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Search dogs are called in to hunt for missing Chloe

THE search operation for missing schoolgirl, Chloe Kinsella, stepped up a notch as specially trained bloodhounds and search dogs were drafted in to help locate her.

The teenager's family received additional support from hundreds of volunteers.

And Irish Search Dogs, based in Cork, were tasked by gardai to help in the search due to their expertise in finding missing people – including underground and underwater.

Gardai are also carrying out an examination of Chloe's mobile phone for clues. The 15-year-old did not take the phone with her when she left her home on Kenyon Avenue, Kileely, Limerick, via her bedroom window on Saturday.

Glen Barton, chairperson of Irish Search Dogs, said there is hope the specially-trained animals will find key clues.

"We are using trailing bloodhounds which can trace the last steps of missing people," he said.

"We are also using air-scenting dogs or cadaver dog, which we use for detecting dead bodies, above or below ground or underwater."

The voluntary group is available 24 hours a day and is widely used by gardai and Civil Defence for searching for missing people, Mr Barton said.

"Our bloodhounds have confirmed the starting tracks Chloe's family believe she took on the night she went missing. However, we have had a problem tracing the latter stages of her journey," Mr Barton added.

Garda resources were boosted when Limerick-based Sergeant Morgan O'Donoghue – a trained search coordinator – took over the search.

"We're looking for any sort of evidence that will give us leads. For example, a necklace, or something as small as an earring... something that will give us any lead at all," he said.

"That is how specific and how tough the task is at hand."

Chloe's aunt, Deborah Franklin, was one of hundreds more who took part in the fifth successive day of searching.

"There's mixed emotions for the family," she said.

"But, we are just taking it day by day... and hoping, we won't give up hope."

Meanwhile, gardai are not treating as significant, the discovery of a blood-stained mattress found near a river bank, which was photographed by gardai and removed for a forensic examination, only as a precautionary measure.

Superintendent Daniel Keane, from Henry Street garda station, said gardai were following up on dozens of unconfirmed reports of sightings of Chloe and trawling through hundreds of hours of CCTV footage.

"If a person rings in, and the specific piece of information they have is of a confidential nature, we will ensure their confidentiality will be respected," he said. "That will be granted to them."

Limerick Marine Search and Rescue Service, were helped to comb the River Shannon by Mallow Search and Rescue Service, Abbeyfeale Search and Rescue Service, Killaloe Coastguard, and the Shannon-based Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter.