Saturday 18 August 2018

'All she ever wanted was to bring her home' - Missing woman Jo Jo Dullard's sister dies without closure

Jo Jo Dullard
Jo Jo Dullard

Sarah Slater

A sister of missing Kilkenny woman Jo Jo Dullard who never stopped searching for her passed away at her home today.

Mary Phelan, continued an 23-year-long search for her younger sister Jo Jo, who disappeared without trace on November 9, 1995, while hitch-hiking home from Dublin.

She was last seen after making a phone call home, from a phone box in Moone, Co Kildare telling her family she was going to get a lift from a person who stopped a car close to where she was. Jo Jo had missed a direct bus from Dublin to Kilkenny.

The 21-year-old’s high profile missing case has baffled gardai and was became part of Operation Trace which was set up in October 1998 by then Garda Commissioner, Pat Byrne.

It was hoped that Operation Trace would bring fresh minds to the inquiries and to try to establish whether there was a common link between several other the disappearances in the Leinster area.

Mary, from the village of Cuffesgrange, Co Kilkenny, passed away at her home surrounded by her husband Martin, son Melvin and daughter Imelda, along with her sisters Kathleen and Nora in the early hours of Friday. She had been diagnosed with liver cancer last Christmas.

Close Fianna Fail TD and former chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, John McGuinness said: “It’s very, very said that Mary has passed away. She was an amazing woman. She did so much for everyone. It’s just so sad for Mary and her family that she never got closure on what happened before she passed away.

“But all she ever wanted was to bring her sister home and to give her a proper burial.

“She was a very driven woman. She never changed her character nor her demeanour whenever she met any high profile people in her quest to find out what happened to Jo Jo and bring her killer to justice.

“One time when I was in the US for the St Patrick’s Day celebrations she insisted on going to see former First Lady Hilary Clinton. But she was told she couldn’t as she was busy with political engagements. But Mary wouldn’t take no for an answer and she waited hours outside her office until Hilary returned.

“They spoke for a long time, as two women who knew what heartache was all about. Mary even got to meet the head of the FBI in her quest for policing help from outside of Ireland.”

Mary met with numerous taoisigh and Garda Commissioners in an effort to keep the garda investigation alive.

Deputy McGuinness, also helped Mary to erect a stone plaque for Jo Jo beside to the phone box, in Moone, Co Kildare where she was last seen.

A national monument to missing people, set in the grounds of Kilkenny Castle, featuring the handprints of family members of the missing, was commissioned by a trust established by Mary in 2002.

The eight-feet-high lattice-style bronze sculpture commemorates a number of people from Ireland and overseas who have disappeared without trace from Irish locations in recent years.

The monument, features the handprints of family members of the missing.

Speaking only a couple of days prior to her death, Mary made a fresh appeal for gardai to question the last man to see her sister alive.

He was questioned twice in the 1990s but no charges were brought.

She said: “How much longer do I have to wait for something to happen? The clock is ticking."

Fresh hope came last October when officers re-ignited a new investigation. Mary, insisted she knew who her sister’s killer is, and spent eight hours in Leixlip Garda station giving a 20-page statement last year.

Mary’s remains will be reposing at Molloy’s Funeral Home, Callan, Co Kilkenny at 5.30pm on Sunday evening.

Her Requiem Mass will take place on Monday at the Church of the Holy Cross Cuffesgrange at 11am with burial in the adjoining cemetery.

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