Friday 23 February 2018

'Large number of people' come forward about potential leads in missing Philip Cairns case

Philip Cairns was in first-year of school when he disappeared. Inset: Eamon Cooke is now the suspect in his disappearance
Philip Cairns was in first-year of school when he disappeared. Inset: Eamon Cooke is now the suspect in his disappearance

Martin Grant

Gardai believe people who were young children at the time may have information on the schoolbag of missing boy Philip Cairns.

Schoolboy Philip Cairns disappeared on his way back to school at lunchtime in 1986. The boy was never seen again and the missing case shocked the country.

Speaking at a press briefing this evening in Dublin, Garda Superintendent Peter Duff said they believe people may not be a position to assist them.

"In May of this year, a statement from a particular person was given to investigating gardai in Rathfarnham," he said, speaking of the alleged connection between the case and the recently-deceased convicted paedophile DJ Eamon Cooke.

"Aspects of this statement were corroborated which resulted in lines of inquiry being opened.

"These lines of inquiry included interviewing people and cross referencing DNA profiles which those on items recovered as part of the investigation.

"At this point in time, these new lines of inquiry are on going.

"The investigation is very much active and I would like to thank those people who assisted me in this investigation so far," he continued.

"From our inquiries I believe there are people who were young at the time who may have information in relation to Philip's schoolbag and for whatever reason did not come forward.

"I am conscious that due the passage of time and changing circumstances, that these people may now be in a position to assist.

"This may be playing on their minds. I would ask these people to now come forward.

"For the sake of Mrs Cairns and her family, who have been suffering for 30 years, it is important we bring this investigation to a conclusion," he added.

"We're anxious to hear from anybody who may have knowledge how the schoolbag came to be in the laneway, who may have seen it being put there or who observed it there at anytime.

"We think that is an important aspect to the investigation and we would like to focus on that."

Superintendent Duff also said that he could not "confirm or deny" if the young people gardai would like to come forward were connected to Cooke.

He also said that he would need to "pinpoint a search area" to conduct searches in the Dublin Mountains.

He added "there is a number of lines of investigation still open" and that gardai were not "going into those particular lines of inquiry" that Cooke was involved "at this stage".

"At the time of the incident the person that came forward was a very young child," he continued.

"She came forward from an appeal and offered some information to An Garda Siochana.

"It took some time for the person to be able to provide specific information to us.

"That information was provided earlier this year.

"We are treating that witness very sensitively.

"I commend her for coming forward, even after the passage of time, to say she had information. I think that is a very commendable act," he added.

Superintendent Duff said the woman came forward "late April, early May" with specific information.

"There is over 160 lines of inquiry that have been commenced since that statement was taken," he said.

"A number of those are on going at the moment."

He added that a large number of people have come forward with information in recent days and a number are being interviewed on an ongoing basis.

"We are getting to people who have contacted us and assessing whatever they have to offer," said Superintendent Duff.

When asked if gardai have been given any possible locations for Philip's remains, Superintendent Duff said "not at this stage".

He said that the Cairns family are being fully briefed by gardai and are "coping quiet well".

There is a team of 40 gardai currently working on the case.

He added that some of the lines of inquiry focused around Dublin but added it's a "wide ranging investigation".

"There was DNA found on the school bag historically," he added.

"With new technology we can focus on the DNA more so."

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