Kerry Babies case: woman arrested over 1984 murder is released as man remains in custody

The grave of Baby John in Cahersiveen, Co Kerry. Photo: Mark Condren

Conor Feehan

One of the two people arrested on suspicion of murder in relation to the ‘Kerry Babies’ murder case have been released from Garda custody this evening.

A man aged in his 60s and a woman aged in her 50s were arrested on Thursday in the Munster region and were held for questioning in Garda stations in the south of the country.

The woman was released this evening from garda custody and a file has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

However, the man remains in garda custody.

The body of the five-day-old infant was found with multiple stab wounds in a bag at White Strand beach in Cahersiveen, Co Kerry, in April 1984. The mystery baby boy was later given the name Baby John.

The man and woman were held under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984.

It is understood that the two people are from Kerry.

In a statement this evening, the Gardaí said: “This evening, Friday 24th March 2023, the female in her 50s, arrested in relation to the discovery of the body of a male infant at White Strand, Cahersiveen, County Kerry on 14 April, 1984 has been released without charge.

“The male in his 60s remains under detention at a Garda station in the south of the country.”

The tragic newborn’s remains were exhumed in 2018 to allow for a new, better-quality DNA profile to be analysed.

This was subsequently tested against samples collected in the south-west of the country in recent years as well as profiles already available on databases.

It is understood the testing of this DNA led to a significant breakthrough resulting in the identification of suspects and the subsequent arrests.

The discovery of Baby John’s remains on the beach in 1984 shocked Ireland and became known as the “Kerry Babies” case. The bungled investigation eventually led to a state apology over the treatment of a local woman.

Joanne Hayes had a baby who also died around the same time as Baby John was found and wrongly became the focus of the Garda investigation.

She was arrested and charged after Baby John’s body was found in 1984, but the charge was later dropped and a tribunal of inquiry was set up to investigate the handling of her case.

Advances in DNA profiling later confirmed that Ms Hayes, as she always maintained, was not Baby John’s mother.

In 2018, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, justice minister Charlie Flanagan and An Garda Síochána apologised to Ms Hayes.

In January 2018, An Garda Síochána announced a review into the death of Baby John, and since then its Kerry Division has carried out an “extensive” investigation, supported by the Garda Serious Crime Review Team.

Hundreds of people have been interviewed and more than 560 lines of inquiry have been initiated.

In September 2018, Baby John’s remains were exhumed and taken to the morgue at University Hospital Kerry in Tralee for examination, and were reinterred later that afternoon.

His remains are buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Caherciveen.

“The arrests are a significant development in this investigation in an effort to establish the truth surrounding the death of Baby John in 1984 and deliver justice for Baby John,” said lead investigator Superintendent Flor Murphy.

“I am again appealing to the public for any information in relation to the death of Baby John in 1984.

“Anyone who comes forward will be treated with sensitivity and compassion.”