Saturday 21 September 2019

Frozen in time: the long-term missing

Kathy Donaghy on the disappearances which have mystified the public and brought heartbreak to their families

Trevor Deely
Trevor Deely
Annie McCarrick
Fiona Sinnott
Deirdre Jacob
Fiona Pender
Jo Jo Dullard
Ciara Breen

This weekend marks the 18th anniversary of the disappearance of Trevor Deely who went missing in Dublin in the early hours of December 8, 2000.

An employee of Bank of Ireland Asset Management, he had been at his office Christmas party before he disappeared. A six-week search for his remains last year ended without success. It was initiated after gardaí received information that his body had been concealed near wasteland at Chapelizod in the city.

Trevor Deely's case is only one of a number of high-profile cases of long-term missing persons which has mystified the public for decades.

Twenty-five years ago, Annie McCarrick disappeared without a trace while she was living here as a student. The 26-year-old from Long Island in New York was last seen in Johnnie Fox's pub in Glencullen, Co Wicklow, on March 26, 1993. She had been living in Sandymount, Dublin at the time.

Her disappearance has become one of the most high-profile unsolved crimes in the history of the State. She was one of a number of women who disappeared, presumed murdered, in the Leinster area in the 1990s.

Their disappearances were grouped together under Operation Trace; a high-profile inquiry established to determine if all, or any, of the cases were linked in any way.

In 1998, Fiona Sinnott, a mother-of-one from Co Wexford, went missing after a night out. The 19-year-old had been looking forward to celebrating her daughter's first birthday. On the night of her disappearance on February 8, she had been socialising with friends and her former partner at Butler's pub in Broadway, Co Wexford. Her disappearance was initially treated as a missing-person case until after a review it was upgraded to a full murder inquiry in 2005. This year would mark her 40th birthday.

That same year, 18-year-old student Deirdre Jacob disappeared as she was walking from Newbridge in Co Kildare to her home about 1.5km away. Earlier this year, detectives investigating the teenager's disappearance upgraded the case to a murder investigation following new information.

Over the past 20 years, her parents Michael and Bernie have issued a number of appeals for anyone with information to come forward.

Michael Jacob told Review that while a significant amount of information on the case had been built up over the years, there were a number of gaps in it. "Nothing is too small - fragments of information would make a difference," he said.

Fiona Pender's disappearance is another in a group of similar cases in which young women disappeared with no sign of them or their remains ever emerging. Fiona, from Tullamore, Co Offaly, was 25 when she vanished on August 23, 1996. She was pregnant at the time.

Her mother Josephine Pender, a staunch campaigner, passed away after a lengthy battle with illness two years ago, shortly after the 21st anniversary of her daughter's disappearance.

The disappearance of 21-year-old Jo Jo Dullard in November 1995 as she was making her way from Dublin back home to Callan in Co Kilkenny has baffled investigators for years. She had stopped to make a call to a friend from a phone box in Moone, Co Kildare and was never heard from again.

Earlier this year her sister, Mary Phelan, who had devoted her life to finding Jo Jo, passed away after a short illness. She campaigned tirelessly for information over the years, bringing her case to the Government and meeting people including Bertie Ahern, Hillary Clinton during a visit to America, and officers from the FBI who were expert in missing persons cases.

Ciara Breen (17) left the terraced house she shared with her mother in Dundalk in February 1997. She never made it back home. Gardaí still believe there are people in the town with information that could be beneficial to them in their investigations.

This summer, her mother Bernadette passed away without any answers as to what happened to her daughter. Retired detective inspector Pat Marry, who once led the investigation, said: "I would have loved to have been able to bring Ciara home to Bernadette so she could have buried her only child and to give Bernadette peace of mind."

Images of the missing remain frozen in time. Photographs capture them smiling into the camera at a happy time in their life. For their families, the agonising wait for news and for justice continues.

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