Sunday 16 June 2019

Richard Satchwell: 'Hope is all I have ... I won't be able to cope if Tina's body is found in wood'

Gardai no closer to solving mystery of Tina Satchwell as huge search continues

Richard Satchwell pictured at his home holding a photo of wife Tina
Richard Satchwell pictured at his home holding a photo of wife Tina

Ralph Riegel

FIVE days into the biggest single site Garda missing person's search in Cork for more than 20 years and there is still no indication the Tina Satchwell mystery is any closer to being resolved.

In 10 days, the Dingivan and Satchwell families will mark the first anniversary of the disappearance of Tina from her home in the east Cork seaside town of Youghal.

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

Despite multiple public appeals and a painstaking trawl of thousands of hours of CCTV security camera footage, Tina's family are no closer to finding out what happened to the 45-year-old.

It was as if Tina had simply vanished off the face of the Earth.

Over the past week, the focus of the Garda search for clues as to Tina's whereabouts has been on the sprawling Mitchell's Wood outside Castlemartyr, an east Cork village just off the main Cork-Waterford road.

Gardaí received a telephone tip-off in the wake of an RTÉ 'Prime Time' special on the case last January about significant movements spotted at Mitchell's Wood in March last year.

Detectives considered the contact and, when they deemed the information to be both reliable and credible, ordered a major search operation of the forestry just off the Castlemartyr-Garryvoe road.

Forty acres of the woodland has been divided into search zones - with the operation just 200 metres from the renowned five-star Castlemartyr Resort.

The area is familiar to many because it is just off a route used by many each summer to access one of Cork's most popular beaches and caravan parks.

A 60-strong team of gardaí, Defence Forces engineering units and Search Dogs UK experts are now combing the zones for any clue as to Tina's movements.

Supt Colm Noonan, of Midleton garda station, stressed that every possible asset was being provided for the search and said it is expected to last for between two and three weeks.

From early on Monday morning, a 100-metre steel security fence was erected across the main entrance to Mitchell's Wood. That was later cloaked in black plastic sheeting to guard the privacy of what the search teams were doing inside the woods.

Industrial generators, mobile lighting units, a portacabin support centre, portable toilets and a Garda command vehicle were deployed on site.

Gardaí even have ground search radar on standby - and secured, via the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), a no-fly zone over Mitchell's Wood amid fears curious members of the public could use camera-equipped drones to monitor what was going on behind the steel fencing.

Gardaí work their way through woods at the 40-acre site of the search for Tina Satchwell at Mitchell’s Wood, outside Castlemartyr, east Cork. Photo: Daragh McSweeney/Provision
Gardaí work their way through woods at the 40-acre site of the search for Tina Satchwell at Mitchell’s Wood, outside Castlemartyr, east Cork. Photo: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

But, five days into the search, there are no tangible clues as to what happened to Tina, who vanished while her husband, Richard, said he was attending to a short errand in Dungarvan on March 20, 2017.

He initially thought she had taken time to deal with personal issues and didn't report her missing for four days. Tina was, he said, depressed at the time.

Mr Satchwell last week did extensive interviews with 'TV3 News', RTÉ's 'Prime Time' and 'Ireland AM' - and insisted throughout them all that he had nothing whatsoever to do with his wife's disappearance.

He insisted that he does not believe he is a suspect - and even attended the search site itself for an interview with TV3's Paul Byrne.

Mr Satchwell said he was very upset at the thought of precisely what gardaí were looking for in Mitchell's Wood.

"Just the basic thought that it is a possibility, no matter how small, that my wife could be behind them barriers," he said.

"I am sick in the stomach - I would say I have not had three hours sleep since Sunday morning.

"I am trying to fill myself with hope - I have 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.

"(Every night) I am praying and hoping that, like the search in Youghal, it all comes to nothing."

"They've [gardaí] not voiced it [that I am not a suspect] but their actions are different," he added. "I went into the guards of my own accord, I made a statement and I'm not ashamed to say I was an emotional mess.

"No, I did originally [believe I was a suspect] but then originally everything was all raw with her being gone, the house was searched. I was confused and now I feel that I am not [a suspect].

"Anything that the guards ask for I am providing - our [phone] network has gone into liquidation so I've already swapped the number on her phone because I believe that's the one she would call and the guards have that and I'll be handing the new phone to the guards tomorrow."

The English-born truck driver insisted he had nothing to do with his wife vanishing.

"My wife is going to turn back up or she is going to get in touch with gardaí. One way or another this will all come out and, in time, it will [be shown] that I have done nothing," he said.

"I have been with my wife for 28 years - [I have tried to provide] a good quiet, loving marriage and nothing else.

"I have never once in nearly 30 years of being together laid a finger on her - the most I have ever done to her is have a tight cuddle, loving the bones off her."

The couple got engaged two years after meeting in England and married in 1991 on Tina's 20th birthday.

Mr Satchwell said March 20, 2017, was like any other day for himself and Tina - he went on an errand but, when he returned to their Youghal home, Tina was gone.

Her keys were on the floor and two suitcases were missing.

But, critically, Tina's beloved dog, Ruby, was alone in the house. Friends of Tina's in her hometown of Fermoy insisted her dog was like her child - and it would have been out of character to abandon the pet.

Mr Satchwell initially suspected she may have gone to stay with family or friends in Fermoy. The couple had themselves lived in Fermoy for years before relocating to Youghal in 2016.

Mr Satchwell said he was shocked when he realised, around March 24, Tina wasn't with her family in Fermoy.

"When I found out she wasn't with them ... it was like the floor fell away from me," he explained. "I had been 100pc positive she was gone to Fermoy - I didn't have any reason to believe anything else."

When the Garda search operation began last year, Mr Satchwell said €26,000 was missing from his home - and that Tina might well have had assistance in her disappearance.

He is adamant that she is alive and has refused to contemplate the alternative.

"If you don't have hope, you don't have anything. I will always live in hope because that is all I have," he said. "I am hoping that Tina is out there and she is going to get in touch. I don't want to go down the road of thinking the other way because I wouldn't be able to cope."

Mr Satchwell also said that he has safely stored Christmas, anniversary, Valentine's Day and birthday presents for Tina in the hope she will be found safe and well.

Privately, gardaí admitted they now fear the worst for Tina. "There have been no sightings, no contacts with friends or family, no attempts to use mobile phones or banks and nothing from CCTV security camera footage either here in Ireland or in the UK," one garda said. "We are keeping every avenue under investigation but it is clearly very, very worrying."

Irish Independent

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