Thursday 29 September 2016

Popular DJ Gareth O'Callaghan: The link between paedophile Cooke and my cousin Philip doesn't add up

Catherine Devine

Published 13/06/2016 | 16:30

Philip Cairns was in first-year of school when he disappeared. Inset: Eamon Cooke is now the suspect in his disappearance
Philip Cairns was in first-year of school when he disappeared. Inset: Eamon Cooke is now the suspect in his disappearance

WHEN well-known DJ Gareth O’Callaghan learned that missing Philip Cairns was his cousin, he became “deeply touched” by the case - but he thinks the latest link to notorious paedophile Eamon Cooke “doesn’t add up”.

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“I had been following the case of the young school-boy who disappeared with the rest of the appalled nation, but when I found out he was a cousin of mine I became fascinated with the details,” said O’Callaghan.

Gareth O Callaghan
Gareth O Callaghan

He said that when he was going through his family tree years ago he saw that he and missing 13-year-old Philip Cairns had the same great-grandfather.

“I took a large personal interest in the disappearance then, I was deeply touched by the case,” he said.

O’Callaghan said he feels “sick and sad because the case doesn’t add up”.

“I don’t think it adds up. Eamon Cooke, while he was a paedophile and a predator, he had a preference for younger girls from vulnerable backgrounds and Philip doesn’t fit into that.”

Serial paedophile Eamon Cooke: his other victims could hold key to the death of schoolboy Philip Cairns
Serial paedophile Eamon Cooke: his other victims could hold key to the death of schoolboy Philip Cairns

Read more: Predator DJ Eamon Cooke 'was a weirdo who showed up to crime scenes' - former head of Cold Case Unit

He also questioned the evidence of a woman who came forward last week to say she saw Cooke hitting Philip in the head when she was a young girl.

“Can you trust the evidence of a then 9-year-old girl who has come forward to say that she saw Cooke hitting him on the head? She was vulnerable and upset. Can we trust her statement so many years later?

“Cooke was in the final stages of cancer and pain managed. I don’t understand how gardai carried out an interview and managed to get this information from him.”

He said we need to be careful before we run with theories about Philip’s disappearance and respect that new claims are “dragging the family into a nightmare that mightn’t be true”.

“The victim and perpetrator are both dead. No evidence can be corroborated about what happened.”

O’Callaghan worked with Eamon Cooke on the pirate radio station Radio Dublin in 1979. “He was strange and eccentric. He was dirty and smelled. He looked like someone who had been homeless for a very long time.”

Read more: Predator DJ Cooke's will and other victims could hold key to Philip Cairns' death

He said the radio station was like an “open house” where young teenage girls came in and out trying to look older than they were.

“Now that I look back, the girls were never around for more than a week or two and then they disappeared. A girl who worked on my show told me she wouldn’t be coming back because her mother wouldn’t let her. I thought it was because of her studies but something far more sinister was going on that I wasn’t aware of.”

Gareth said that looking back now it all seems so “shocking”.

“I was in the house where all of this was going on,” he said.

“Radio is supposed to be a symbol of entertainment but the house was filled with torture and pain.”

Gareth said that Philip’s family are “distressed” with the latest news and that they have been searching and hoping for some closure for years.

Gardaí are investigating whether Cooke (79), who died last week, was responsible for killing the schoolboy in his radio studios in Inchicore in October 1986.

The schoolboy vanished without a trace as he walked back to his school, Colaiste Eanna in Rathfarnham, on October 23, 1986. His schoolbag was found dumped in a laneway close to his home on Ballyroan Road six days later.

After decades of mystery surrounding the case, a woman came forward to gardaí at Terenure in May and nominated Cooke as a suspect.

Cooke (79), a pirate radio DJ who went by the name Captain Cooke and founded Radio Dublin in Inchicore, was found guilty of 42 counts of sexual assault following a trial at the Central Criminal Court in 2007. During his trial, the court heard his young victims dubbed him the “Cookie Monster”.

Gardaí interviewed Cooke in the weeks before his death, at a hospice where he was being treated following temporary release from Arbour Hill prison.

It is understood Cooke corroborated some aspects of the woman’s story and admitted to meeting the schoolboy in his radio studios.

Gardai are now examining DNA traces left on the boy’s schoolbag to further investigate the claims.

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