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'A fraudster stole my dead baby's identity'

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Fran Gibney from Tullyallen with the book by David Snow.  Fran's son died as an infant in 1975, his identity was later stolen and used by an international con artist.  Snow's book deals with the story and how it formed part of a worldwide hunt for the identity thief.

Fran Gibney from Tullyallen with the book by David Snow. Fran's son died as an infant in 1975, his identity was later stolen and used by an international con artist. Snow's book deals with the story and how it formed part of a worldwide hunt for the identity thief.

Fran Gibney from Tullyallen with the book by David Snow. Fran's son died as an infant in 1975, his identity was later stolen and used by an international con artist. Snow's book deals with the story and how it formed part of a worldwide hunt for the identity thief.

FRAN GIBNEY felt she just had to see the picture on that passport, in the name of her infant son, who had died over 30 years earlier. A surreal, unreal moment.

On March 18th 1975, she said goodbye to her little boy, John, born just over a month earlier, February 11th.

He suffered a cot death, her pride and joy, and that of her husband, Liam, gone in a second.

Other family members helped keep them going, young voices that entertained and glowed, the years passed, the memories of little John still safely tucked away in that bit of the heart that never forgets, never gives in to time and space.

But two years ago, the family got a call from the fraud squad.

It was a call that would bring back those memories in the blink of an eye.

'They had discovered that a man was using a passport with our son's name and identity. It was a shock,' Fran stated.

Jeremy Cochran, a Texan, had been using other identities too, but John Gibney was special.

'They had a passport with my son's name. I wondered what the picture would look like, would it have looked like my son if he had grown up. I asked if he was good looking and they said yes,' Fran continued.

Indeed, the man in the image, bearing her son's name, looked like Colin Farrell.

His handsome looks had given him away in the end, the passport office recognising his picture, the fraud squad on his trail, an arrest, a court case to follow.

Last year Liam Gibney died shortly before the case was heard. Cochran got four years and was deported back to the USA.

But now a new book, based on Jeremy Cochran, who lodged a series of false insurance claims, details how he operated.

'Someone Has Taken My Place' was written by David Snow from Swords, himself an insurance fraud investigator and who helped bring Cochran to justice.

The book has changed the names of those people who had their identities stolen, but for the most part it's based on the facts of the case.

David knew about John Gibney, and in the process of promoting his book on national radio recently, a call came in from Fran, thanking him for telling the story and bringing her son's story to the fore.

'I don't know how he (Cochran) got the details on my son because all we had was a baptismal certificate,' Fran stated. 'David did a great job in writing the book and I have to thank him for that.'

The author knows the book won't make him a millionaire, but the word 'thanks' has melted his heart in relation to Fran and her family.

'When she said that it just felt like winning the lotto. It was worth €10m to me,' he said.

David says he's not a journalist, but being a member of the International Association of Special Investigation Units, he knew how to track down people like Cochran.

Last month he was named 'investigator of the year' by the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators, a first for an Irishman.

He went beyond the call of duty and found that the American was a seriel fraudster and it was believed had visited graveyards and obtained birth certs in order to build up his identities.

When he took the names of dead babies, like John Gibney, it hit home as his own son, Andrew, was stillborn in 2003. He knew how the Gibney family were feeling.

'I felt this was something I had to do and I'm glad I accomplished it,' David added.

A percentage of the sales of the book, available on Amazon, goes to the charity that helps people who have lost babies, A Little Lifetime Foundation.

Last Friday, at a house in Tullyallen, Fran and David met for the first time. It might not be the last.

Fingal Independent