Gardai believe they may have solved the mystery of the disappearance of Dublin schoolboy Philip Cairns after they questioned paedophile Eamon 'Captain' Cooke just weeks before he died.
Independent.ie understands a woman approached gardai in May and named Cooke as the killer of the Rathfarnham schoolboy. Philip was just 13 when he disappeared without a trace on October 23rd in 1986.
Cooke (79), a DJ and pirate radio operator, died earlier this month.
"A person came forward in May. It took an awful lot of courage for this person to come forward," a source said.
"They nominated Cooke as a suspect. This case was still under active investigation when Cooke died.
"It is still under active investigation now."
A number of aspects to the woman's story have been corroborated already and it is believed that Cooke verified some of the information.
There are two main aspects that gardai are now looking to corroborate.
One aspect relates to Philip's schoolbag and the DNA found on it. That bag has been in storage in Rathfarnham Garda Station since his disappearance.
Philip Cairns had been a first-year student at his school for just over a month. His schoolbag was found dumped in a laneway close to his home some six days later.
The woman came forward to gardai in Terenure last month.
She told gardai that she had seen Cooke in his radio studios with the schoolboy in and around the time he disappeared.
Gardai are believed to be treating the woman's story as credible.
On foot of this information, they spoke to Cooke shortly before his death.
It is believed that Cooke told gardai he had met the schoolboy.
It is not known if he verified other aspects of the woman's story.
Tonight, Dublin TD John Lahart, who grew up in Rathfarnham, said: "Everyone in Ballyroan remembers the disappearance of Philip Cairns.
" Ballyroan is a wonderful, tightly-knit parish, a great place to live and grow up in and Philips disappearance shocked, dazed and bewildered the community.
"The news tonight will be met with a mixture of terrible shock and confirmation of a community's worst fears, even after all this time.
"His mother Alice and his late father Philip Snr, carried the burden of his disappearance during the passing years with such great dignity, stoicism and grace.
" My personal thoughts, and I know the thoughts of all Ballyroan people will be with Alice, Eoin and the wider Cairns family today.
"I want to pay particular tribute to, a few generations of Gardai at this stage, for their enduring persistence in trying to solve Philip's disappearance. It is hugely appreciated by Ballyroan people and by the wider Rathfarnham community."
A garda spokesperson confirmed this evening: "As part of the ongoing investigation into the case of Philip Cairns missing person in 1986, a 25-year appeal was circulated in 2011. As a result of this appeal a member of the public came forward and in May of this year gave a statement to the investigating Gardai at Rathfarnham Garda Station."
"Aspects of this statement were corroborated which opened new lines of inquiry. These lines of inquiry include interviewing people and cross referencing DNA profiles with those on items recovered as part of this investigation."
"At this point in time these new lines of inquiry have not yielded positive results, however the investigation is very much active and ongoing."
Last October, Detective Sergeant Tom Doyle said he believes advances in science and forensic technology could make the bag a vital clue once again.
"At the time it was found in 1986 DNA profiling was a limited concept. There was a danger that testing the bag might produce a mixed profile because the bag could have been handled by many people," Det Sgt Doyle told the Herald.
"The key is being able to separate-out the profiles of any DNA found on the bag, and technology is increasingly moving in that direction, so I am convinced this school bag holds the answers as to what happened to Philip," he added.
Philip's mother Alice and his siblings also said in October in an interview with the Herald newspaper that they continue to hold out hope of finding him. Alice frequently uses the long narrow concrete laneway where his school bag was found, often on her way to Ballyroan church to pray for him.
"I always look down at the spot beside the lamppost were his bag was left, and I always wonder. It's very sad," she said.
"The day he went missing was the one day that I didn't stand at the gate and watch him walk up the road towards the school. I had an appointment with one of my daughter's in the dental hospital that afternoon and so I wasn't at home when Philip left the house," Alice said.
Det Sgt Doyle said in October that he hoped that the mystery could be solved, referring to a case in 2002 when former Army sergeant John Crerar was convicted of the murder of Kildare woman Phyllis Murphy almost 23 years after he killed her.
In that case a detective had kept a blood sample collected years earlier, and advances in DNA science meant it could be tested in greater detail against other evidence, and despite the passage of time a conviction was secured.
The extensive file on Philip has been open and active, and around 10 snippets of information a year have been given to gardai, especially around the time of the anniversary and public appeals for information.
Speaking to Ryan Tubridy on RTE Radio One last year, Philip's younger brother Eoin said he was prepared for the worst.
"Anyone in our situation would hope that he comes back. But really, after 29 years we would just like to know where is he, or where he remains.
"If he is alive, I hope he's well. I'd love if he contacted us. I would love to see him again. But deep down, I know that the likelihood of that happening is very remote," he said.
"You have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. More than likely there will not be a happy ending. We will more than likely find him rather than him find us."
Missing teenager Philip Cairns’ younger sibling believes his brother may have been taken by an opportunist kidnapper and hopes he is still alive, 29 years after he disappeared.