THE search operation for missing schoolgirl Chloe Kinsella stepped up another notch as specially trained bloodhounds and search dogs were drafted in to help locate her.
The 15-year-old has now been missing from her home on Kenyon Avenue, Kileely, Limerick, for six days.
The Irish Search Dogs, based in Cork, were brought in by gardai for their expertise in finding missing people, including people who have been located underground and underwater.
Gardai are also examining Chloe's mobile phone for clues as to her whereabouts. She did not take the phone with her when she left her home via her bedroom window at the rear of the property.
"We are using trailing bloodhounds which can trace the last steps of missing people. We are also using air-scenting dogs," said Glen Barton of Irish Search Dogs.
"Our bloodhounds have confirmed the starting tracks Chloe's family believe she took on the night she went missing. However, we have had a problem tracing the latter stages of her journey," Mr Barton added.
Chloe's aunt, Deborah Franklin, was one of hundreds more who took part in the fifth successive day of searching. "There's mixed emotions for the family," she said.
"One minute there is a bit of hope, and then that hope is taken away from her mam. But we are just taking it day by day. . . and hoping – we won't give up hope."
There was a grim discovery yesterday as a blood-stained mattress was found near a riverbank, but gardai said they were not treating it as significant at this stage.
Superintendent Daniel Keane, of Henry Street garda station, said gardai were following up on dozens of unconfirmed reports of sightings of Chloe, and trawling through hundreds of hours of CCTV footage.
He said: "If a person rings in, and the specific piece of information they have is of a confidential nature, we will ensure their confidentiality will be respected."
A large crowd gathered at a special candlelight vigil last night at the holy grotto of St Lelia's National School, just yards from Chloe's family home.
A special Facebook page "Help Find Chloe Kinsella" has now had more than 41,000 visits since it was set up last Sunday.
Meanwhile, a migrants' organisation joined gardai in appealing for information on the whereabouts of a Polish man, who has been missing for nearly a month in the same city.
Doras Luimni is appealing for the public's assistance in tracing missing Rafal Orsztynowicz (38) who has been living in Dooradoyle Park in Limerick for a number of years.
He was last seen on the morning of Friday, September 6, but family and friends became worried after he didn't show up for work that day and has not been seen since. He is described as being 5ft 9in with brown hair and blue eyes.
Matt Cannon, policy officer with Doras Luimni, said: "His family are very concerned by his absence which is out of character for him.''
Authorities say any information can be given to the gardai at Roxboro Station in Limerick on 061 214340.
By David Raleigh