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Sunday 16 December 2018

New informants contact gardaí in Kerry baby case

Joanne Hayes pictured with her daughter around 1985
Joanne Hayes pictured with her daughter around 1985

Robin Schiller and Majella O'Sullivan

Gardai will be knocking on doors and seeking new witnesses as part of the fresh investigation into the murder of Baby John in Kerry.

A local detective inspector has been assigned as the senior investigating officer and will lead the inquiry, which is being treated as a live investigation.

Members of the Garda Serious Crime Review Team are also working hand-in-hand with local detectives to establish the identity of the infant’s parents, who came to be known as Baby John.

A post-mortem examination carried out by the then State Pathologist John Harbison in April 1984 estimated the infant was around five days old when he was found.

He had been stabbed 28 times with four of the wounds penetrating his heart. The autopsy also revealed he had been dead for around two days when his body was discovered by a local man on April 14.

Gardaí will be seeking witnesses as well as reviewing statements taken during the initial investigation.

A large aspect of the probe will also look to have people from the locality come forward and voluntarily supply their DNA to gardaí.

Scientific advances mean that a familial DNA match could help identify the mother and father of Baby John.

“A person may not even know that they are closely related to Baby John’s parents, and gardaí are appealing for people in the area to come forward and assist the investigation,” a senior source said.

Detectives are seeking DNA samples from people in the Iveragh Peninsula in south Kerry as part of the new probe.

Gardaí have confirmed they are not following a definite line of inquiry, but that a number of people have contacted the incident room set up at Cahersiveen Garda station since the fresh investigation was launched on Tuesday.

The handling of the initial Garda investigation has been strongly criticised, and on Tuesday a senior officer publicly apologised to Joanne Hayes, who was wrongly charged with the infant’s murder.

Joanne Hayes: charges were dropped after blood tests
Joanne Hayes: charges were dropped after blood tests

Supt Flor Murphy said Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin had written to Ms Hayes and spoken to her over the phone and “to his knowledge” Ms Hayes had accepted that apology.

Due to significant advances in DNA testing, it was confirmed that Ms Hayes was not Baby John’s mother, and searches of a national DNA data base have failed to yield any matches to other people’s samples.

A number of gardaí involved in the investigation in the 1980s are since deceased.

Earlier this week, Det Supt Walter O’Sullivan confirmed a new investigation was “starting from scratch” and he was confident the answer to the mystery lay in the local area.

“It’s my appeal as the head of the Garda National Bureau of Investigation, to ask people to come forward, even after 34 years, that there is information out there and we’re asking people to come forward,” he said.

He confirmed all information would be renewed, including the interviewing of witnesses, the surveying of neighbourhoods, the collection of information from every source and the analysis of all information.

“This is an investigation that will be conducted from the very start,” Det Supt O’Sullivan added.

Irish Independent

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