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Saturday 21 October 2017

Gardaí probe if skeleton found by builders in back garden of house is missing teenager Ciara Breen

Elaine Keogh and Alan O'Keeffe

Gardaí are this morning investigating the discovery of skeletal remains in the back garden of a house in Dundalk, a short distance from the home of missing teenager Ciara Breen.

Construction workers contacted gardaí shortly before 5pm after they made the grim find while working on a site at Mary Street North. The remains were unearthed at the rear of a house.

The builders were understood to be shaken by the experience.

A Garda team attended the scene and contacted a coroner. Officers also sought the services of a forensic anthropologist and preserved the scene.

Last night a forensic anthropologist confirmed that the remains were human.

However the age of the person is not yet known nor how long the remains have been in situ.

Gardaí are investigating if the human remains could be those of Ciara (17), who disappeared from her home in Bachelor’s Walk, less than 200 metres away, on February 13, 1997.

Garda Superintendent Gerry Curley, Dundalk said this morning, "It is far too early to speculate on anything," in relation to whether the remains could be those of the teenager who went missing in the same part of Dundalk 20 years ago.

Liam Mullen
Liam Mullen

Local people, however, expressed hopes last night that the long agony of Ciara’s mother Bernadette might at last be brought to an end.

Bernadette has hoped and prayed for 20 years that the body of her only child could receive a decent burial.

Ciara and Bernadette lived in Bachelor’s Walk at the time of her disappearance, a short walk from Mary Street North.

Gardaí conducted an intensive search of Balmer’s Bog in the town last year for her body but it was unsuccessful.

Fine Gael councillor Maria Doyle said last night that the location of the find of the skeletal remains was in the same part of the town where Ciara disappeared.

“It is very close to Bachelor’s Walk. I teach in a primary school in Bachelor’s Walk. Last year, the search of Balmer’s Bog was carried out in the hope of finding the remains of Ciara. We had all hoped then that there would be a resolution for the family.

“Yes, geographically these areas are very close but I don’t know yet if there’s any chance that they are connected or not.

“It is very, very close,” she said.

Cllr Doyle said the community had long hoped that finding Ciara’s remains would help Bernadette get closure on the tragedy.

“It’s been a very, very long time and all her contemporaries in Ciara’s age group are all married with children. Absolutely they would like to see closure for her mother and wider family and friends as well.

“She was at that age where she was just heading into her life.

“We hoped when it came to Ciara’s disappearance that the story would come to an end.

“At the time she went missing I was in college. I’ve a younger sister who was the same age,” she said.

“This is just construction workers came across it.

“Sometimes these things are solved that way.

“I’ve no information whatsoever that it’s connected so we’ll wait and see.”

Gardaí said it was too early to rule out whether the remains are those of Ciara, whose disappearance is a 20-year mystery.

Last night, gardaí were on duty outside the two-storey terraced house on Mary Street North.

A man renovating the house found the skeleton. Local people said he was clearly shaken and shocked by what he found.

The house is understood to have been recently sold.

Other people said the town was full of speculation as to whether the remains were those of the missing girl.

The houses on the street are very old - one local said they were over 100 years old.

They are mainly terraced and a mix of one and two storey.  They are a few hundred metres from where Ciara Breen lived on Bachelor’s Walk.

The State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy will visit the scene later today and gardai confirmed that the process ahead will be “slow.”

There will be careful excavation to ensure all of the remains are recovered and then the process of identification will be done using DNA.

The forensic anthropologist is on call to assist gardai if needed and Superintendent Curley said: "This is a very slow process and we are in the very early stages."

Just two months ago, the man who was the main suspect in her disappearance died of a suspected overdose while in Garda custody.

Liam Mullen (55) had twice been arrested for questioning in relation to her disappearance but no one has ever faced charges.

One Garda source said they could not “rule it out yet” that the remains could be Ciara’s.

On the night she vanished, Ciara told her mother she was going to bed but in fact she slipped out of the house to meet someone. She never came home.

Irish Independent

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