Tuesday 28 January 2020

‘There's likely to be a trace if they're buried' - garda dig for bodies of babies in garden

Gardai executed a search warrant at the house last night and will begin excavating there today. Photo: Arthur Carron
Gardai executed a search warrant at the house last night and will begin excavating there today. Photo: Arthur Carron

Meadhbh McGrath and Luke Byrne

A forensic archaeologist involved in the search for the remains of two newborn babies who were allegedly buried in a south Dublin home has said she is confident that the bodies will be found.

Yesterday it emerged a 53-year-old woman alleged she was raped by her father and other men at the home in Walkinstown, south-west Dublin, when she was a teenager. She is alleging that she gave birth to two babies when she was aged 12 and 14, but that these were killed by her mother and buried in the garden. The claims date to the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The woman claims that the babies were both suffocated when they were just a few days old. She believes she saw one being buried in a garden which was dug up at the time.

Toni Maguire is best known for her work carrying out excavations at the graves of unbaptised children in Belfast’s Milltown cemetery, and will be joining Gardaí this morning in Walkinstown to begin digging in the garden where a woman claimed two babies are allegedly buried.

Speaking on RTE Radio One’s Morning Ireland, she dismissed concerns that the remains would be difficult to locate, despite claims that the search could last up to three weeks.

“It actually shouldn’t be that difficult at all. If we’ve got a small area then there should be some evidence to whereabouts the babies would be buried for a start,” she said.

“It’s not as if you’re coming into a scenario where you’ve got quite a big area and you don’t know where to start looking.”

Ms Maguire explained that the team would begin by doing a search of the grounds, before slowly excavating the area.

“The remains should be there and easy enough to pick up,” she said.

If they don’t know an exact location to search, they may perform a geophysical survey of the area.

“The geophys is like a radar that will go down through the ground and let us know where we’ve got areas of disturbed ground or burials underneath. Before you start to excavate a large area, it focuses you in a particular area,” she added.

Read More: Gardaí to dig at city home in probe into 'killing of newborns'

“If they are there, there’s very likely to be a trace. Quite often when you look at ancient cemeteries, very young babies are conspicuous in their absence, because young bones don’t often preserve well.

“But you’re not talking about a very long period of time, there’s a good possibility that remains will be there.”

She noted that the remains may be in very poor condition.

“There are certain factors that affect the condition of the remains, such as the type of soil the babies were buried in and whether or not there was a container or makeshift coffin to protect the bodies in any way, but I think if they’re there, they’ll find them,” she said.

Ms Maguire also pointed out that the depth of the graves could have an effect on the remains.

“Depending on whether or not the burial was quite deep, or as is usually the case with infant burial, it’s relatively shallow, there’s always a danger that remains can be disturbed over time, and they could be scattered in and around the 10-14 inches of the soil,” she said.

“There’s a lot to go on there, these are tiny little bones and we’ve got to really take care,” she added.

The woman reported her allegations to the gardaí, and officers at Sundrive Road are investigating. It is understood she also said a number of personal items were buried with the babies.

Gardaí also wish to speak to the woman's elderly mother as part of their investigation.

The woman's father, who she accused of raping her, has subsequently died.

Gardaí have been investigating the woman's complaints for several months. They have interviewed several family members and friends about the case.

A source told the Irish Independent: "This investigation has been ongoing for some time, as it's a historical case it takes longer than normal to corroborate details".

A single garda car was parked outside the scene and the house was cordoned off this morning.

There was sill no sign of digging equipment outside the address.

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