Monday 25 March 2019

Suspicious activity led to search in woods for Tina

'Crimecall' TV appeal triggered witness recollection

Gardai investigating the disappearance of missing Fermoy woman Tina Satchwell say that they are making good progress in their search of woodland near Castlemartyr after receiving information about suspicious activity in the wood around the time Ms Satchwell disappeared almost a year ago.

Supt Colm Noonan of Midleton Garda Station, who is heading up the investigation, said gardai were particularly anxious to hear from anyone who may have witnessed any unusual activity in woodlands near Castlemartyr in East Cork in March 2017.

Supt Noonan, also a native of Fermoy, made the appeal at a special media briefing on Monday as the North Cork Garda Divisional Search team began an extensive search of around 40 acres of deciduous woodland at Mitchel's Wood at Bridgetstown just off the Castlemartyr to Ladysbridge road.

The search operation involves a team of around 16 garda searchers equipped with clearing tools as well as a specially trained cadaver dog brought in from the UK, and they were joined on Tuesday by two trained Garda search dogs.

The search team were also joined on Tuesday by a team from the Defence Forces Engineering Corps equipped with special radar equipment which can tell whether soil has been disturbed and digging has taken place.

It's understood that another dozen or so gardai, drawn from throughout the North Cork division, are involved in preserving the search area, which has been cordoned off, and a 'no fly zone' for drones has also been set.

According to a Garda source, the search operation is being done on a grid basis with searchers combing square areas 20 x 20 metres for any clues. The Garda source told The Corkman that the search teams were happy with the progress they were making with the clear, dry weather assisting as they combed the extensive woodlands, which has a lot of ground level vegetation, for clues.

Supt Noonan confirmed the search is scheduled to last two to three weeks but refused to be drawn on what prompted the search. However, The Corkman understands that gardai were contacted about a month ago by a witness described as "a credible source".

It's understood that the man reported that he had seen a man acting suspiciously in the woodland early one morning around the time Mrs Satchwell disappeared on March 20, 2017 but he only realised the significance of what he saw following a recent media appeal on Crimecall.

A native of Fermoy, Mrs Satchwell (45) was reported missing from her home on Grattan Street in Youghal after her husband, Richard, returned from a shopping trip to Dungarvan, on March 20, and found she had left the house. He reported her missing to gardai four days later on March 24.

Supt Noonan said that both Mr Satchwell and Mrs Satchwell's family, the Dingivans in Fermoy, have been informed of the search. "You will appreciate that this is a very stressful time for them and I would urge that they be afforded privacy at this time," he said.

Mr Satchwell told TV3 news on Monday he was shocked to learn about the search but he remained hopeful that his wife was still alive. "What I'm hoping is that Tina is out there and just going to get in touch - I don't want to go down the road of thinking the other way because I won't be able to cope," he said.

"I feel sick and I've been in touch with Tina's family and they're the same way. We hope it's not but you've always got that feeling," said Mr Satchwell.

Meanwhile, the search continues.