Father feared to have taken own life 'is still alive'
Gardai stand down harbour search after earlier suicide fears sparked major recovery operation
Published 15/01/2012 | 05:00
Gardai have called off the search for a father feared to have committed suicide in Wicklow Harbour after a car chase earlier in the week after receiving "fairly solid information" from a friend who made "face-to-face" contact with the man.
"He spoke to someone who knew him somewhere in Co Wexford yesterday, and we are sure that the search is no longer required," the source added.
Gardai and lifeboat personnel were involved in the search after the man's car, containing his coat and pictures of his three children, was found apparently abandoned at the harbour last Friday.
The man had been at the centre of a major garda operation earlier in the week after he disappeared with his three children.
Last Wednesday, gardai launched an unusual public appeal for help after the man unexpectedly collected his three girls from school.
A major search operation swung into action amid fears for the man and his children. He had dropped the children off at the school earlier but about an hour later he returned and asked teachers to send out his young girls.
They queried why the girls were being collected and alerted gardai.
The man drove away in his own car but later switched to a blue Almera car which he had borrowed.
The car was spotted in Ashford at around 10.30am and its description was circulated to gardai in Wicklow and surrounding counties.
The public was asked not to approach the driver but to immediately contact Wicklow or any other garda station or ring 999.
Roadblocks were set up and a garda helicopter called in. A patrol car spotted the car on the N11 near Rathnew and pursued the car.
The car left the N11 on the slip way at the Ballinbarney junction outside Rathnew where the driver lost control and collided with a road sign. It came to a halt on a roundabout.
The children were unhurt in the collision and the father was taken to Wicklow garda station and detained under the Mental Health Act.
The man was treated by medical staff and later discharged and returned to his Wicklow home. But on Friday his car was found at Wicklow Harbour.
Gardai, fearing the worst, called in the underwater unit, while the Wicklow lifeboat crew was also asked to search the sea around the mouth of the harbour.
A Coast Guard S-61 helicopter was also used while other personnel combed the beaches.
Gardai also checked that the man's three children were safe.
The search was due to resume at 10.30am yesterday morning but was then stood down after gardai received reliable information that the man was alive.
He is now expected to be interviewed again by gardai.