'We searched for days for Philip - we were even up in Dublin Zoo'
Published 15/06/2016 | 02:30
An ex-garda diver who searched for Philip Cairns in 1986 has spoken of his belief that his schoolbag holds the answer to the mysterious disappearance of the Rathfarnham schoolboy.
Retired garda Tosh Lavery, who was part of the search for Philip, said he "always knew the case would be solved".
Mr Lavery - who was part of the first garda sub-aqua unit - said that despite seemingly vanishing without a trace, he was always confident that details of what happened to the 13-year-old schoolboy would emerge.
"I always knew the case would be solved because of that schoolbag. The bag had been put there by someone, and I thought it would eventually come out who had put it there or what happened," he said.
Extensive searches of lakes, rivers and the Dublin Mountains were carried out by gardaí and sub-aqua divers in the days after Philip disappeared on October 23.
"We searched for days after - we were even in Dublin Zoo at one point," he said.
"I remember it because there were people down from HQ and we were looking in about four foot of water."
Despite the sweeping searches, no trace of the schoolboy was ever found.
Mr Lavery said that Eamon Cooke's crimes were not known at the time Philip went missing.
"No one ever knew at that time that he was a paedophile… it must be horrible for them [the Cairns family] to be going through this again," he said.
"It's hard to believe someone would go to their grave without saying anything," he said.
Philip's mother Alice revealed this week that she had never heard her son mention the predatory pirate radio DJ and that the link between the two came as a bolt from the blue.
She remains hopeful that the investigation will come to a successful conclusion three decades after her son first went missing.
"I'm glad the gardaí are following any line of investigation because it shows that they are determined to find out what happened.
"I'm open-minded about it," she told the Irish Independent.
"You're always hoping there will be something, a new lead, but then when it happens you have more questions."
Mr Lavery, who has continued working with the families of missing people since retiring from the force, said he feels for the Cairns family as they come to terms with the latest revelations.
"The family are going through hell now knowing (Cooke) lied and didn't disclose what he knew," he said.
"All families want a grave and without that it's prolonging the torture."
Philip's father, Philip Snr, passed away in 2014 without ever learning what happened to his son.
That poignant detail has stuck with Mr Lavery as the years have passed without any conclusion to the investigation.
"It always seems to be the women left behind for some reason. I often think about that," he said.
The new lines of inquiry in the case are a genuine breakthrough in the investigation, Mr Lavery believes.
"It's probably the most constructive evidence ever obtained in the case and gardaí should be able to tie a lot of it together," he said.