The Keel man who caught the 'Son of Sam'

Simon Brouder

Forty years on, a new documentary is set to explore the story of the Kerryman who led the largest manhunt New York had ever seen to capture one of America's most notorious serial killers, the 'Son of Sam'.

The story of Castlemaine born NYPD Deputy Inspector Timothy J Dowd and the hunt for the killer features in a new documentary presented by West Kerry journalist Seán Mac an tSíthigh, which airs later this month.

Between the summers of 1976 and 1977 the 'Son of Sam' killer, David Berkowitz, went on a 13-month rampage killing six and wounding nine others. His murder spree gripped the entire city in terror and made headlines around the world.

NYPD Deputy Inspector Timothy J Dowd - originally from Ross near Castlemaine - was tasked with leading the taskforce set up to catch the serial killer.

Four decades later, West Kerry based journalist Seán Mac an tSíthigh travelled to New York to uncover the incredible story of how Inspector Dowd led the largest manhunt in New York history.

Timothy Dowd, the youngest of five children, grew up on a small family farm and went to school nearby in Keel.

As well as visiting New York, Seán and the TV crew filmed in Keel last autumn. Inspector Dowd's cousins, Gobnait O'Mahoney and Gerard Sheehan, brought Seán to the site of the Dowd's old home in Ross before they left for Boston in 1923.

From Timothy Dowd's origins in Kerry, Seán traces the family to America and follows the Kerryman's rise through the NYPD ranks and his eventual role leading the 'Omega Taskforce' set up to catch Berkowitz.

Mac an tSíthigh and his director, Neal Boyle, secured superb access to the Dowd family, reporters, a survivor of one of Son of Sam's attacks as well as several Omega detectives who worked on the case directly.

"It was a privilege to meet so many directly involved in the case," said Seán. "I was astounded by the detailed and vivid recollections of the detectives I interviewed. Obviously, the notoriety of Son of Sam and the media attention the case received meant it was a case like no other but, in our conversations, many of these hard men admitted this one affected them deeply," said Seán.

"As a fellow Kerryman, I was naturally drawn to this remarkable story about one of our own. There's an element of pride when you realise one of the most notorious serial killer cases in American history was cracked by a man from Keel. What strikes me about Tim Dowd is his loyalty to a deep sense of duty, rather than any personal self-interest That's a very noble quality which is rare nowadays in such high-profile positions," Seán said.

'Son of Kerry, Son of Sam' airs on Wednesday May 16 at 9.30pm on TG4