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Gerry was so proud of securing new probe into murder of my Bernadette

One of Gerry Ryan's proudest achievements was the re-opening of a garda investigation into the murder of a 10-year-old girl, the victim's sister revealed today.

Kerrie Aldridge, said the broadcaster deserved full recognition for bringing about a 'cold case' probe into the case of murdered schoolgirl Bernadette Connolly.

Gerry's colleagues informed Kerrie and her family after Gerry's death that his success in getting a fresh investigation was "one of the proudest things that he ever did".

Kerrie told the Herald: "Gerry felt very proud of his involvement....All our family is just heartbroken at his death."

Kerrie and other members of her family had been campaigning for a new probe into the abduction and murder of Bernadette near her home in Collooney, Co Sligo in April 1970.

But it was only when Gerry Ryan invited Kerrie on to his radio show and conducted an acclaimed interview with her that the case became a nationwide story once more.

Gerry announced on air he would personally ask Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy to re-open the murder investigation.

Within days, Justice Minister Dermot Ahern announced a new garda review of the unsolved crime.

The publication of the Murphy Report into clerical sex abuse of children prompted the family to call on the gardai to re-open the investigation and to reveal their findings from their inquiries about a possible link between Bernadette's disappearance and a member of the nearby religious congregation.

"We had been making requests for a new investigation and giving interviews but it was only when Gerry invited me onto his show that the investigation started," said Kerrie, of Collooney. "Gerry gave us the box to shout from. His show got people to start listening to us.

"He pulled the story out of me but he made it seem like a chat between the two of us. He was a complete professional and there was something in his tone of voice. Everything just spiralled from there.

"Gerry said he felt very protective of Bernie as he had a daughter who was the same age as Bernie. I'm absolutely heartbroken since he died. My sister Ann can't stop crying. It is so sad. My heart is breaking for all his children," she said.

Gerry, in an article written for the Herald last December, declared that Bernie's murder 40 years ago was a "classic cold case" subject for re-investigation.

The broadcaster cited details of the case from the book Killers, written by Stephen Rae, the editor of the Herald, including statements by members of the original murder squad. One of the investigating officers had complained that a senior member of the gardai had shown some of the file to a member of the church hierarchy.

Bernadette disappeared while running an errand for her mother on her bicycle, about 2km from the family home. Her decomposed body was found buried in a bog near Boyle four months later.