Wednesday 24 May 2017

Families of missing left to search alone

It took three months and a plea to the then Taoiseach to have Eva Brennan's disappearance investigated by gardai

Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

Three months after the disappearance of Annie McCarrick, another youthful looking Dublin woman went missing in the south west of the city near the foothills of the Dublin Mountains.

But her family are now complaining that there was hardly any investigation into her disappearance.

Eva Brennan, who was 39 when she disappeared in July 1993, is now regularly included in the list of disappeared women feared murdered, some by a serial killer.

At the time, gardai already knew that women who went missing in the city turned up buried in the mountains. Antoinette Smith, a 27-year-old separated mother of two, went missing in July 1987. Her body was discovered the following June in a shallow grave at Kilakee, in the foothills of the Dublin mountains.

Patricia Doherty, a 34 year old, disappeared while on her way to the shops on December 23, 1991. In June 1992, her remains were found by men digging turf in the same area of the mountains.

Colette McCann, Eva Brennan's sister, has now asked why Eva's disappearance was met with relative indifference from the gardai.

The Brennan family owned the Horse and Hound Pub in Cabinteely, south Dublin and the 108 in Rathgar village.

Eva, who had two sisters and four brothers, lived alone in an apartment in Rathgar. She suffered from depression.

She disappeared after leaving a family lunch at her parent's house in Rathdown Park, Rathgar on Sunday, July 25, 1993.

When there was no sign of her the following day, the family began to worry. She had still not made contact on the Tuesday morning.

"Daddy went to her apartment because she had not come up (to the family home), and he rang the door bell. He then went over to the 108 and asked a barman to come over and they broke a window to get in. The jacket she had worn on the Sunday was there. She must have gone back to her apartment. Daddy went to the police and they said she was over 21. But we knew Eva and knew there was something wrong. He went back the next day and gave a description. They eventually came round to the house."

Colette does not think her sister committed suicide.

"She was a spiritual person, such a religious person and so close to her mother and father; she would have left a note.

"At the time, we did not know what to do. We went on searches ourselves."

She said the lessons the family learned from their experience led them to draw up an action list for anyone in a similar situation.

"Don't be put off -- you know your own. Report the person missing. Check phone, bank accounts and passport. Talk as a family. Use posters, internet, TV and newspapers. Be kind to yourself. Ask the police to stay in contact."

Speaking of the effect it had on her parents, she said: "Mummy stayed in the house for about three years waiting in the kitchen every day for Eva to come home. It's not fair, it's really not fair."

Now the family re-lives Eva's disappearance every time they hear of a body being found. She has not heard from the garda liaison officer appointed to keep in touch with the family for years. She said she wished the gardai would "pick up the phone" any time human remains were recovered.

There was no initial garda investigation known to the family for around three months, Colette said.

"Finally, they decided they were going to take fingerprints. It was months later. We had cleaned up; there wouldn't have been any left.

"Somebody could have visited her. She was not the type of person that would go out at night. She was careful. Something happened."

Colette's husband, PJ, said: "Eva disappeared three months after Annie McCarrick . . . but there was a complete world of difference between the reaction to the disappearance of the American policeman's daughter and Eva's.

"It should not be the case that certain missing people have a priority over others. Eva was months missing before they came down. It is so frustrating.

Eventually Eva's father, Davy, a lifelong member of Fianna Fail, contacted the then Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, who he knew through horse racing.

"There was a flurry of police men around the house, seven or eight, sitting down having tea and coffee."

A rumour that circulated and was repeated by some gardai suggested that Eva may have known double-killer Michael Bambrick, who was convicted of killing and burying two women in Clondalkin.

Mrs McCann said it was extremely unlikely she would have known Bambrick and had not, to anyone's knowledge, been to Clondalkin or the south inner city where Bambrick originally came from. She said her sister visited her parent's home every day, had lunch there and returned to her apartment and rarely went out. She was, Mrs McCann said, young looking for her age.

The experience of the Brennan family is not dissimilar to that of the family of civil servant Marilyn Rynn, who disappeared shortly before Christmas in 1995.

Although she was reported missing by her family quite quickly, there was no garda investigation and the case was logged as a missing person. It was simply suspected, gardai said that the time, that Ms Rynn had committed suicide. When her family's concerns were made public in newspapers an investigation was launched.

One of the first actions was to search around the path she took from the bus stop to her home in Blanchardstown, west Dublin. Her body was found in undergrowth within a few hours of the search starting, seven days after she was reported missing.

The investigation into Ms Rynn's death led to the successful prosecution of telecoms worker David Lawler, who pleaded guilty to murder and received a life sentence in January 1998.

Sunday Independent

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