Friday 6 December 2019

Gardai to issue fresh appeal on disappearance of Philip Cairns

Woman first approached gardaí in 2011

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
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Gardai are to ask the public again today for information on the disappearance of Philip Cairns, who disappeared in October 1986.

The gardai are to make the appeal this afternoon after it emerged that the terror exuded by paedophile Eamon Cooke over his victims prevented a woman from disclosing vital information about missing schoolboy Philip Cairns for five years.

The woman, whose evidence has now resulted in the first major lead in the 30-year-old garda investigation, had previously contacted detectives five years ago.

However, she was not able to give gardaí crucial information because she was terrified of Cooke, who died earlier this month.

Meanwhile, gardaí expect to start digging soon in the search for the missing 13-year-old's body. They are taking seriously the suggestion that he may be buried in a container underground near a radio transmitter.

The breakthrough in the case came last month when the woman told investigators that the former Radio Dublin disc jockey had knocked the schoolboy unconscious after hitting him with a weapon in his studio in Inchicore.

The witness, who was nine years old at the time of the incident in October 1986, said she saw the boy bleeding and unconscious on the floor but then fainted.

When she awoke she was being driven away by Cooke and there was no sign of the boy she believed to be Philip.

It has now emerged that the same woman contacted gardaí in 2011 following an appeal for help. But she would not give a statement to detectives at the time, and was guarded in what she said.

Read more: Philip Cairns mother: I still use the laneway, I still wonder about the schoolbag

Officers believe she was terrified of Cooke because of her previous interactions with him.

But the woman renewed contact last month through a care worker, who had helped other abuse victims. It is believed she felt in a position then to speak more freely as Cooke was on his deathbed - and she wanted to give officers an opportunity to interview him.

Cooke had been found guilty of 42 counts of sexual assault after a trial in the Central Criminal Court in 2007 and was serving his sentence at Arbour Hill prison.

But gardaí discovered he had been transferred from the jail to a hospice because of failing health. He said he knew Philip, and admitted that the boy had been in his radio station headquarters in Inchicore.

But he did not admit that he had killed Philip, and gardaí have yet to establish where the boy's body was buried.

Gardaí are pursuing suggestions that the body could have been hidden in a 20-foot container that Cooke was alleged to have buried in south Co Dublin with a radio transmitter to allow Radio Dublin to be heard all across the capital.

Investigating gardaí say they expect they will begin digging at selected locations after further inquiries have been made.

Cooke was alleged to have initially secured a signal for his radio station by using an RTE transmitter at Three Rock Mountain.

However, that reception was later blocked and he decided to erect a repeater in the Tallaght/Rathfarnham area, which would give coverage in other parts of the city.

Cooke was said to have buried the container with a connection to an aerial hidden nearby.

Gardaí are also carrying out fresh forensic tests, using the latest technology, on Philip's schoolbag, which was discovered six days after his disappearance in October 1986.

Read more: 'This is the strongest lead we've ever had in Philip Cairns' case' - former detective Gerry O'Carroll

Irish Independent

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