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Blathnaid -- suicide was suspected from start

GARDAI suspected very early on in their investigation of the disappearance of the Galway woman Blathnaid Timothy that no crime was involved but refrained from saying so, it has been learned.

The appeal for the driver of the black Mercedes taxi which she hailed on St John Rogerson's Quay and the high level of publicity led to the driver -- who had been on holiday -- coming forward on New Year's Day and confirming that he had taken her to Howth.

There was intense comment about the disappearance on the internet and the widespread distribution of pictures of the missing woman -- which are still on display around Dublin -- added to fears that she may have been the victim of a crime. She disappeared on December 14.

On the day after Ms Timothy, 33, was reported missing, gardai examined her laptop and found that websites she had visited suggested she had been contemplating taking her life. It is also understood that CCTV footage indicated she had been walking up and down the edge of the quayside on the Liffey.

She then went to an ATM on St John Rogerson's Quay, took out €60 and hailed the taxi to Harbour Road in Howth. Ms Timothy had no known reason to be visiting either the quayside or Howth. She lived in an apartment in Camden Street, about a mile away from the Liffey.

The pier and cliffs around Howth are among the worst sites in Ireland for rescue crews being called out to recover bodies or people who have fallen and badly injured themselves. On the same day that Ms Timothy disappeared, the lifeboat crew had recovered the body of another young woman there. Foul play was not suspected.

People involved in the rescue services were perplexed last week at the way the disappearance of Ms Timothy was handled by gardai. At the time the public appeal began, there was no indication as to whether gardai suspected foul play.

One source said the result was an unnecessary panic which coincided with publicity in the British media about the disappearance and murder of Joanna Yeates.

Garda sources have confirmed to the Sunday Independent that there was no suspicion of foul play in the disappearance of Ms Timothy from the early stages of the investigation. They declined to say why this was not indicated to the media in any informal way, although one said this may have been for "legal reasons".

Last week, there were renewed appeals for anyone who might have noticed a woman wearing a 'dogstooth scarf, which Ms Timothy's family believe she was wearing on the night she disappeared.

However, the real effort was being put into the search for a body on and around the coastline of Howth Head. Nothing had been discovered by yesterday but rescue service sources say they are still hopeful that her remains may be found.

There is, they say, a good record of recovering bodies from both the pier and cliff sides of Howth and tidal conditions tend to prevent bodies from drifting out to sea -- although this is possible.

One of the main problems is that gardai were unable to ascertain where exactly Ms Timothy might have entered the sea. Harbour Road is adjacent to the pier but the cliffs on the eastern and southern sides of Howth are within a short walk and there are large areas of rocky coastline and gorse-covered cliffs.

Gardai have renewed their appeal to any one who might remember the evening of December 14 in Howth, when the rescue services and gardai were at the harbour, recovering the other young woman's body, and the annual general meeting of Howth Yacht Club was taking place.

Sunday Independent