Saturday 24 March 2018

Richard Satchwell: 'Woman matching Tina's description spotted on Dublin beach'

Richard Satchwell says his TV interviews have yielded new clues about his missing wife, writes Maeve Sheehan

Richard Satchwell pictured at his home holding a photo of wife Tina
Richard Satchwell pictured at his home holding a photo of wife Tina
Tina’s husband Richard near their home in Youghal, Co Cork
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Tina Satchwell's husband Richard opened the door of his three-storey townhouse in Youghal last Thursday night, wearily surveying the latest press to land on his doorstep.

He seemed tired and it had no doubt been a tough few days. He said he had hardly slept since last weekend, when gardai first cordoned off 40 acres of woodland 17km away in Castlemartyr to search for his wife, Tina (46) who has been missing for 11 months.

He spent the week swept up in a whirlwind of radio and television interviews. On Tuesday he was on RTE's Prime Time, interviewed in Fermoy, where Tina is from. On Thursday, he drove to Dublin at 3am to be interviewed for TV3's Ireland AM at the television studios in Ballymount.

When he got back to Cork, TV3 News captured his first visit to Mitchell's Wood, where up to 60 gardai conducted a fingertip search of dense woodland behind a vast black screen. The experience made him feel "sick", he told TV3's interviewer: "I am trying to fill myself with hope. I have some people say to me, how will you cope if it does turn out to be? My answer to that is I won't be able to cope. I am praying and hoping that, like the search in Youghal, it all comes to nothing."

Tina Satchwell pictured with one of her beloved pet dogs
Tina Satchwell pictured with one of her beloved pet dogs

A few hours later, standing in the door frame, the door half open, the sound of dogs yapping coming from the living room, Richard politely turned down a request for an interview, explaining that he only does "live television" or radio interviews. Newspapers have "twisted" his words, he claimed, and he does not trust them. "I've been burnt too many times."

He seemed happy to continue chatting for several minutes, but mostly about the media and how he has been portrayed.

Gardai searching at Mitchell’s Wood, Castlemartyr, Co Cork, for evidence relating to the disappearance of Tina Satchwell. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision.
Gardai searching at Mitchell’s Wood, Castlemartyr, Co Cork, for evidence relating to the disappearance of Tina Satchwell. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision.

"You see if you do live TV and live radio your words can't be twisted." This is one of the reasons he accepted an invitation to appear on The Ray D'Arcy Show last night, to talk about Tina, who vanished on March 20 last year.

Tina Satchwell lived a quiet life with her husband in Youghal, in a house close to the sea that was "a work in progress", according to Richard. They had moved there recently from Fermoy. They met when he was 21 and she was 17 on a visit to his home county of Leicestershire in the UK. They lived in Youghal with two small dogs and a parrot. He worked as a truck driver, she stayed home. She loved fashion and clothes.

The day before Tina disappeared, they were at a car-boot sale in Carrigtwohill, Co Cork. They came home that night and had a takeaway supper. The next morning, he got up first. "She came down about 9.10am and I always made her a cup of tea and a bit of breakfast. She asked me if I'd go over to Dungarvan," he told RTE's Prime Time in an in-depth interview with Barry Cummins in January. She asked him to pick up some food at Aldi there and after that, he returned home to Youghal.

Inspector Brian Goulding told the programme that Richard left home at approximately 10am and returned home at 2pm and, on entering, saw Tina's keys on the floor and her mobile phone on the sitting room table.

Tina Satchwell (46) went missing from her Youghal home in Co Cork on March 20, 2017
Tina Satchwell (46) went missing from her Youghal home in Co Cork on March 20, 2017

Richard said he thought she might be upstairs on the sunbed but then he noticed that other items were missing. These included the proceeds of the sale of the couple's home in Fermoy that they kept in a hiding place in their home and Tina's two suitcases.

"I noticed the box open and the money gone. To be honest, I wasn't even looking, I just spotted it out of the corner of my eye. Then I noticed the suitcases were gone. I know she took over the €26,000 mark," he said.

Richard didn't immediately raise the alarm. He waited for four days before going to the Garda. He thought she needed space. "She obviously felt she needed a break to get her thoughts together, to get her head straight," he said.

On March 24, four days later, Richard said he went to Fermoy for a doctor's appointment and, while there, he dropped into two members of Tina's family who lived in the town. "They said, no we haven't seen her. Literally within five minutes of being told that, I was in the Garda barracks in Fermoy," he said. Three months later, Richard made his first television appearance on RTE's Crimecall, when he broke down in tears, appealing to Tina to come home.

Tina's relatives believe her disappearance is totally out of character. Her aunt, Margaret Maher, said: "It's very out of character for her. I wouldn't feel she'd go anywhere on her own. She's not a person who would do that. All the family has been contacted and no one in the family has seen or heard from her."

Richard has said that, on reflection, there were signs that all was not well. He told Prime Time in January that Tina was "upset": "I have ideas but that's really between me and her, not really for the public. There are reasons she was upset and it is actually external to the relationship. It's not anything to do with the relationship. She is upset."

On Ireland AM last week, he went further, saying she had undiagnosed depression, and that "a lot of stuff" that happened over the years "in the family" was beginning to weigh down on her. "One of Tina's biggest fears was ever ending up on anti-depressants. That was the one thing she made me promise I would never make her have. That was kind of from day one. Her best friend told me Monday that she did know that Tina was upset and depressed," he said.

"From time to time she had turned around and said, 'If I ever decide to get up and go and you come after me I will go to the guards'," he said. "But then 20 minutes later you know she would be like, 'I didn't really say that'."

Richard has been asked in many media interviews whether he had anything to do with his wife's disappearance. TV3 News asked him directly if he had killed his wife, to which Richard responded: "Never, I would never lay a finger on her." He said: "The most I've ever done to her is have a tight cuddle, loving the bones off her."

The interviews have generated newspaper headlines like: "I will take lie detector test to prove I'm innocent", or "I have nothing to hide".

None of this can be pleasant for him, when he could easily avoid speaking to the media at all. But chatting on his doorstep on Thursday night, Richard pointed out: "Well, if I hadn't done it (interviews`), there wouldn't be that search," referring to the search of the woods at Castlmartyr.

Up to now the Garda investigation has been hampered by a marked shortage of leads. There were no positive sightings of Tina, either by witnesses or on CCTV. She had no passport, no keys, no phone and her bank accounts were idle. The Satchwells' home was even searched by gardai - without Richard's knowledge, he has said - along with the couple's car but nothing suspicious was found.

Richard has done what he can to help the investigation. Last July, he drove into the car park of the Tesco supermarket in Youghal and noticed two suitcases - similar to the ones they bought with supermarket stamps that were missing from their home - beside a clothes recycling bin. Richard contacted gardai who seized the suitcases and sent them for forensic analysis.

Gardai found that they did not belong to Tina and had nothing to do with her disappearance.

It was Richard's interview on Prime Time in January that opened up a whole new front in the investigation.

After the programme was broadcast a witness came forward to gardai with information about a man who was seen acting suspiciously at the entrance to Mitchell's Wood at Bridgetown, Castlemartyr, in March last year - the month that Tina disappeared.

According to Garda sources, a second witness came forward a short time later with a similar sighting of a man acting suspiciously in the same area, at the same time.

Gardai spent weeks cross-checking and corroborating the statements, before taking the costly decision to mount a full search of the 40-acre woodland, committing more than 60 personnel for the best part of a month.

And as gardai began erecting the cordon around the site last Sunday and Monday, a third witness approached the officers to report a sighting of a man acting suspiciously in the woods, in a similar time frame last year.

"The three witnesses say they saw a man - and did not see Tina," said the source.

Other sources say that one of the witnesses reported seeing a blonde woman and a man going into the woods together, but the man leaving alone.

Apparently, the information keeps coming, according to Richard. After his appearance on Ireland AM last Thursday morning, a man who saw him on the television show drove "for an hour" to get to Ballymount studios to pass on some information to him in person. They met in the TV3 studios, in the presence of two witnesses, he said. The man told him that, six weeks ago, he met a woman on a beach in north Co Dublin who resembled Tina, and who said she was renting accommodation in the area.

Richard said he took the man's details and has given them to gardai.

"It is working when it's done right," he said, referring to impact of his media interviews.

Despite the fact that gardai are digging up a wood, looking for clues as to Tina's disappearance, Richard continues to stay positive, preferring to dwell on the man who drove for an hour to reach him at TV3's Ballymount studios last week, and that she will turn up.

"I will be talking to Tina again," he said.

Sunday Independent

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