Murder hunt for man who faked death
Gardai believe chief suspect is living on continent
A MAN who faked his own death has now emerged as the chief suspect in the murder of a young art student six years ago.
Gardai yesterday confirmed that they were extremely anxious to trace John Griffin, originally from Mervue in Galway in connection with the killing of Emer O'Loughlin (23) at a caravan park on the Galway-Clare border in 2005.
Griffin, who has convictions for assault, is believed to be in hiding under an assumed name on the European mainland.
The Crimestoppers organisation has offered a substantial reward for information which significantly helps the investigation.
While Griffin has featured on an Interpol list of wanted persons, yesterday was the first time that gardai named him as central to their investigations.
He owned the caravan at Ballybornagh, Tubber, in which the body of Emer O'Loughlin was discovered following a fire on April 8, 2005. Emer, a student of art at Galway Technical Institute, had been living in a mobile home with her boyfriend just a short distance away.
She was last seen at about 10am on April 8 and the fire that claimed her life broke out at Griffin's caravan at 12.15pm. While her death was initially treated as suspicious, a post mortem examination was unable to determine the cause.
But subsequent advances in pathology and anthropology caused gardai to have her body exhumed last year. Following tests by a forensic anthropologist in Galway, it was revealed that she had been murdered.
John Griffin was spoken to by gardai at the scene of the fire in 2005, but, seemingly, had no information to assist the investigation. He was last seen on the Aran Islands on April 25, a fortnight after Emer was killed.
His clothes were found in a neat pile at the edge of a cliff, leading people to believe that he may have committed suicide. Detectives now believe that this was a stunt to try to convince gardai that he was dead.
There have since been a number of reported sightings on the European mainland, but to date, he has evaded arrest.
He is now aged 44 and 5'9", of average build, with a distinctive Celtic design tattoo on his Adam's Apple.
Yesterday, Superintendent Pat Murray of Gort, who is heading up the murder investigation, said he believed that there were people who knew where Griffin was now located.
"We believe he's living in mainland Europe under an assumed name -- he has used the name John McDermott in the past. We also believe that he has friends and acquaintances who are aware of his whereabouts.
"It is now seven years later and people may have changed their feelings about this. We would also ask them to consider Emer's family at this time. There is a poignant reminder of her in the family home, where a simple altar has been erected in the kitchen with photographs and personal items," Supt Murray said.
Yesterday, thousands of leaflets were distributed in south Galway and north Clare seeking the public's help in tracking down John Griffin and offering the Crimestoppers reward.
"We can assure anyone who contacts us that we will treat their information in the strictest confidence," Supt Murray added.
Crimestoppers can be contacted on Freephone 1800 25 00 25.