Wednesday 16 January 2019

Body recovered from river as part of search operation for missing teen Elisha Gault (14)

Elisha's mother, Gráinne, has appealed to anyone who may have seen anything unusual in Carrick-on-Suir or its surrounding areas since Elisha vanished at 10.10pm on St Patrick's Day to contact gardaí.
Elisha's mother, Gráinne, has appealed to anyone who may have seen anything unusual in Carrick-on-Suir or its surrounding areas since Elisha vanished at 10.10pm on St Patrick's Day to contact gardaí.
The Irish Coast Guard rescue helicopter.
Elisha Gault

Ralph Riegel and Allison Bray

GARDAÍ have confirmed that a body recovered from the River Suir was that of missing Tipperary teen Elisha Gault (14).

In a statement, gardaí paid tribute to the hundreds of search volunteers who had supported the massive search operation for the Carrick-on-Suir schoolgirl who vanished on St Patrick's Day.

Gardaí confirmed that the remains recovered from the river at Killowen were those of Elisha and have been transferred to University Hospital Waterford (UHW).

The Office of the State Pathologist was notified and a full post mortem examination is expected to be conducted on Monday.

Elisha Gault
Elisha Gault

Gardaí are currently liaising with Elisha's parents, Gráinne and Cameron, and her extended family who have supported a massive search operation for her over the past eight days.

The devastated family are being comforted by friends and neighbours.

The body was spotted in the River Suir at a place called Killowen some 8km distance downstream of Carrick-on-Suir shortly after 6pm (Sunday).

It was spotted by the Waterford-based Irish Coast Guard Sikorsky helicopter.

The helicopter was conducting sweeps of the river as part of the ongoing search operation for the missing teen.

The crew spotted the remains in the water and the body was successfully recovered by a nearby team of searchers and divers.

It is understood the remains were recovered from a stretch of river between Fiddown and Piltown as the River Suir marks the boundary between Waterford and Kilkenny.

The tragic discovery came just hours after Elisha's heartbroken family had pleaded with the public to contact Gardaí if they spotted anything unusual, no matter how trivial, as they marked one week since her disappearance.

Elisha's heartbroken parents, Gráinne and Cameron, were supported by family, neighbours and friends as they marked one week since the teen

disappeared on St Patrick's Day.

Gráinne issued an emotional social media appeal to anyone who may have seen anything unusual in Carrick-on-Suir or its surrounding areas since

Elisha vanished to contact Gardaí.

Social media had played a key role in the appeal for information on Elisha's whereabouts.

"Please share, try and remember back, are you missing something so small that it means nothing to you but can mean a lot to us," Gráinne said.

Gardaí admitted they were deeply concerned for the safety of the Comeragh College student.

Searches of the River Suir resumed at first light with up to four vessels supporting divers and search officials.

Irish Coast Guard units including the Waterford-based helicopter were deployed.

The last sighting of the teen was shortly after 10pm on the evening of St Patrick's Day on Dillon Bridge in the Tipperary town.

CCTV security cameras caught footage of Elisha walking on the bridge but there has been no CCTV footage of her since then and no confirmed sightings of the teen.

Gráinne issued a heart-rending appeal for public help in finding Elisha and for the teen to come home safe.

"Elisha, your daddy, myself and your three sisters love and miss you very much," she said.

"We always have your back no matter what - you are so beautiful, with brains to burns and hilariously funny."

"We miss your craic. We just want you home for a movie night - get in touch, egg."

The massive search effort had extended beyond Tipperary to Waterford, Wexford, Kilkenny and even Cork.

"We want to sincerely thank everyone that has been involved in the search (for) our daughter," she said.

"We continue to thank everybody involved in searching, helping and supporting, you will be eternally in our hearts."

Elisha left her home at New Street in Carrick-on-Suir between 9pm and 10pm on St Patrick's Day.

She was last spotted on Dillon Bridge, not far from her home, around 10.10pm.

Elisha was alone when last seen on CCTV camera footage.

The teen had left home without a coat and without her mobile phone.

She is not believed to have much cash with her.

One Garda source acknowledged that fears for Elisha's welfare had mounted the longer she has remained untraced.

"It is very worrying," he said.

Search volunteers have combed the fast-flowing River Suir with divers conducting finger-tip searches of the riverbed and riverbanks just below the town.

Last weekend, searches were assisted by the deployment of special side-scan sonar to examine the river bed downstream of the Tipperary town.

The special sonar device, which resembles a torpedo, can be used to examine specific stretches of the river bed as well as underwater channels and holes.

The main search has focused over the past week on a 1km stretch of the River Suir downstream from Dillon Bridge.

However, over recent days the search had extended to a more challenging search area between 2km and 5km downstream of the town.

"There's a huge amount of debris down there including trees and branches. The river is also much deeper and more difficult to operate in because of holes left from the removal of gravel over the years," one search volunteer said.

Carrick-on-Suir River Rescue were supported by the Civil Defence and the specialist Garda Water Unit which deployed its operational unit on the town quays.

The search has also been supported by volunteer search units from Clonmel, Waterford and Nenagh.

Improved weather conditions have boosted the search effort around Carrick-on-Suir.

Divers were supported by Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBS) which shuttled up and down the River Suit all day between search zones.

Gráinne, who works in a beauty salon in Carrick-on-Suir, had posted daily social media updates on the search for her daughter.

Elisha's father, Cameron, had said the family were hoping and praying that she was safe and well, possibly staying with a friend outside her normal circle of acquaintances.

"We want to let her know that she is in no trouble whatsoever," he said.

In a direct appeal to Elisha he said: "Just make contact with us and let us know you are OK."

Clonmel's Supt William Leahy also repeatedly appealed for public assistance in their search for Elisha.

Elisha, who is a secondary school student at Comeragh College in Carrick-on-Suir, is five foot ten inches in height, of slim build, with blue eyes and dyed blonde hair.

Footage at all train and bus stations across Tipperary, Waterford, Kilkenny and Wexford had been checked for any indication of Elisha's movements.

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