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Top crime expert turns up heat on nation's cold cases

She may look like Britney Spears's Gucci-clad hot older sister, but Cork-born Mary Aiken has bedazzling theories on just about all aspects of crime in Ireland.

One of the experts on TV3's new series Crime in Mind, she has a fresh view of some of the most intriguing crimes of recent years.

She says of American woman Annie McCarrick, who left her apartment in Sandymount on March 26, 1993, and was never seen again: "It has long been believed that on the last day she was seen alive Annie went to Enniskerry for a walk . . . however, based on the behavioural evidence, the Crime in Mind investigative team have come up with some fresh insights indicating that Annie went to Enniskerry for an entirely different purpose . . . it is likely that Annie had a secret date."

Of Dun Laoghaire schoolgirl Raonaid Murray, who was stabbed to death 11 years ago, Mary says: "Lots of theories have been proposed as to who killed Raonaid -- we examined the evidence and . . . It is likely that this was an accidental death, a case of intimidation that went too far by somebody known to Raonaid."

On the heartbreaking case of Philip Cairns, the 13-year-old schoolboy who vanished, apparently kidnapped, on his way back to school having had lunch with his family on October 23, 1986, she says: "Most people believe that Philip Cairns was abducted while walking to school," Mary says. "We believe Philip did not intend to go back to school that day."

Listening to her talk it is evident that her Master's of Science in Cyberpsychology, and a PhD in Behavioural Analysis and Forensic Psychology was well earned. All of this has stood her in good stead in her new criminal analysis role.

As well as Mary, the investigative team on Crime in Mind consists of Dr Mike Berry, Clinical Forensic Psychologist at Manchester Metropolitan University and Former Assistant Garda Commissioner Martin Donnellan.

"In all of the programmes the team generated fresh behavioural insights into these cold cases, most have had no new leads for many years," Mary says, adding that the programme's premise is the application of contemporary forensic psychology methodology and theory to cold cases.

Forensic psychology is concerned "with behavioural analysis -- the 'blood spatter of the mind' -- with a view to generating insights. This is a first for Irish TV in this area."

On Monday, February 7, Mary and the team turn their attention to the Sophie Toscan Du Plantier case. "It is alleged that on the night of her death Sophie opened her door in the early hours of the morning to a stranger," Mary says. "It is highly unlikely that Sophie opened her door to a stranger . . . the behavioural evidence suggests that Sophie knew her killer, but was unaware of the perpetrator's propensity for extreme violence . . .

"We were delighted that . . . Sophie's family agreed to be interviewed for the programme -- her friends and family have been relentless in their quest for justice . . . we have no doubt that eventually, someone will be held accountable for Sophie's death . . ."

Crime In Mind is shown on Mondays at 9pm on TV3

Sunday Independent