Rapist Larry Murphy 'not the only suspect for disappearance' of Deirdre Jacob
Despite the 'cold case' nature of the investigation, fresh clues regularly emerge
The parents of missing Deirdre Jacob are not convinced that rapist Larry Murphy is the only suspect in her disappearance but have revealed the nature of the link between the criminal and their family.
Michael and Bernadette Jacob are painfully aware of presumptions and theories as to why their eldest daughter has been missing for more than 17 years.
But they want to limit speculation about the notorious rapist in a hope that it might bring about fresh clues.
The couple have spoken out to make public information that they believe will help clarify how Murphy was linked to her disappearance.
Murphy was caught strangling a woman in a forest after abducting and raping her. He was convicted in 2001 and served 10 years in jail for abduction, rape and attempted murder.
"We need people to refocus, without the shadow of Larry Murphy," said Deirdre's father, Michael.
Deirdre was just 18 when she disappeared on July 28, 1998.
She was last seen at the gates to her family bungalow on a country road at Roseberry, outside Newbridge, Co Kildare.
Deirdre was a frequent visitor to the shop owned by her grandmother Bridget O'Grady in Newbridge and had visited her on the day she disappeared.
In a strange turn of events, when Mrs O'Grady passed away it was reported that Larry Murphy's name was found on a cheque-book stub among her possessions.
It was also reported that Murphy may have done some carpentry work for Mrs O'Grady.
But Deirdre's parents have done their own investigation into the case.
"His name was not found on a chequebook stub," said Michael Jacob.
Murphy's name and telephone number were found written down on paper among Bernadette's mother's possessions.
The couple said they believed Deirdre's grandmother wrote down Murphy's name and number after he visited her shop and other retail outlets in the region when he was trying to sell hand-crafted children's toys he had made himself.
"Murphy was an expert carpenter and was making these toys, which he was hoping to sell to shops," Bernadette told the Herald.
"My mother would have taken down his name and number at that time, which was several years before Deirdre disappeared.
"He never did any carpentry for my mother," she added.
Michael said that he has asked around the village of Newbridge, looked for people who may have spoken to Murphy. He concluded that claims that Murphy was doing carpentry work in a Newbridge pub on the day Deirdre disappeared were mistaken.
Murphy did not begin carpentry work in the pub until sometime after she disappeared, he said.
The couple hope their decision to reveal the nature of Murphy's connection with Deirdre's grandmother will allow people to think again about other possibilities and bring forward information.
"We are none the wiser today about what happened to Deirdre than on the day she disappeared, but we hope to know someday. That is why we are now renewing our appeal," said Michael.
Murphy has remained a suspect in Deirdre's disappearance - and a fellow prisoner claimed Murphy admitted to him he had killed her.
Gardai even questioned Murphy in prison about the disappearance, but no charges were brought.
However, Deirdre's heartbroken parents said they refuse to just believe that she is dead.
"There's a 50/50 chance she's alive. All we know is that Deirdre is still missing. That's the one fact we know," said Michael.
Bernadette couldn't hold back the tears when she spoke about her daughter's plans to become a primary school teacher.
On July 28, 1998, the last day she was seen alive, Deirdre spent the day preparing to return to her teaching course at Strawberry Hill in Twickenham in England.
It was a beautiful summer's day and she was in good spirits, making contact with her fellow students, discussing plans to rent a house together for their second year in college.
Deirdre obtained a bank draft for the rental deposit and she posted it.
She then visited her grandmother in her shop that day and walked back home.
Deirdre was last seen outside her family home in Newbridge that day, but it is believed she never entered the house.
Later, two women working in a delicatessen near Tara Street Dart Station in Dublin told gardai they were sure that a young woman who entered their shop on two occasions in the days after this was Deirdre.
Deirdre's parents have spoken with these women, but do not know what to think.
But despite the "cold case" nature of the investigation, fresh clues regularly emerge.
In the past year alone, three items of information were received by gardai which are being investigated, the Jacobs have said.
Family liaison officer Sergeant Seamus Rothwell had been "a great help since day one", they said.
Both take comfort in the fact that there are often cases of IRA victims' remains being unearthed decades later.
"A lot of those missing persons were solved by people of a subversive nature coming forward with information," Bernadette said.
"If people like that will come forward, then there's hope someone will come forward with information about Deirdre."
For now, all they can do is treasure memories - Deirdre's letters and photographs.
They, along with their daughter Ciara, still hope there will be a breakthrough in the mystery of what happened their beloved Deirdre.