News Irish News

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Cooke preyed on boys as well as girls

Gardai returned computers belonging to paedophile after failing to gain access

Eamon Cooke pictured outside his Radio Dublin studio in Clondalkin in 2001; Inset: Philip Cairns
Eamon Cooke pictured outside his Radio Dublin studio in Clondalkin in 2001; Inset: Philip Cairns
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Gardai investigating the disappearance of Philip Cairns have begun tracking down a small group of people who they believe were being abused by the pirate radio boss Eamon Cooke around the time the schoolboy disappeared.

A garda file on Cooke's paedophile activities identifies "four or five" boys and girls suspected of being abused by the pirate radio boss in the mid 1980s, the Sunday Independent has learnt. Gardai now believe that their help could be crucial to solving the mystery of Philip Cairns' disappearance in October 1986.

The 13-year-old schoolboy vanished without trace as he returned to school in Rathfarnham, south Dublin, at lunchtime in October 1983. The mystery deepened when his schoolbag turned up in a laneway near his home six days after he disappeared.

Cooke, 79, who died in prison custody two weeks ago, has emerged as the chief suspect in his disappearance. Gardai now suspect that Cooke forced children to dump Philip's bag in the laneway.

They hope to interview a number of people lured by Cooke into his radio station as children in the mid 1980s. It is understood that detectives began contacting some of Cooke's victims in the past week.

Eamon Cooke was the focus of an extensive Garda investigation in the late 1990s which culminated in his being jailed in 2002 for sexually abusing four girls. His conviction was overturned on appeal but he was again found guilty after a retrial in 2007. The investigation began more than a decade after Philip's disappearance but the school boy's name did not crop up at during the inquiry, according to informed sources.

The investigation file on confirms that the paedophile preyed on young boys as well as girls. Detectives interviewed up to five boys who were molested by the serial child abuser, according to sources close to the inquiry.

It is understood that none was willing to make formal statements against him. One young man did make a statement against Cooke in the UK in the late 1990s but later withdrew it. Gardai believe he did so under pressure from Cooke. It has previously been reported that Cooke only sexually assaulted young girls.

A garda search for Philip's body is expected to focus on five properties.

The Sunday Independent has learnt that gardai searched most of Cooke's properties when they investigated the radio boss for child abuse. Gardai were looking for photographs and videos that Eamon Cooke had taken of the children he was abusing but nothing of evidential value was found.

A team searched a 40-foot underground bunker in a field in Tallaght where Cooke erected a mast for Radio Dublin. They also searched his holiday home in Aclare, in Sligo and his homes in south Dublin.

It has also emerged that gardai seized Cooke's computers but could not crack the access codes to examine their contents. The computers were subsequently returned to the paedophile with gardai failing to find out what was on them.

Last month a woman made a formal statement that Cooke struck Philip with an implement in the studios of Radio Dublin. The woman first came forward following an appeal for information in 2011 but was not ready to make a statement until last month.

An informed source told the Sunday Independent that the investigation file on Cooke was sent Rathfarnham Garda Station in 2012. Cooke was not interviewed until last month, when he was on his deathbed in a hospice in Raheny.

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News