A TOP forensic psychologist believes a serial killer could be operating in Ireland.
Dr Ian Gargan, who is to chair the 50,000 member Division of Forensic Psychology in the UK, told the Herald that he is not the only psychologist who suspects a multiple killer is at loose.
He said a Government investigation was needed and the results of it should be given to the families of the missing.
"We have got to look at the possibility that there is one out there," said Dr Gargan, who is chairing a major conference in Dublin.
"We have a number of cases where young women have gone missing, and indeed some young men," Dr Gargan said.
While there was no direct evidence that a serial killer is active, Ireland's statistics for missing people were slightly higher per 100,000 than the international average.
Dr Gargan said the Government should commission a collaborative report and give a clinical psychologist with a track record in forensic psychology several months to examine the files and write a report, which could be given to the families and make the public aware if a serial killer is active.
Serial killers always have a pattern and a modus operandi -- and some of the missing women had a "fair amount" of common variables such as age and demographics, the Drogheda-born psychologist said.
Several years ago, gardai established Operation Trace to investigate the cases of six young women who vanished from the Leinster area over a five-year period. It concluded there was no common thread linking the cases but investigations were hampered by the fact that no bodies and no crime scenes have ever been found.
The aim was to establish whether a serial killer could have been responsible for the mysterious disappearances of Jo Jo Dullard (21), Fiona Pender (25), Annie McCarrick (26), Deirdre Jacob (19), Ciara Breen (18) and Fiona Sinnott (18). All are thought to have been murdered.
Gardai are believed to know who is responsible for the deaths of three of the six women, Fiona Pender, Fiona Sinnott and Ciara Breen, but do not have sufficient evidence to charge their killers.