Enhanced CCTV boost in Deirdre Jacob probe
Fresh hope for parents lies in digitised film footage from day student disappeared in 1998
Gardai investigating the murder of student Deirdre Jacob hope to identify a number of new witnesses as a result of digitalising 20-year-old CCTV footage from the day she disappeared.
The 18-year-old student teacher was home on holidays from the UK when she vanished yards from her home outside Newbridge, Co Kildare, in July 1998. She had been on errands in the town. Her case was upgraded from missing person to murder last year, even though her body has never been found.
Hundreds of hours of CCTV footage taken from different points of Newbridge on the day that Deirdre disappeared, and the days leading up to her disappearance are now in the process of being digitalised in the UK.
While the process is ongoing, the enhanced footage has brought into focus people in the background whose faces were blurred in the original images.
Gardai were anxious to speak to those people in the past but were unable to confirm their identities. They are now confident of establishing who those people are, and it is understood some of those potential witnesses have already been identified.
Gardai are particularly interested in enhancing CCTV footage taken from an Irish Permanent building society in Newbridge which captured Deirdre walking up the main street on the day she disappeared.
Detectives hope the CCTV will help confirm whether a saloon car linked to convicted rapist Larry Murphy, a suspect in Deirdre's disappearance, was in the area on the day she was last seen.
Three years after Deirdre disappeared, Murphy was sentenced to eight years for rape, abduction and attempted murder of a woman in the Wicklow mountains. After his release in 2010, a prisoner alleged to gardai that Murphy had boasted about abducting Deirdre Jacob while driving past in a saloon car.
Gardai believe that Murphy, a carpenter, was working in Newbridge at various times in 1998 but have been unable to pinpoint his movements on the day that she vanished.
Murphy's alleged involvement is one of the key lines of inquiry in the murder investigation, and the prisoner who implicated him is a key witness in the case.
Alan Bailey, a detective, interviewed the prisoner at length on several occasions before his retirement and believed his account was credible. Mr Bailey recounted in a subsequent book that the prisoner claimed that Murphy told him "he had pulled in alongside a young girl on the road just outside of Newbridge, waved the map in her direction, and asked for instructions on getting to a particular place. When the youngster leaned in through the open passenger window to try to see where he was pointing to, he is alleged to have grabbed her by her hair, and roughly dragged her down into the car, forcing her down into the 'well' of the front passenger seat".
The current investigation team are working to corroborate the prisoner's claims.
Senior sources close to the investigation said his allegations have been consistent across at least three detailed statements. It is understood that gardai have conducted other inquiries in the prison service, but it is not clear whether anyone else has been able to corroborate the prisoner's allegations or whether any further information or allegations have come to light.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Deirdre Jacob's father, Michael, stressed that Murphy was just one line of inquiry.
"We also have to keep an open mind," he said. "We are trying to reach out to someone who might have a piece of information, or who may not have information but who knows someone who has."
Murphy has not been interviewed by the investigation team. However, last year gardai from the Garda's Serious Crime Review Team doorstepped Murphy in the UK where he now lives. They asked him about Deirdre Jacob but received no useful information.
When announcing the murder investigation last year, the senior officer in charge of the investigation, Chief Superintendent Brian Sutton, said he believed people had information about Deirdre's disappearance at the time but chose not to come forward. He appealed for them to come forward now.