| 9.1°C Dublin

Murphy link as search for body begins


The abandoned hunting lodge

The abandoned hunting lodge

Jo Jo Dullard

Jo Jo Dullard

The cold case unit carrying out a search at Kilranelagh, Co Wicklow

The cold case unit carrying out a search at Kilranelagh, Co Wicklow

Rapist and suspected serial killer Larry Murphy

Rapist and suspected serial killer Larry Murphy


The abandoned hunting lodge

An unnamed man with qualifications in forensic psychology and offender profiling who spoke anonymously to a Sunday newspaper at the end of last year is apparently the cause of the latest search of lands at Kilranelagh in the west Wicklow mountains where he said he believed Jo Jo Dullard may have been taken and killed.

The man told senior gardai, after the publication of the article, that an abandoned hunting lodge near the spot where Larry Murphy was seen strangling a young woman he had abducted in Carlow town in February 2000 was, in his view, a "place of interest" to Murphy. By this, he apparently deduced, Murphy may have taken previous victims to the same place.

The expert, as he has been described, came to Ireland and walked the countryside around the mountain road where Murphy was seen by two huntsmen as he was in the process of strangling his naked victim with her bra. He had placed a plastic bag over her head. It was a complete fluke the two men came upon Murphy who they recognised as living only a few miles away in the direction of Baltinglass.

Murphy has since become the centre of a national nightmare as the prime suspect in the disappearance of Jo Jo and several other young women who vanished over a near 20-year period in the Leinster area. It is noted that since Murphy's arrest, the day after he was spotted by the huntsmen, no other young women have disappeared.

The link between Murphy and Jo Jo is tenuous but still interesting. She was last seen after having phoned her home from a coin box at Moone, Co Kildare, and seen leaning in the back door of a dark-coloured Toyota Carina-type car 16 years ago.

When Murphy kidnapped the young businesswoman in Carlow town, after stunning her with a punch to her jaw, he drove her to almost the exact spot where Jo Jo was last seen. There he drove his victim into a nearby field and raped her for the first time.

After that he bundled her into the boot of his car and drove eastwards up into the Wicklow hills to Kilranelagh where on a dipping curve on the rough road overhung by trees he pulled over and raped her again.

He spoke to her throughout her ordeal and gave her details of his life which could identify him. He did so in the belief that she would soon be dead and presumably buried secretly in the wild and heavily wooded countryside. At one point he even allowed her to run away but in the darkness she ran into a loose barbed wire fence and further injured herself. He dragged her back to the car and, using her bra, began strangling her.

The two huntsmen came upon them as they returned from an evening further up in the hills and caught the scene in the headlights of their Land Rover.

Murphy's actions as he attempted to murder the Carlow woman also harked back to a previous murder of a young woman in the mountains. Antoinette Smith, 27, disappeared after apparently taking a lift in a car from Dublin city centre in July 1987. Nine months later her body was found in undergrowth at Glendoo about 40 miles away from Kilranelagh in the Dublin Mountains. Antoinette had been strangled with her bra and there was a plastic bag over her head.

Murphy was questioned about Jo Jo, Antoinette and the other women who had disappeared -- Deirdre Jacob, 19, taken in broad daylight from near her home in Newbridge, Co Kildare, in July 1998; the American student, Annie McCarrick, 26, who disappeared after visiting Glencullen in March 1993; Eva Brennan, 40, last seen leaving her parents' home in Terenure in July 1993; Patricia Doherty, 34, a mother of two who disappeared in December 1991 and whose body -- she had been strangled -- turned up in a bog at Glassamucky six months later; and others who disappeared in or around the Leinster area over a 20-year period and were never seen again.

But despite the media concentration on Murphy, it was known that other killers and rapists had used the mountains as the setting for their crimes. Philip Colgan abducted and murdered Layla Brennan, 25, in March 1998, strangled her with her bra and left her naked body near the Hellfire Club not far from where Patricia Doherty's body was found.

Michael Bambrick, convicted of the manslaughter of two women, Patricia McGawley, 42, and Mary Cummins, 36, who he buried in the back garden of a house in south-west Dublin, was also an active predator in the early 1990s.

Army private Sean Courtney murdered 31-year-old Patricia O'Toole at the entrance to a football pitch off Mount Venus Road in September 1991. And, as far back as 1972, Army sergeant John Crerar kidnapped, raped and murdered Co Kildare woman Phyllis Murphy, 23, in December 1979 and dumped her body in undergrowth near Newcastle on the western slopes of the mountains. None of these men are suspects in any of the other cases.

There is at least one other man who is of interest in relation to the disappearances and the murder of Jo Jo. A Traveller with an extensive record of violence and one conviction for attempted rape of a woman who was giving him a lift in the mid-1990s, fits the description of a man seen driving in the area and at the time when Jo Jo disappeared. He has never been ruled out of the list of suspects. He is currently serving a lengthy jail sentence for another very serious crime.

The latest re-opening of the mystery of the murders and about Murphy comes after gardai spoke to the academic who carried out a study of the location around Murphy's rape of the Carlow woman. He told a Sunday paper that in his view Kilranelagh was a location of "great significance".

The timber-framed building he came across sparked his interest, he said, because although abandoned -- locals say for 20 years -- it had evidence of abandoned woodwork. Murphy was a carpenter by trade and some of the work in the building showed expertise in carpentry. It was also "cosy" at one time with a wood-burning stove, running water, a flush toilet, and electricity. Locals told journalists it was built as part of a project to attract clay pigeon shooters to the location but abandoned when it failed to attract business.

Murphy would almost certainly have known of the building as his main past-time was hunting and he knew the mountain area from his childhood.

The expert suggested the gardai should investigate the lodge as, he said, there could be traces of human hair or blood staining. Two months ago, after meeting the academic, senior gardai visited the lodge and decided to conduct a search. This took place over two days last week but, according to sources, turned up nothing. They do not expect to uncover much in the way of evidence. It is 16 years since Jo Jo disappeared and 16 years of overgrowth and weather mitigates against evidential matter from almost all crime scenes.

Also gardai are sceptical of the type of profiling of suspected serial killers or of crime scenes. In 2002 US television stations trotted out a succession of academic profilers who unanimously described the then 'Washington sniper', who killed 10 people in random attacks, as "most likely" a middle-aged white man with a grudge against society. The killers turned out to be John Allen Muhammad and his nephew Lee Boyd Malvo, both black. They did have grudges against society.

The investigation into the disappearance of Jo Jo and the others continues to be an active file, but with little in the way of progress, in the headquarters of the National Bureau of Crime Investigation (NBCI) in Dublin. A break may come, gardai say, but it is not likely to be from what they regard as guesswork.

But, then again, there are exceptions. One of the people who called Kildare garda station during the initial investigation of the disappearance of Phyllis Murphy was a man who described himself as a clairvoyant. He described a scene and rough location in the mountains. As detectives plodded through the case, the task of following up on the caller's information was delegated to officers, mainly because they had to rule out the possibility that the man might have been a suspect.

Gardai went to the location near Newcastle, carried out a search of the undergrowth and found Phyllis's body. The caller was investigated and ruled clear of any connection to the crime as he was in Cork when the murder took place. The cold temperatures had conserved the young woman's body to the extent that samples taken from it, and stored by gardai in Kildare, were to provide the DNA evidence that finally convicted Crerar 23 years later.

Gardai have little hope that Murphy, if he knows anything, will ever volunteer information. He remains in Spain where the Guardia Civil keep tabs on his whereabouts and report back to gardai.

Most Watched