Sunday 26 March 2017

Brother of missing Philip Cairns 29 years on from disappearance: ‘My brother might have been taken by an opportunist kidnapper’

Philip Cairns who went missing in Rathfarnham in 1986
Philip Cairns who went missing in Rathfarnham in 1986
Garreth Murphy

Garreth Murphy

Missing teenager Philip Cairns’ younger sibling believes his brother may have been taken by an opportunist kidnapper and hopes he is still alive, 29 years after he disappeared.

Eoin Cairns, who was just 11 at the time of his brother’s disappearance, said he believes his brother may have been taken by a kidnapper.

Alice and Philip Cairns, parents of Philip Cairns who went missing in 1986 at the launch of the new website ie.Missingkids.com at Garda Headquarters in Phoenix Park (14/09/04)
Alice and Philip Cairns, parents of Philip Cairns who went missing in 1986 at the launch of the new website ie.Missingkids.com at Garda Headquarters in Phoenix Park (14/09/04)

Philip Cairns (13) disappeared on the afternoon of 23 October 1986 while walking back to his school, Colaiste Eanna, where he had been a first-year student for just over a month.

“Reflecting on it, he might have been taken by an opportunistic kidnapper.

The schoolbag belonging to 13 year old schoolboy Philip Cairns in a laneway near his home on Ballyroan Road, Rathfarnham
The schoolbag belonging to 13 year old schoolboy Philip Cairns in a laneway near his home on Ballyroan Road, Rathfarnham

“Knowing what know of Philip, he only had his clothes on and his schoolbag. He only had 50p on him. Knowing my brother, he would not have go off on a whim. He wouldn’t have decided to go on an adventure.  He wouldn’t have run away from home. An opportunist could have abducted him.”

Speaking to Ryan Tubridy on RTE Radio One this morning, Eoin said he was prepared for the worst.

Alice and Philip Cairns, parents of the boy who disappeared
Alice and Philip Cairns, parents of the boy who disappeared

“Anyone in our situation would hope that he comes back. But really, after 29 years we would just like to know where is he, or where he remains.

“If he is alive, I hope he’s well. I’d love if he contacted us. I would love to see him again. But deep down, I know that the likelihood of that happening is very remote.

“You have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. More than likely there will not be a happy ending. We will more than likely find him rather than him find us.”

Philip Cairns (13) disappeared on the afternoon of 23 October 1986 while walking back to his school, Colaiste Eanna, where he had been a first-year student for just over a month.

A massive nationwide hunt for the schoolboy was organised but no trace of Philip has been found.

Mysteriously, his schoolbag was discovered a week lying in a laneway linking Anne Devlin Road and Anne Devlin Drive, which had previously been searched.

The bag contained some of Philip’s books, but his geography book and two religion books were missing.

Forensic tests on the bag did not reveal any information.

“After his bag was found, the garda said he was probably in the area and that we could find him in a matter of hours.

“So you can imagine the emotion my father probably felt. Then it was a case o f waiting. Minutes turned to hours. Hours to days and days to weeks. Nothing. We thought the bag would have been the key to the mystery but nothing came of it.” The 29th anniversary of his disappearance occurs this Friday.

“After 29 years we just want an ending. It is still an open investigation and every couple of years, we sit down with the guards to see if there are any new developments. The guards have been fantastic.”

He said that there is still some hope that DNA analysis may be the key to unlocking his brother’s disappearance.

“At time, the science behind DNA was only in its infancy so they would have need quite a sizeable uncontaminated sample to do a proper analysis of it. Now DNA is much better in terms of profiling, so there is a much better chance of them being able to identify different persons based on a small sample of DNA.

Now that we have the bag, we have some hope we might find out who touched the bag and where it was. DNA could be the secret to unlocking his disappearance.

Eoin was just a year and two months younger than his brother. “We were very close in age and our relationship. We shared a room. We had bunk beds. I was on the bottom and he was on the top.”

“He was like an older brother in many ways. We used to play football together. We’d have these ridiculously long football competitions. The crazy stupid things. We had an interest in sea fishing. My father was a member of Dublin Sea Anglers Club and Philip was very interested in it. Philip loved that.

Last July Philip Cairns snr, passed away peacefully following an illness father Eoin said that his son’s disappearance something that he never got over.

“He a very close bond with Philip. He did try to compartmentalise – he had to go back to work, he had a family to raise. He had to get on with the business of parenting. He rarely discussed the disappearance of Phil with me. It was difficult for him to talk about. He loved fishing but for years he couldn’t go near a fishing rod. When he retired, he went back to it. And I think that helped him to deal with things and a sense of him remembering his relationship with him.”

Eoin believes that his brother was abducted

“Knowing what we know of Philip, he only had his clothes on and his schoolbag. He only had 50p on him. Knowing my brother, he would not have go off on a whim. He wouldn’t have decided to go on an adventure.  He wouldn’t have run away from home. An opportunist could have abducted him.”

Now a father to two boys aged four and six, Eoin said he will discuss his brother’s disappearance with them – “in time”.

“When they’re older, I’ll tell them all about him.”

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