WHILE the Kerry Babies Case dates back to 1984the current investigation is just three and a half years old and has it’s origins in the exoneration of Joanne Hayes and her family.
On January 16, 2018 – in a development that took many by surprise – the Gardaí held a press conference in Cahersiveen at which Superintendent Flor Murphy announced that a review of DNA evidence had definitively proven that Joanne Hayes was not, in any way connected to the death of ‘Baby John’ whose remains were found at White Strand near Cahersiveen in April 1984 sparking the ‘Kerry Babies’ saga.
The then Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin offered a full verbal and written apology to Joanne Hayes. This was followed by an apology from the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan and the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar.
At the press conference Supt Murphy also announced that a new ‘cold case’ investigation into the killing of ‘Baby John’ had been launched and all aspects of the original enquiry into the killing would be reassessed.
This enquiry involved a re-examination of hundreds of statements taken in the greater Cahersiveen and south Iveragh area in 1984. Many of these statements and leads were not followed up at the time after the focus of the Dublin Murder Squad led investigation switched its focus to Tralee and north Kerry.
After the new investigation was launched an extensive canvas of the region was carried out and a “large number” of people who had offered potential evidence and ‘tips’ in 1984 were re-interviewed.
A significant number of new DNA samples were also taken from people in the area. While the exact number of samples taken was nover officially confirmed, The Kerryman, understands that the numb er is in the ‘high double digits.”
Prior to last Tuesday’s exhumation the most significant step in the new enquiry came in September 2018 when gardaí carried out a high profile ‘door-to-door’ canvas of Valentia Island which is located roughly two kilometres across the bay from White Strand where ‘Baby John’s remains were found.
A team of around 20 officers traversed the island over several days taking statements, and in some cases DNA samples, from the majority of the island’s approximately 600 residents.
Gardaí said they were not acting on specific intelligence but the decision to survey the island was taken as it was the closest offshore landmass to White Strand.
At the time Supt Murphy told the media that “significant work” on the case had been undertaken by the local investigation team supported by the Serious Crime Review Team.
“Over 9,000 investigative hours have been expended on the investigation and 225 separate lines of enquiry are being actively progressed. Selective DNA sampling is ongoing and this is a key focus of the investigation,” he said.
Following last week’s exhumation and the acquisition of a new, higher quality, DNA sample from ‘Baby John’ the new sample will be compared with the samples taken in south Kerry in 2018. The process is likely to take some time and it is thought it will steer the direction of the case.