A FORMER detective who worked on the case of missing Ciara Breen has criticised how gardai decision to go public with a major new search. He suggested it was done to put pressure on an individual with information about her disappearance.
Alan Bailey - who headed the gardai's cold-case unit - was speaking as officers continue to search a bog in Co Louth for any trace of Ciara, who vanished in 1997.
He criticised the decision to announce the search before a significant breakthrough was made and said it was not how he would have conducted the operation.
"Maybe they are trying to put psychological pressure on someone," Mr Bailey told the Herald.
"It's not the way my operation would have run. I'd be conscious of the secondary victims - the family and friends.
"I would have brought in my team and started my search. If it got out in public, I would explain what we were doing."
A garda spokesman last night declined to comment on Mr Bailey's remarks.
Gardai invited media organisations to the site at Balmor's Bog on Tuesday, as they started combing the area after receiving a "serious lead" in Ciara's case.
Mr Bailey led Operation Trace - the investigation into the disappearance of women in Leinster - for 13 years.
Other cases examined include the disappearances of Deirdre Jacob, Annie McCarrick, Jo Jo Dollard, Fiona Sinnott, Fiona Pender and Eva Brennan. No connection has been found between the missing women and none of their remains have been discovered.
Ciara was last seen at her home at Bachelor's Walk, Dundalk, in the early hours of February 13, 1997, when she was 17-years-old.
The evening before her disappearance, Ciara had tea with her mother Bernadette in a local cafe. They went home and watched TV before going to bed around 12.25am. However, when Bernadette went to check on her daughter she wasn't in her room.
It is believed she left the house to meet someone and left a window open to climb back in. She was never again seen.
A man in his 50s was arrested in Dundalk in April and taken to Drogheda Garda Station for questioning. He was later released without charge with a file being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Mr Bailey said that the suspect was still living in the area.
Gardai expect the current search for Ms Breen to continue for a number of weeks.
Investigators from Dundalk Garda Station are leading the search team, assisted by members of the Garda Sub Aqua Unit and the Technical Bureau using specialist equipment.
Lead investigator Detective Pat Marry said they were concentrating their efforts on a specific area of the sprawling marsh.
"As you can see, we are treating this very seriously. It is a definite line of inquiry."
A garda spokesman last night said there "have been no developments" since the search started.