Saturday 7 December 2019

Philip Cairns: ‘Alert system could have saved my son’

AN Amber Alert type system may have saved schoolboy Philip Cairns when he vanished 25 years ago, his mother said today.

Alice Cairns welcomed the launch of the long-awaited Child Rescue Ireland (CRI) Alert, which will be triggered if gardai suspect an abducted child is at immediate and serious risk.

Mrs Cairns said instant up-to-date technology and awareness may have found her son.

"Perhaps it would have, especially if his picture was out," she said.

"The picture of Philip was a pretty good picture at that time because it was his Confirmation picture. It's important for parents to have a good picture of their children."

The 13-year-old went missing on his way back to Colaiste Eanna secondary school in Dublin, after having lunch at home on the Ballyroan Road, Rathfarnham, at 1.30pm on October 23 1986.

His family believed he had returned to school and it was six hours before he was reported missing.

Philip's school bag was found in a lane off Anne Devlin Road, near the school. Some books were recovered while others were missing but forensic tests did not lead anywhere.

There were over 400 reported sightings and all were followed up, including one that led to the excavation of a golf course three years ago.

At the time, the Cairns family persuaded milk companies to distribute posters of Philip during their deliveries.

Mrs Cairns said having a child's photograph circulated around airports, ports, public transport and being able to alert motorists with messages on electronic motorway signage will make a difference.

"There was nothing like that at the time. It was just word of mouth," she said.

"In those days there were no mobile phones.

"Only for the radio and television nobody would have known he was missing.

"This would have made a big difference. Especially as his picture was out."

PA Media

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