Cold case inquiry into 34-year-old Irish baby death investigation

The coastline
The coastline

Gardai have begun conducting door-to-door cold case inquiries 34 years after the body of an infant washed up on a beach in Ireland.

The inquiries on Valentia Island are part of a review into the investigation of the 1984 Kerry Babies case.

The body of a newborn baby, who was later named John, washed up on White Strand in Cahersiveen, County Kerry, on April 14, 1984.

The baby had been stabbed several times.

A post-mortem examination carried out by the then state pathologist, John Harbison, in April 1984 estimated the infant was around five days old, the child had been dead for two days before his body was found by a local man.

The discovery of the baby's body on the shore, and the subsequent discovery of the body of a second baby on a farm near Abbeydorney in North Kerry became known as the Kerry Babies case.

A local woman Joanne Hayes was charged with the murder of baby John in May 1984.

The charge of murder against her and charges of concealment of the birth against four other members of her family were subsequently dropped on the instruction of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Ms Hayes and her family claimed that Gardai had threatened and coerced them into making a false confessions.

In January 2018, the garda serious crime review team began a review of the investigation, and local Kerry officers are being supported by the Serious Crime Review Team.

Today's door-to-door inquires are part of the work of that cold case review.

Approximately 20 members - both uniform and detectives - are taking part in the inquiries, expected to last for two days.

Gardai say there is no specific line of enquiry in Valentia Island other than proximity to White Strand beach where the baby was found.

Other areas may be targeted for specific inquiries in the future.

Superintendent Flor Murphy, Killarney, who is leading the investigation, said: "The investigation into Baby John is continuing.

"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.

"The investigation is still appealing for information from the public.

"The investigation is still appealing for information from the public. We still believe that members of the community in South Kerry have information about the identity of the mother of Baby John.

"Baby John lived for five days so someone, somewhere knows about his very short life.

"Someone is Baby John's mother. Someone is Baby John's father. Someone knew his mother or father. People have carried a lot of pain and hurt over the last 30 years.

"This is an opportunity for them to help bring closure to this terrible event and ensure Baby John receives justice.

"Even the smallest piece of information could be of major assistance to us.

"Anyone who comes forward will be treated with sensitivity and in the strictest confidence. We have specially trained personnel available who are trained in dealing with difficult and sensitive issues in a compassionate and professional manner.

"After all these years, Baby John deserves the truth.

"Please help us find that truth for Baby John by contacting us here in Caherciveen on 066 9473610."

A Garda review of the DNA evidence, announced in January 2018, confirmed that Joanne Hayes was not the mother of the infant found at White Strand.

Ms Hayes received an apology from the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan and the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar.