachers.

Face But No Name For Remains Found in Ireland

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Estimated computer likeness of person found off coast of Ireland.

 It’s been an eventful couple of months, where the plight of missing persons in Ireland is concerned.

There’ve been harrowing developments in a number of long-running, heart-breaking sagas involving loved ones not seen in months in some cases, years in others.

The unexplained disappearances of dozens of individuals, the closing of a small number of cases, the release of a notorious suspect, and the astonishing story behind a skull found off the coast of Ireland’s south east, are just some of the twists in the tragic tale of Ireland’s missing persons issue.

Closure, though reluctantly invited, has arrived at the doors of several Irish families who had been tirelessly searching and waiting, they no doubt felt, in vain, for their missing parent, sibling or child.

Then there’s the perpetrator, or at least, the alleged one, the man it is believed, who knows far more than he is admitting, with regards to the circumstances surrounding a number of missing women in Ireland.

The man seen in a wooded area in County Wicklow back in 2001 attempting to force a woman he’d repeatedly beaten and sexually assaulted into the trunk of his car.

Larry Murphy was released long before his sentence was up for behaving himself while imprisoned.

Had he been a model citizen before his incarceration, well, who knows what we’d be writing, and who’d still be reading.

The convicted rapist who refused to discuss his case or offer any information or opinion to officers investigating the dozens of missing persons incidents in Ireland, is free to roam the towns, villages and indeed, forests, of Ireland, and it would seem, Europe, once more.

Murphy served just over two-thirds of his prison term, and as The Irish Independent reported over the weekend, is now looking tanned and relaxed, having arrived back in Dublin, for a few days, to renew his passport, after he spent several months on the continent.

No such time spent at ease for the family of Bernie Gavin, the Dublin woman who’d been missing for almost four years before her remains were discovered in a park near her home in Finglas.

Throughout that time they never gave in, and endured sleepless nights and hopeless days, praying for Bernie’s return.

Now she’s at rest, and the mystery is at least somewhat solved, their grieving can at last commence.

Convicted rapist Larry Murphy leaving Arbour Hill Prison last August (Photocall)

Or for the loved ones of Sandra Collins, the Mayo woman who vanished without trace in December 2000, a case which hit the headlines in recent weeks, following the news that a number of individuals had been taken in for questioning by the Gardai in relation to her disappearance, only to be released again without charge.

After a brief flicker of hope for the Collins family, a close-knit group that has suffered far more than any family should have to, the curtains of uncertainty have once again been drawn, and they are no closer to knowing why their beloved Sandra went missing.

Meanwhile, the families of Annie McCarrick, Deirdre Jacob, Trevor Deely, Barry Coughlan, Alan Bradley, Amy Fitzpatrick, Ciara Breen, Fiona Pender, JoJo Dullard, Fiona Sinnott, and dozens of other men and women across the country wait patiently, work tirelessly and wish hopefully, for news of their loved ones’ disappearances.

Then there’s the story of the skull. She was somebody’s daughter, of that we’re positive.

That simple piece of information, something that narrows her down to one of slightly more than half of the world’s population, was practically all that there was to work with.

The human skull was found thirty-five miles south of Kilmore Quay, off the coast of County Wexford in April of 2010, by Jim Devlin, skipper of the fishing vessel, The Willie B.

It was at first thought to have been part of the remains of any one of several fishermen who have been lost at sea over the years.

Devlin himself, a veteran of the Irish fishing industry, admitted that he felt it was most likely one of his late, lamented fishing comrades, who’d perished while doing their job.

Immediately after Devlin’s crew made the grim discovery in its nets, the Willie B returned to shore, where the Gardai were contacted.

Upon closer examination however, it became apparent that the remains were not those of a fisherman, but of a woman, whose identity has yet to be determined.

Detective Gerry Kealy

This was confirmed by Detective Gerry Kealy, a thirty-three-year veteran of the Garda Siochana, and expert in the field of forensic science.

Speaking of the region where the discovery was made, Detective Kealy said: “We’re at the tail of the teddy bear [with regards to Wexford’s position within Ireland’s geographical shape], in the south east corner. You have a number of seas meeting, you have the George Channel coming down from the Irish Sea, and the Celtic Sea, so basically, you have two seas coming together.

“There’s a massive amount of shipping traffic and ferries that pass along there.

“If there’s going to be accidents, or suicides, or (incidents) like that, they tend to accumulate down in this area”.

In the twelve months since the find, using Gerry’s knowledge and the expertise of the Irish State Pathologist, the State’s Forensic Anthropologist, experts from UCD and from the University of Dundee, a lot more is now known about the unidentified woman.

It’s even become possible for a full facial reconstruction to be created, following extensive painstaking work by a number of highly-skilled individuals involved with the case.

Most, if not all, of the information obtained has been due to the continued remarkable advances in the technology and scientific sectors, and the individuals who have used these techniques with extraordinary results.

That technology, and the work carried out by Detective Kealy and his colleagues, has helped create a picture of that person, who probably drowned in an accident, but may have been deliberately killed, winding up in Irish waters.

Upon the discovery and initial examination, Detective Kealy brought the skull to UCD School of Medicine, where Dr. Rene Gapert carried out the bone maceration process (this is where parts of a vertebrate corpse are left to rot inside a container at near-constant temperature, in order to get a clean skeleton, so as to prepare the skull for full forensic reconstruction).

It was subsequently determined by the skull’s condition, that it wasn’t in the water for an extended period of time, perhaps, a couple of years at the very most.

Further testing determined that the skull belonged to a female, between the ages of 35 and 60, and who may have spent many of her earlier years, outside of Ireland.

Also, it was discovered that one of the molars had had a crown fitted, one which a dental technician has since informed investigating officers that he may have made and fitted several years previously.

This is another hugely relevant detail which is being followed up.

Said Detective Kealy on Crimecall Ireland: “When we had a second molar analyzed, it could tell us where that person was reared between the ages of seven and sixteen, because that’s when the second molar develops”.

That analysis has since suggested that the woman spent those years on the eastern coast of the United States, added to the other information obtained from scientific analysis, she may have suffered from arthritis and had difficulty turning her head to the left, was well-nourished growing up, and had some unusual dental work. Also, claims Detective Kealy, she most likely died after 2006.

Following further investigation, through DNA analysis, it’s been determined that she was a Caucasian woman, and the names of fourteen early possibilities (other women with similar physical characteristics) have been crossed off the list, and as we were going to press, she was still not identified.

The goal, claims the seasoned detective, is: “To return this person to her family, to identify her and to give some family some closure”.

The investigation continues.

This piece first appeared in the Irish Examiner (USA) in 2011. 

Ireland’s “Missing” – Somebody Knows Something

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Fiona Pender

It’s likely that Mark Dowling’s friends were sure he’d be back within minutes. In March 1984, after the 20-year-old Dublin man and his pals stepped out of his vehicle to inspect some minor damage, Mark climbed back in to the car and drove off. In the thirty years since, Mark Dowling, a successful and seemingly happy young man who was about to get married, has not been seen or heard from, leaving his distraught family and friends clueless as to his whereabouts. Neither extensive searches in the Dublin area and beyond, nor widespread media coverage at the time and since have yielded any information with regards to his disappearance, and to this day, he remains one of Ireland’s many missing people.

The case of Mark Dowling is not an isolated one. On average, five people are reported missing in Ireland every day, leading to anywhere up to 2,000 individual cases each year. Of these, a considerable majority will have left voluntarily, perhaps unhappy or depressed, or they may simply have needed some time alone, and would return home within days, or even hours.
A smaller number are found deceased after several days or weeks, having either been involved in a fatal accident, chosen to take their own lives, or even been murdered. Of the remainder still unaccounted for, most, will have disappeared against their will, while some have simply vanished, leaving no clue as to any suspicious activity that may or may not have been involved in their leaving.
Ciara Breen
In the mid to late 1990s, over a dozen women vanished without trace in Ireland and were not, or at least have not yet, been seen alive since.Others, such as Antoinette Smith, a 27-year-old mother of two from Dublin, Patricia O’Doherty, a thirty-year-old prison officer, also from Dublin, and Marie Kilmartin, a 34-year-old woman from Portlaoise, were missing for months before their bodies were discovered.
All three had been murdered and their bodies buried in shallow graves in rural areas. All three cases remain unsolved.
Six other women, namely Ciara Breen (from Louth), JoJo Dullard (Kilkenny), Deirdre Jacob (Kildare), Fiona Pender (Offaly), Fiona Sinnott (Wexford) and Annie McCarrick (an American living in Dublin), have received much media coverage, as it is generally suspected that they were also the victims of violence. Without a body however, there is no crime scene, and therefore no evidence, leaving investigating Gardai encountering major obstacles in attempting to solve the cases.
Mark Dowling

The other missing women, including; Eva Brennan (Dublin), Sandra Collins (Mayo), Ellen Coss (Dublin), Imelda Keenan (Waterford) and Michelle McCormick (Cork City), while their respective disappearances have been no less devastating for their families, little evidence has suggested suspicious activity being involved in their particular cases.

The arrests and imprisonment of two men in seemingly unrelated cases, has however, given investigating Gardai, and the general public, a glimmer of hope, with regards to the ongoing mystery of missing people in Ireland. John Crerar, a former army sergeant, was 53 when found guilty of the rape and murder of Phyllis Murphy, a young woman from County Kildare, whose body was found over two decades earlier, following a lengthy search by Gardai and members of the public. Due to a diligent young Garda who thought ahead and held onto vital evidence “just in case”, Crerar’s DNA was linked to Miss Murphy’s killing, and twenty-three years after her body was found, he was jailed for life.
 Larry Murphy meanwhile, a 36-year-old carpenter and father of two from Wicklow, was imprisoned in 2002, having been charged with the brutal rape of a woman, after being seen leaving the scene of the attack by two hunters deep in the woods of west Wicklow.
A courtroom heard eleven months later how Murphy had attacked the woman in a car park in County Carlow, breaking her nose with a punch before bundling her into the trunk of his car. He drove for several miles to Athy, County Kildare, where he raped the woman, and did so again after driving to Kilranelagh, County Wicklow. After producing a black plastic bag which he placed over the woman’s head, he was interrupted by hunters Trevor Moody and Ken Jones, who arrived on the scene, and went to the rescue of the woman. He was arrested at his home the next day, after Moody and Jones, who both recognized him, gave his name to the Gardai.
What is worrying about Murphy’s case is that he had never once come to the attention of the Gardai, though officers are aware that he lived just five miles from where JoJo Dullard was last seen alive, and was working in Newbridge when Deirdre Jacob vanished, leaving some to speculate about other crimes he may have committed.  Author Michael Sheridan, believes there may be a link between Crerar and Murphy. In his book ‘Frozen Blood’, he claims that one woman who knew Crerar, informed him that she often saw him coming in and out of a disused quarry in Kildare at various times, digging and burning items, and on one particular night, just after one of the missing women vanished, she heard “horrendous screams” in the middle of the night coming from the quarry, where she had earlier seen Crerar arguing with a younger man, whom the woman believes may have been Murphy.

These two violent men, as well as other similar perpetrators of infamous crimes against women in Ireland, such as *Michael Bambrick, David Lawler, Sean Courtney, Kenneth O’Reilly, John Cullen, Peter Whelan and Mark Nash, all currently languish in prison, and while there’s a great chance that all, or at least some of them, know more than they’ve admitted to, there’s little or no hope that they’ll ever shed light on other women they may have attacked or killed, for fear of being handed additional sentences.

Michael Griffin
It is not just Irish women, or indeed, women in Ireland, who have vanished. In September 1986, Michael Fergus Griffin left Dublin to go and work in New York. Like many thousands before and after him, the 27-year-old had no work permit or visa, and during his first year abroad, his family heard from him intermittently, with just the occasional phone call home. The calls stopped in 1987, and have not resumed. In December of 1993, his passport was returned to the Irish passport office with no note attached, and Michael, who worked in a hardware store in Great Neck, Long Island, has not been heard from since.

Tragically, there are many more such cases of Irish people vanished without trace. Currently, there are 71 separate cases listed on www.missing.ie, the missing persons website created and painstakingly researched and updated by Irish Catholic priest, Father Aquinas Duffy, who established the site after his own cousin, 20-year-old Aengus (Gussie) Shanahan, vanished from Limerick in February 2000.T

During the fourteen years of its existence, the site has been at least partly responsible for highlighting the plights of hundreds of missing persons’ cases, and to date, 104 missing persons who were at one stage featured on the site, have been found (38 alive and 66 deceased).
Father Duffy’s online presence, as well as including vital links to other similar sites, and advice to those who may be missing, or know of the whereabouts of missing persons, goes into detail with regards to each case, and also includes contact details for local and national help groups and law enforcement agencies.
JoJo Dollard

The missing persons issue in Ireland is not restricted to one gender, age group, time-frame or geographical area.There have been cases reported of missing children, such as the heartbreaking cases of young Donegal girl Mary Boyle, who vanished in 1977, and teenager Rory Ahearne, not seen since leaving his home in Dublin in 1984, middle-aged individuals such as Frank Courtney of Tralee, who disappeared in February 2002, John O’Hara (Limavady, 1994), Tony Brosnan (County Limerick, 2003), and older Irish citizens, such as Bernie Gavan, the Ballymun woman who’s not been seen since August 2007, and Alpho O’Reilly, the Dublin man who’d now be 88-years-old, who disappeared in 1996.

It is an issue that knows no boundaries, with international cases such as John Rowan, the Kildare man last seen in Florida in February, 2001, Daniel Ryan from County Clare (New York, in August 1988), Paul Roche, the Wexford man who went missing in India in June, 1996, Hugh Nolan, the Cavan man who’s not been seen since his time spent working in San Francisco in April, 1994, Richard Nagle, the 26-year-old man who vanished in France in 2007, and James Patrick Grealis, a 24-year-old man who went missing in the Netherlands in October, 2008.
Deirdre Jacob

There were the high-profile cases which seemed to have been permanently imprinted upon our memories, such as that of JoJo Dullard, the 21-year-old Kilkenny woman, who vanished while hitching a ride home from Kildare in 1995, Fiona Pender, the 25-year-old part-time model, who was seven months pregnant when she was last seen shopping near her home in Tullamore, County Offaly, Ciara Breen, the teenager who vanished from her Dundalk home in 1997, leaving behind her heartbroken mother, Philip Cairns, the Dublin schoolboy who never arrived back at school following a lunch break in October 1986, Pearse Cremin, the County Cork tennis coach who’s not been heard from since October, 2000, Amy Fitzpatrick, the 15-year-old Dublin girl who went missing in Spain in 2008, Fiona Sinnott, the 19-year-old Wexford woman who was very much looking forward to the first birthday of her daughter Emma before she was last seen in 1998 and the shocking case of Conor and Sheila Dwyer, an elderly Cork couple last seen at St. Patrick’s church in the town in April 1991. A subsequent search of their home located all their personal papers and passports, although their car, a white Toyota Cressida, has also not been seen since that date.

With new housing estates being built across the country on previously derelict and rural land, which could well have been used as makeshift burial grounds, during Ireland’s so-called ‘Celtic Tiger’ years, many of those missing people feared murdered, may never be found.

Add to that an efficiency in disposing of victims that criminal gangs have developed, and the missing persons issue in Ireland seems here to stay.
For more information on Ireland’s missing people log on to Father Aquinas Duffy’s missing persons’ site at www.missing.ie, *Note: Michael Bambrick, Sean Courtney and Larry Murphy have all since been released from custody.

Barry Cummins – Irish Crime Writer

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Barry Cummins, the best-selling Irish author of ‘Lifers’, ‘Missing’ and ‘Unsolved’, recently had his fourth collection of true crime stories, ‘Without Trace – Ireland’s Missing’, published.

The book, a labor of love for the crime writer, features heartbreaking stories of people who’ve mysteriously vanished from Ireland. From the two young Belfast boys who went missing while on their way to school in the 1970s, to the more recent unexplained disappearances of a number of young men from Limerick, to the heart-warming, yet ultimately tragic tale of the reuniting of an Irish father and son after decades apart, an account of the IRA disappeared, the chilling story of convicted rapist Larry Murphy and lots more, are all included within the pages of ‘Without Trace’, a follow-up of sorts, to his previously acclaimed work on the missing persons issue, ‘Missing’.

He recently spoke with Michael Fitzpatrick about the book, and the ongoing issue of Ireland’s missing persons.

Mike Fitzpatrick (MF): The families of those who’ve gone missing rarely give up hope. Is that feeling shared by the media and the Gardai?
Barry Cummins (BC): Not really, the families keep up hope, sometimes I think it’s a case that the media forgets about missing persons, or some Gardai can forget. It’s not always the case. There are some fantastic Gardai who individually are doing wonderful work, but I would argue that collectively, the Garda force and the Irish government could do an awful lot more to honor the memory of missing people and continue to highlight cases.
It’s reasonable that every Garda and politician, from the Taoiseach to every other TD in the Dail, should be aware of the names of all those eighty or so missing people and should know the general ins and outs of the cases.
Not only in their own constituencies, but from Donegal to Wexford, they should be able to recognize the names, and I would argue that perhaps that isn’t the case today, that you might be hard pressed today to find a politician who would know the details of all those cases. I’d be very surprised, delighted, but very surprised.

MF: Some families, in particular that of missing woman JoJo Dollard, and Marie Kilmartin (victim of unsolved murder), have worked tirelessly on behalf of their missing, or murdered, loved ones. How effective have their efforts been?
BC: I think it’s been very effective, but it’s sad that it takes that for the Government to actually act.
The daughter of Marie Kilmartin, I saw Aine, down in Portlaoise, on a December morning, in the pouring rain, handing out leaflets to passing motorists, appealing for information about her mother’s murder.
It’s something that she was well capable of, and I’d say, well done and fair play to her, but she was in a position where she had to do that, which is pretty much an indictment of our society. It had an effect though, and the authorities started asking questions.
I was down there and we did a report which generated a lot of debate. The, ‘powerholders’ of Irish society then saw what this young woman doing what she felt she had to do, and since then there’s been a cold-case investigation into Marie’s murder.
It’s not led to any charges, but that occurred after Aine was on the streets handing out leaflets. In the case of JoJo Dollard, one of her sisters, Marie Phelan, had long campaigned for the establishment of a missing persons unit, and there should be, but it’s not happened.

MF: Your new book, ‘Without Trace’ includes missing-persons cases that are not as well-known as others. How important is it to keep these cases in the public eye?
BC: I think it’s crucial to keep them all in the public domain. I don’t discriminate between the various missing persons, some of the cases are more high profile because there’s a strong likelihood or a reality that perhaps the missing person has been murdered and their body been hidden.
Sometimes it’s not as clear as that. That can be one reason that some cases are pushed more by the Gardai. Sometimes families can find it difficult to speak out and deal with the media and the onslaught of attention that a missing person case can generate.
The first book I wrote was quite focused on Operation Trace and the women who went missing in Leinster, who are believed to have been victims of murder, and also two missing children, Philip Cairns and Mary Boyle, so that was quite specific in type of cases.
Even back then and I wrote that in 2002, I realized that I was only touching the surface of the issue of missing persons, and there were many different types of cases. It’s taken this long for me to come up with what I think is a book of different types of cases, all listed together, to show different issues, and highlight different problems, and, as you say focus on some cases that haven’t got as much attention as before, though I’d be first to admit to being selective, that I’ve chosen to write some cases, and maybe there are others that I could have written about as well. Each of the chapters I’ve written, I’ve had, not only the assistance, but the blessing of the families involved.

MF: Do you think after so much time has elapsed, such as in the John Crerar case (Crerar was convicted of murder two decades after the body of his victim, Phyllis Murphy, was found), that there is a chance of new evidence being discovered, or new witnesses coming forward?
BC: I do yes. It’s a cliché but it’s true, somebody somewhere knows something. I estimate that there are about eighty people who are long-term missing in Ireland. And that’s right across the board, from IRA victims, who were killed and buried in the ’70s and early ’80s, during the Troubles, and totally different cases, people who’ve gone missing, due to (the activities of) organized criminal gangs, to today, individual victims of murder or manslaughter, to other people who have maybe taken a personal decision to go away, and may not have been of sound mind at the time.
People must have seen something, other people may have suspicions about what’s happened, but haven’t come forward. Part of this book is for me, a fascination with human nature, and psychology, and what makes somebody come forward after whatever length of time, and do the right thing.
There’s one case I write about in chapter three in the book, about a criminal from Dublin, who I only identified by the letter D. He walked into a Garda station in February of last year, and said he wanted to confess his involvement in a shooting death in the late 1980s, and the hiding of the man’s body in north County Dublin. The man who made that admission later took his own life, sadly, but the Gardai believe he was credible. They carried out a search, and didn’t find a body, but the man this person said he killed, is missing, and the Gardai didn’t realize that until then.
In that case, it appears that there was a religious conversion. He’d found God in his later years. Someone who’d been a violent and dangerous person, something brought him into that Garda station, a man who’d spent his life avoiding Gardai, suddenly wanted to talk to them.
I don’t know how that can be, but it is a fascination I have. The strangest things can happen, and people do come forward after such a long time.
There may be eighty cases, in which 160 people or more who might have some type of information that could solve those cases.

MF: You’ve reported on dozens of distressing cases over the years, are there any in particular that have occupied your mind more than others?
BC: Well, you mentioned the John Crerar case, where Phyllis Murphy was missing for a relatively short period of time, compared to other cases.
She’d been missing for weeks, as opposed to years, but she was missing, and but for certain circumstances and a chance discovery during a search, Phyllis Murphy’s body might never have been found, and the forensic evidence found with her body might never have been identified, and then twenty years later with the advances in forensic sciences might never have identified her killer, and John Crerar might still be free today.
That’s a case that I often think about, if only that could be done in other cases. If only bodies could be found, that could bring some solace and comfort to the families involved, and also from a detective’s point of view, that then the Gardai would have a crime scene, then they could begin a proper investigation.

MF: And then there’s Larry Murphy (notorious convicted rapist, often suspected of involvement in the cases of other missing women, released late last year).
BC: I often think about the case of Larry Murphy, a man who’s now out (of prison), and I’ve just been doing some checking over the last few days and as of today, Larry Murphy’s not on the island of Ireland. It’s believed he’s somewhere in mainland Europe.
When I talk about him, I stick to the crime he admits to have committed. On one given night, against one woman, in February 2000. What I think about is, and what I’d like to know is, what did this man intend doing with the body of his victim, if he’d succeeded in murdering her.
By his admission he’d a bag over her head, she was in the boot of his car, and he’d tried to murder her. If he’d succeeded in killing this woman, where would he have gone, was there a plan, was there a location he intended hiding the body of his victim?
That woman went through an awful ordeal, absolutely horrific, beyond the comprehension of most people, but she’s also lucky and has gone on to lead her life and doesn’t engage with journalists about the case, and quite rightly, I understand that.
What I’m getting at, is, if that woman hadn’t been found by chance, and she hadn’t fought for her life and Murphy hadn’t been caught, we might well be talking now of a woman who was last seen in Carlow in February 2000, and is now a missing person. That’s what I often think about, the details of where he would have gone after killing the woman.
We may not have known about him at all, he could still be out there, without people knowing what he was capable of.
People have said to me that there’s nothing to show Larry Murphy’s involved in missing persons, but I say there is. He was responsible for that woman going missing from Carlow, although she wasn’t reported missing, he took her liberty for a number of hours, transported her across county boundaries, and ultimately, if things were different, she could still be missing today.
That’s the kind of case that I do think about, and is what drives me to investigate other types of missing persons cases.

 Convicted rapist Larry Murphy gets into a taxi after he left Arbour Hill prison in Dublin last year (Photocall)

MF: Do you think we’ve heard the last of convicted and now released criminals such as Murphy or Michael Bambrick (double murderer, released from prison)?
BC: Michael Bambrick engaged with the Gardai prior to and since his release. They are aware of his whereabouts, he committed two awful crimes, taking the lives of two women, and served a relatively short period of time, I think he served three-quarters of a seventeen-year sentence. We’ve not heard anything of him since his release, except that the authorities are aware of where he is. Murphy is somewhat different, in that he did not engage with authorities coming up to his release, he didn’t want to know them. Within an hour or two of his release, as the media tried, quite rightly, to figure out where he was going, he went into a Garda station to complain about the media following him.
I don’t think he would have diminished the media interest in him, but people might think differently about him if during his time in prison he’d apologized for what he’d done, or talked about it. At least Bambrick did talk about why he did it, where he brought the bodies. Murphy never outlined his motives, or assisted the Gardai. If he’d spoken at all to the authorities about the crime he admits he did, then he’d be giving something back to society.

MF: Has there been an incident where the family of a missing person might prefer to be left alone and not had the case reported upon?
BC: There are some cases, and the reasons are different. The person might have been the victim of a criminal gang, and the sheer awfulness of what might have happened to the person might be too much for a family to deal with publicly.
There are some cases, not where they don’t want appeals being made, but that they can’t be the public face of the appeal. I can’t go into detail, and in the book, they’re not in it, because this book is all about families coming forward, being proactive and speaking out.

MF: And (Gardai’s missing persons unit) Operation Trace has since wound down?
BC: It has, most of the detectives involved back in 1998/99 have since retired, and the others are now assigned to other work. The cases are still being investigated, but not collectively.
Operation Trace tried to establish that there were links between the cases but there was nothing to show that there was.
In three of the cases, they determined that they were unconnected (missing persons Fiona Pender from Tullamore, Fiona Sinnott from Wexford and Ciara Breen from Dundalk); those responsible for these (abductions) are believed to have been known by the victims.
The other cases, for example, JoJo Dollard and Annie McCarrick, it’s possible that the same person is responsible, but it boils down to speculation.
My own view, when people ask is there a serial killer operating in Ireland, is that I simply don’t know, but I believe that it’s possible that there’s more than one that’s been operating. It’s an issue that has to be considered, when you look at the numbers. It’s possible that there’s been more than one predatory attacker.
These women did not choose to go missing and the families know that. That’s something Marie Phelan has done right from the start, to say (her sister) did not go missing.
Ultimately, there should be a missing persons unit, and that’s what Marie’s been campaigning for. The Gardai involved in Operation Trace did wonderful work, but it came far too late. It came after the sixth woman had disappeared in Leinster, in 1998, five years after Annie McCarrick disappeared, and three years after JoJo Dollard disappeared. It did very good work, and led to arrests and lines of inquiry, but ultimately, it didn’t find any of the women.

MF: In recent years, more of the IRA’s disappeared have been found.
BC: In relation to the IRA disappeared; it was only through the IRA and pressure on the IRA that they gave back some of the bodies and gave the information. It’s something that most of the bodies were found in the Republic, Counties Wicklow, Meath, Louth, Monaghan. That’s what I wanted to get home, it’s not a so-called, and I hate the phrase, a ‘northern problem’, it’s an all-Ireland problem.
It’s incumbent on the Irish government to do everything they can in relation to missing persons. I look on it that criminals don’t respect borders.
So, the Gardai and the PSNI really have to up their game and liaise much more closely because the answers to some cases might be in the other part of the island.
Sometimes in this country we’re on the back foot, chasing our tails with regards to missing persons. We’ve been so good in other parts of policing, and so progressive, but with missing persons, we’ve been behind the times, and we should really do everything we can, and publicize cases.

MF: And what about the Gardai, where missing persons are concerned?
BC: The Gardai have been absolutely wonderful in other areas of policing, such as tackling dissident Republicans, and the Criminal Assets Bureau, which is the envy of police forces around the world for the work it’s done and the wealth it’s taken from criminals, and the Emergency Response Unit, keeping tabs on criminal gangs in Dublin, Limerick and beyond, and there’s great community policing, and that’s all wonderful, and well done to the Gardai, but when it comes to the missing persons issue, I’ve found that sadly, the Gardai are not as brilliant as they are in other areas, and I think they need to look at that.
I’ve been investigating such cases for over fifteen years and am still amazed at some of the things that haven’t been done properly. For example, there’s one woman (whose case is in the book), whose body was found in dense undergrowth. I assumed like a lot of people that she’d walked into the sea, and I was wrong, nobody’s an absolute expert. I don’t claim to be. It’s about trying to think outside the box all the time.
I think sometimes the Gardai and reporters, just follow logic, where sometimes there’s no logical answer, the person may have (been injured) or suffered a bereavement, or may not be thinking straight, just because they were seen walking one direction, doesn’t mean they didn’t suddenly double back.

MF: What about the issue of unidentified bodies found in Ireland?
BC: The longest chapter in the book is about unidentified bodies, and it took me so long to write a chapter, which is a pretty comprehensive list of unidentified bodies in the Republic of Ireland but I’d be the first to admit that it’s not the complete list.
There’s no publicly accessible database, or a private database, it’s not an issue that’s been pushed before, but I’ll certainly push it now, that there’s potential for solving these cases.
There’s a man buried in Donegal who was washed up in 1983, I still believe that man can be identified. The woman washed up in Wexford in 1995, I believe she can be identified.
One of the things that I’m keen to stress, if I can, is that the Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern, is heralding, and rightly so, this new DNA database that would finally be introduced in Ireland. It’s something that we should have had a long time ago.
Part of that database would hold information for missing persons, so DNA can be taken from a parent or close relative of a missing person, to be held on file, and that’s a brilliant thing.
In relation to unidentified bodies, what has to be done is that the bodies where no DNA or samples were taken, would have to be exhumed, and DNA taken, and the person laid to rest. I do believe that people can be identified.

MF: Ireland has quite a number of individuals like you, Fr. Aquinas Duffy, and other groups and organizations campaigning for missing persons.
BC: What Father Duffy has been doing for years, is brilliant. It’s wonderful work that he’s doing. Not only the work on individual cases, but the guestbook on the site, some of the messages there are wonderful.
There’s one I saw, and I’d love to know the story, he said he’d been missing seventeen years, and his brother found him.
Some of those stories you would love to know, because it helps other families.
There are about eighty long-term missing persons cases, and about thirty of those may be the victims of murder or manslaughter but the rest, the answers might be totally different.

‘Without Trace – Ireland’s Missing’, the latest book by Barry Cummins, is available at all good booksellers.

This interview first appeared in the Irish Examiner in 2011.

Still Hunting for the Missing

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Rory Aherne’s family felt he’d be back before long. The 17-year-old walked out of his Drumcondra, north Dublin home in September 1984, it is thought, to meet with friends.

His pals however, questioned by investigating Gardai at the time, and in the years since, can shed no light on the whereabouts of the young Dubliner, who would have celebrated his fortieth birthday in 2007, and Rory Aherne remains one of Ireland’s long-term missing people, his heartbroken family no more knowledgeable of his whereabouts now, as they were back on that Autumn evening in 1984.

Rory’s case is not an isolated one, and the phenomenon of missing persons is not a recent addition to Ireland’s social, criminal, or historic landscapes.

roryaherne

Rory Aherne – Vanished from Dublin in 1984.

Dozens of men and women, even several children, have vanished without trace, especially over the past four to five decades, and at the time of writing, on Father Aquinas Duffy’s missing Irish persons website (www.missing.ws), there were 76 individual cases of missing Irish persons profiled.

This of course, does not include those whose families have decided not to go public with their respective searches, families who feel that their loved ones may no longer be missing but have since passed away, those who feel that their relatives may have chosen to disappear voluntarily, or indeed the cases of one parent abducting a child without the other parent’s consent.

Simply put, there is no legitimate, positive way to obtain an exact figure on the amount of people missing in Ireland.

On average, five people are reported missing in Ireland every day, leading to anywhere up to 2,000 individual cases each year.

Of these, a considerable majority will have left voluntarily, usually due to personal situations, and return home within days, or even hours.

A smaller number are found deceased after several days or weeks, having either been involved in a fatal accident, chosen to take their own lives, or even been murdered.

Of those still unaccounted for, most will have disappeared against their will, abducted by a person most likely not known to them.

Those for whom the previous situations do not adhere to, appear to have simply vanished, leaving no clue as to any suspicious activity that may or may not have been involved in their disappearances.

In the mid to late 1990s, over a dozen women disappeared without trace in Ireland and were not, or at least have not yet, been seen alive since.

Several other women, including Antoinette Smith, a 27-year-old mother of two from Dublin, Patricia O’Doherty, a thirty-year-old prison officer, also from Dublin, and Marie Kilmartin, a 34-year-old woman from Portlaoise, were missing for months before their bodies were discovered.

All three had been murdered and their bodies buried in shallow graves in rural areas. The three cases remain unsolved.

asmith-310x415

Antoinette Smith – Disappeared after a David Bowie concert in 1987.

Six other women, namely Ciara Breen (from Louth), JoJo Dullard (Kilkenny), Deirdre Jacob (Kildare), Fiona Pender (Offaly), Fiona Sinnott (Wexford) and Annie McCarrick (an American living in Dublin), have received much media coverage, as it is generally suspected that they were also the victims of violence.

Without a body however, there is no crime scene, and therefore no evidence, leaving investigating Gardai encountering major obstacles in attempting to solve the cases.

The list of other missing women includes; Eva Brennan (Dublin), Sandra Collins (Mayo), Ellen Coss (Dublin), Imelda Keenan (Waterford) and Michelle McCormick (Cork City), and while their respective disappearances have proven to be no less devastating for their families, little evidence has pointed towards suspicious activity being involved in their particular cases, although at the time of writing, a man had been arrested in the case of Sandra Collins’s disappearance, over twelve years after she was last seen alive.

Sandra-Collins-390x285

Sandra Collins – Missing since 2000.

The arrests and imprisonment of two men in seemingly unrelated cases, has given investigating Gardai, and indeed, the general public, at least a faint glimmer of hope amidst the despair, with regards to the ongoing mystery of missing people in Ireland.

John Crerar, a former army sergeant, was 53 when found guilty some years ago of the rape and murder of Phyllis Murphy, a young woman from County Kildare, whose body was found over two decades earlier in 1979.

Due to a diligent young Garda who thought ahead and held onto vital evidence “just in case”, Crerar’s DNA was linked to Miss Murphy’s killing, and twenty-three years after her body was found, he was jailed for life.

Larry Murphy, a 36-year-old carpenter and father of two from Wicklow, was imprisoned in 2002, having been charged with the brutal rape of a woman, after being seen leaving the scene of the attack by two hunters deep in the woods of west Wicklow.

… while there’s a chance that some of them know more than they’ve admitted to, there’s little hope that they’ll ever shed light on other women they may have attacked or killed, for fear of being handed additional sentences.

A courtroom heard eleven months later how Murphy had attacked the woman in a car park in County Carlow, breaking her nose with a punch before bundling her into the trunk of his car.

He drove for several miles to Athy, County Kildare, where he raped the woman, and did so again after driving to Kilranelagh, County Wicklow.

After producing a black plastic bag which he placed over the woman’s head, he was interrupted by hunters Trevor Moody and Ken Jones, who arrived on the scene, and rescued her.

He was arrested at his home the next day, after Moody and Jones, who both recognized him, gave his name to the Gardai.

What is worrying about Murphy’s case is that he had never once come to the attention of the Gardai, though officers are aware that he lived just five miles from where JoJo Dullard was last seen alive, and was working in Newbridge when Deirdre Jacob vanished, leaving some to speculate about other crimes he may have committed.

Murphy has since been released from prison, to the astonishment and anger of the Irish public, and his subsequent alleged relocation to Amsterdam has been well documented by the Irish media.

Author Michael Sheridan meanwhile, believes there may be a link between Crerar and Murphy.

In his book ‘Frozen Blood’, he claims that one woman who knew Crerar, informed him that she often saw him coming in and out of a disused quarry in Kildare at various times, digging and burning items, and on one particular night, just after one of the missing women vanished, she heard “horrendous screams” in the middle of the night coming from the quarry, where she had earlier seen Crerar arguing with a younger man, whom the woman believes may have been Murphy.

These two violent men, as well as other similar perpetrators of infamous crimes against women in Ireland, such as Michael Bambrick, David Lawler, Sean Courtney, Kenneth O’Reilly, John Cullen, Peter Whelan and Mark Nash, have all been incarcerated for their crimes (though Bambrick and Courtney have since been released), and while there’s a chance that some of them know more than they’ve admitted to, there’s little hope that they’ll ever shed light on other women they may have attacked or killed, for fear of being handed additional sentences.

It is not just Irish women, or indeed, women in Ireland, who have vanished.

In September 1986, Michael Fergus Griffin left Dublin to go and work in New York. Like many thousands before and after him, the 27-year-old had no work permit or visa, and during his first year abroad, his family heard from him intermittently, with just the occasional phone call home.

The calls stopped in 1987, and have not resumed. In December of 1993, his passport was returned to the Irish passport office with no note attached, and Michael, who worked in a hardware store in Great Neck, Long Island, has not been heard from since.

The missing persons issue in Ireland is not restricted to one gender, age group, time-frame or geographical area.

There have been cases reported of missing children, such as the heartbreaking cases of young Donegal girl Mary Boyle, who vanished in 1977, middle-aged individuals such as Frank Courtney of Tralee, who disappeared in February 2002, Michael Kinsella (Kildare, 2007) and Tony Brosnan (County Limerick, 2003), and older Irish citizens, Alpho O’Reilly, the Dublin man who’d now be 88-years-old, who disappeared in 1996.

maryboyle

Mary Boyle – Last seen in Donegal in 1977.

It is an ongoing issue that knows no boundaries, with international cases such as John Rowan, the Kildare man last seen in Florida in February, 2001, Daniel Ryan from County Clare (last seen in New York, in August 1988), Paul Roche, the Wexford man who went missing while hiking in India in June, 1996, Hugh Nolan, the young Cavan man who’s not been seen since his time spent working in San Francisco in April, 1994, Richard Nagle, the 26-year-old man who vanished in France in 2007, and James Patrick Grealis, a 24-year-old man who went missing in the Netherlands in October, 2008.

There were the high-profile cases which seemed to have been permanently imprinted upon our memories, such as the aforementioned JoJo Dullard, the 21-year-old Kilkenny woman, who vanished while hitching a ride home from Kildare in 1995, Fiona Pender, the 25-year-old part-time model, who was seven months pregnant when she was last seen shopping near her home in Tullamore, County Offaly, Ciara Breen, the teenager who vanished from her Dundalk home in 1997, leaving behind her heartbroken mother, Philip Cairns, the Dublin schoolboy who never arrived back at school following a lunch break in October 1986, Pearse Cremin, the County Cork tennis coach who’s not been heard from since October, 2000, Amy Fitzpatrick, the 15-year-old Dublin girl who went missing in Spain in 2008, Gerry Daly, the 43-year-old Dublin man who went missing from his home in County Cavan in June of 2011, Fiona Sinnott, the 19-year-old Wexford woman who was very much looking forward to the first birthday of her daughter Emma before she was last seen in 1998, the disturbing case of Conor and Sheila Dwyer, an elderly Cork couple last seen at St. Patrick’s church in the town in April 1991.

A subsequent search of their home located all their personal papers and passports, although their car, a white Toyota Cressida, has also not been seen since that date.

Then there are the unsolved cases of Matthew Carroll (Limerick), Gerard Conway (Tyrone), Thomas Hackett (Dublin), Brendan McCarthy (Cork) Michael Lynch (Monaghan) and John O’Hara (Limavady).

So much more than simple statistics, but individuals who have left loving families and friends behind, baffled and in search of answers, closure and most of all, the return of Ireland’s disappeared, who remain missing, and remain missed.

Currently, there are 76 cases listed on www.missing.ie, the missing persons website created by Irish Catholic priest, Father Aquinas Duffy, who established the site after his cousin, Aengus (Gussie) Shanahan (20), vanished from Limerick in February 2000.

The site has been at least partly responsible for highlighting the plights of hundreds of missing persons’ cases, and to date, 125 missing persons who were at one stage featured on the site, have been found (46 alive and 79 deceased).

Father Duffy’s online presence, as well as including vital links to other similar sites, and advice to those who may be missing, or know of the whereabouts of missing persons, goes into detail with regards to each case, and also includes contact details for local and national help groups and law enforcement agencies.

This article first appeared in The Irish Examiner (USA) in January 2013.