Philip Cairns And A Trail Of Disinformation



Philip Cairns

Philip Cairns, age 13, disappeared from Rathfarnham during his school lunch break on Thursday, October 23, 1986.

Over the years, many people have contacted Gardai and the media claiming to have information into Philip’s disappearance.

Some of these contacts have been hoaxes.

In 1989, a 29-year-old man was prosecuted for falsely claiming that Philip’s remains were under the Lansdowne Valley housing estate.

In October 1989 the Sunday Independent conducted an investigation into Philip’s disappearance and concluded that he had been abducted and killed by a local man he knew and respected, who had offered him a lift back to school.

Around the time of this investigation an anonymous caller came forward to Gardai naming a specific local man. The caller subsequently ceased contact and could not be traced. It is still not clear whether the local man was ever questioned and ruled out.

In 1995 lottery winner James Connolly offered a reward for information into Philip’s disappearance. Mr Connolly stated that he had been told by a witness that Philip had got into a parked car. He suggested that Philip’s death might have been linked to sexual abuse.

In 2002 the News of the World reported that an investigation into Philip’s death carried out by a number of private investigators on their own account had identified a paedophile group as the perpetrators. They had heard from a drug dealer, who did business with a member of the group, that they had killed Philip and buried his body on a development site.

The same year, a call was made to Gardai by a man claiming to have killed Philip. The number of the call was traced to a North Dublin flat.

Reports of what happened subsequently are conflicting. One newspaper account states that the male occupier of the flat had moved to Northern Ireland, and was being sought by the police there.

Another account says that there appeared to have been an error in tracing the call, which was not made from the flat, occupied by a couple with no connection to Philip’s death, but rather from a pub which could not be identified.

In 2002 The Sunday Independent reported that a reliable source had told them that Philip had been sexually abused and murdered in order to prevent him talking about the abuse and that his body had been dumped in a pond on the former grounds of Loreto Abbey, Rathfarnham.

However, this was strongly disputed by the Sunday Times which quoted Gardai as saying that there was no evidence of a paedophile link to Philip’s death and that there were no ponds on the grounds of Loreto Abbey.

And yet there were indeed a number of ponds on Loreto Abbey grounds at the time of Philip’s disappearance.

In 2007 a woman came forward claiming to be the former partner of the man who killed Philip Cairns, who had confessed his crime to her. Two years later, two searches were carried out on the lands of the Grange Golf Club, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16, on foot of a tip-off from a woman. It is not clear if this was the same woman.

Other persons have also claimed to know the perpetrator, including, in 2015, a gardener who claimed to have worked for the person responsible.

The possibility that Philip Cairns might, in the period prior to his disappearance, have been sexually abused, and subsequently murdered to conceal that abuse might have seemed an unlikely one in 1986. Thanks to the ceaseless flow of proved allegations over the past thirty years, we know better.

The Murphy Report set out in painful detail the abuse carried out by Catholic priests in Dublin against children in their and other communities.

Another Murphy Report detailed shocking and relentless – yet apparently unlinked – histories of abuse by senior swimming coaches. All the men named in these reports were respected members of the local community.

Recently, a senior member of the Gardai came forward to deny serious allegations of abuse against him.

Evidence of paedophilia by members of the IRA  also make clear that such behaviour is not merely the province of the establishment.

Eamonn Cooke, founder and head of Radio Dublin, had, over many years, committed serious paedophile offences against a number of children.

We are told that a woman – one of Cooke’s former child victims – has made a statement to Gardai that she met Philip Cairns in Cooke’s radio studio at Inchicore Road around the time of his disappearance and saw his unconscious body after he had been hit on the head by Cooke with a blunt implement.

However, an examination of the history of the Cairns case, as reported in the media since 1986, shows it to have been punctuated by many different stories of information provided to Gardai which they profess to take seriously at the time, but in respect of which no action is ever subsequently taken.

There is no doubt that Cooke was an evil and violent man.

In 1957 he was sentenced to five years penal servitude after he pleaded guilty to shooting at four gardaí while they inspected a parked car, which contained a large empty tank, in Bray, Co. Wicklow.

In 1986 he was again convicted of an arson attack on a former employee who had been dating his ex-girlfriend.

Although described by newspaper reports of the time as ‘a young girl with whom he had had a love affair,’ she was in fact a woman who had been sexually abused by Cooke from childhood and had herself subsequently borne a child to him.

Any involvement of Eamonn Cooke in Philip’ death begs two questions. The first relates to timing.

On October 21, 1986, two days before Philip’s disappearance – Cooke pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit the arson attack.

His sentencing was adjourned to Monday, November 3rd, 1986.

On October 22 – the day before Philip’s disappearance – four other men who acted with Cooke in the attack received suspended sentences.

Not the most opportune time to carry out an abduction and murder, to put it mildly.

Cooke received a suspended sentence from Judge Frank Roe, a name familiar to followers of the Father Niall Molloy murder case, when his sentencing came up on Monday, November 3.

The second question relates to the lack of any other known connection between Philip and Eamonn Cooke.

Some newspaper reports at the weekend described Cooke as living in Clondalkin. It is correct that he subsequently moved to Clondalkin. However at the time of Philip’s disappearance, in October 1986, he was still living in Radio Dublin’s then headquarters in Inchicore Road, having been brought up and lived all his life in the north city centre.

Although not a religious man, Cooke associated with at least one paedophile with religious connections – Father Tony Walsh, a friend of Father Michael Cleary, who had a radio show on Radio Dublin in the late 70s/early 80s.

Philip Cairns, according to his family, friends, and teachers, was a very religious boy and it is possible, if he was being abused by a paedophile, that the paedophile was someone who also had religious interests. It is possible that such a person may have taken Philip to Cooke’s studio, where he was injured as alleged.

However this does not necessarily indicate that Cooke was responsible for Philip’s disappearance, unless the sighting in the studio was the day of his disappearance or subsequently. It therefore becomes important to clearly date this sighting.

This is not clear from the statements as reported in the media in the last week, which describe the sighting as ‘in or about the time’ of Philip’s disappearance. It is also stated that Cooke, on his deathbed, corroborated ‘some aspects’ of the statement to Gardai.

However we are not told whether or not the matters corroborated were key or merely incidental e.g. the location of his studio in 1986. [Please see timeline below for detailed breakdown of anomalies in the recent reporting in this case]

Media reports also state that, in killing Philip Cairns, Cooke may have been working in tandem with paedophile priest Bill Carney who is discussed in the Murphy Report. There is no explanation, however, as to how either Cooke and Carney – who never served in Philip’s parish – would have met Philip Cairns.

Both Cooke and Carney are now deceased. Indeed, despite the fact that the statement implicating Cooke was made prior to his death, an account of it was not published until after his death.

No prosecution can be brought against the dead; nor can they be defamed under Irish defamation law. Attributing a murder on a dead person is one way to end an investigation without further inquiry.

One of the notable patterns of this case, evident in the timeline (below), is that as soon as the question of abuse by a local abductor comes up, the case as detailed to journalists by unnamed Garda sources, appears to move off in a new direction.

One of the most unusual – and striking – features of the disappearance was that Philip’s schoolbag turned up in a laneway close to his home and the local Garda station a number of days after his disappearance.

Garda were adamant that the laneway had previously been searched by them. However one newspaper report quoted unnamed local boys as saying that the bag had been in the laneway for days.

The history of the Cairns investigation does not just once again raise the spectre of paedophilia and all that goes with it – the reluctance to recognise it, to investigate, it, the desire – conscious or subconscious – to cover it up.

It also raises questions regarding the thoroughness of the on-the-ground work carried out by the Gardai in the period immediately following Philip’s disappearance – and the reliability and motivation of unnamed Garda sources.

It is convenient to blame the death of Philip Cairns on two dead paedophiles and look no further. But even if Philip Cairns did die in the studio of Eamonn Cooke on or around the time of his disappearance, the question still arises. Who brought him there, and for what?

We have had extensive reports into paedophilia in various areas of Irish life. But in two cases involving not just paedophilia – but murder – we have had no investigation, no report, and no answers.

One of those stories relates to a dead baby, Noleen Murphy, discovered in a laneway opposite Dun Laoghaire Garda Station in 1973 and subsequently held by an inquest jury to have been born to an 11-year-old Dalkey girl.

The other is that of Philip Cairns.

No one is is casting imputations on the work done by individual officers. The history of Philip’s case as reported does however raise concern that their ability to solve it has been impeded firstly by deficiencies in the initial search and, secondly, by less than helpful Garda information leaking.

The fact that the latest leak has come at a time when the Gardai are under intense criticism and, as we approach the 30th anniversary of Philip’s death, is depressingly noteworthy.

Pic via An Garda Siochana



From top: coverage of staff mutiny at Radio Dublin, 1978; Philip Cairns’ schoolbag

A timeline for Eamonn Cooke and the disappearance of Philip Cairns. Sources are mentioned underneath. We will correct any errors/omissions.

1936: Eamonn Cooke is born into a republican family in Glasnevin.

1950: Cooke blows up part of the O’Connell Monument in Glasnevin Cemetery with a pipe-bomb.

1950s: Cooke trains as a TV and radio repairman.

1957: Cooke is sentenced to 5 years penal servitude after he pleaded guilty to shooting at four gardaí while they inspected a parked car, which contained a large empty tank, near Hollybrook Garage near Wingfield, Bray, Co. Wicklow.

1960s: Cooke works briefly as radio officer on a ship.

1965: A 20-year-old plumber, Sean Colley, of Decies Road, Ballyfermot, is convicted of assaulting Cooke by pointing a rifle at him after an argument, and sentenced to 6 months imprisonment. Mr Colley had collected the gun from Sandymount some months earlier. He and Cooke had previously shot together in the Dublin mountains using the gun. Mr Colley denied being a member of the IRA.

1966: Cooke sets up the pirate radio station Radio Dublin and works there part-time while continuing his work as a TV and radio repairman. During this time Cooke involves himself in live Garda operations and patrols in the Kilmainham area of the city on a nightly basis, installing a CB radio and a blue flashing light in his Jaguar car and uses the call-sign “Alpha 7” to report the movements of stolen vehicles in Dublin ‘A’ District, pursuing and ramming them himself.

1973: Cooke is accused of being a Garda informer in the Sunday Independent (March 25).

1974: Cooke meets Siobhan Kennedy-McGuinness, then aged 7, whose family lives close to his home at 3 Sarsfield Avenue, Inchicore.  After a period of grooming, his sexual abuse of Siobhan and a number of her female friends commences.

1977:  After Cooke’s colleague Donald Moore is arrested and charged for running Radio Dublin from his house in Cabra, Cooke takes over the day-to-day running of the station on a full-time basis, moving it to his home at 3 Sarsfield Avenue.

1978: 3 Sarsfield Avenue is searched by Gardaí in January and February. In March Cooke is convicted in the District Court of a breach of the Broadcasting Act and fined. In April, staff at Radio Dublin mutiny after Cooke’s sexual abuse of Siobhan is discovered.

A recording of Siobhan telling about her abuse is made and given to the parish priest who informs Siobhan’s parents but on advice from the priest and two general practitioners the matter is not taken further.

Cooke goes on air to deny the allegations and subsequently employs Fr Michael Cleary as a broadcaster. Fr Cleary also refutes the allegations against Cooke. In December there is another raid on Radio Dublin by Gardai. In addition, a neighbour – Mrs Catherine Richardson – gets an injunction against Cooke for noise nuisance.

1979: In February, Cooke is again fined for unlawfully keeping radio apparatus. In March, Mrs Richardson cuts down his transmitter, which he replaces elsewhere. Cooke subsequently leaves Sarsfield Road and moves (with Radio Dublin) to a house at 58 Inchicore Road, Inchicore.

1982: Cooke helps install a pre-election pirate radio station in Fianna Fáil’s Dublin Central headquarters (George Colley’s constituency) and supplies the station with DJs. Fianna Fáil subsequently denies the existence of any station.

1984: Cooke and four men are charged with throwing a petrol bomb at a house in the South Circular Road occupied by John Paul O’Toole, a former Radio Dublin employee who had been seen with Cooke’s former girlfriend and the mother of Cooke’s child.

October  21, 1986: A plea is made in court not to impose a prison sentence on Cooke – who pleaded guilty to conspiring to assault John Paul O’Toole – as he “could suffer a great financial loss in the event of radio licensing legislation being introduced”. The court heard there was 200 pounds worth of damage done to Mr O’Toole’s flat while another person in the flat suffered smoke inhalation.

The court heard evidence from Detective Sgt Kevin Ward. It was reported: “Sgt Ward commented that the love affair with the young girl who had had Cooke’s child, now aged five, had ended. Cooke had full access to the child and often brought the mother and child on continental holidays.”

Separately, and years later, in the book Playing In The Dark, co-written with Rosie Dunn, Siobhan Kennedy-McGuinness wrote about this petrol bomb incident.

She wrote:

“The story reported his involvement in the petrol bombing of a house. Cooke had been behind an arson attack on the home of a young man who had started dating one of his former victims. She was now a young woman herself, but years earlier she was one of the girls Cooke had move on to after he’s stopped abusing me. After she had given birth to his son, she tried to get away from Cooke but he had taken his revenge on her by fire bombing the home of her new boyfriend.

It was the first time I’d realised how violent he could be; it was also the first time, as an adult, that I became really afraid of Cooke. I read the article over and over and it totally changed my perception of him. I had always known he was bad for abusing me as he had. But this was the first time I felt real fear, because now I knew he was capable of hurting my family and me, should I ever give him reason to.”

October 22, 1986:  Four other men involved with Cooke in the petrol bomb attack are given suspended sentences. It is reported that Cooke will be sentenced on Monday, November 3, 1986.

October  25, 1986: First news reports that Philip Cairns,  aged 13, from Rathfarnham,  is missing. He is described as five foot tall, of medium build with dark brown hair and wearing a school uniform. He was last seen leaving his family home after lunch to walk back to school.

October 27, 1986: Further reports state that Philip left his home about 1.30pm on Thursday, October 23, 1986.

October 28,1986: There is still no trace of Philip. His mother Mrs Alice Cairns is quoted as saying, “He was very quiet and we never had any problems with him. I believe with all the people praying for him he will be alright.” In another news report of the same day, he is described as carrying a green canvas satchel.

October 29, 1986: Gardai say it is believed that Philip ‘is still alive’. His parents describe him as “a normal, friendly type who likes to go on fishing trips with his father.” Teachers at his school, Colaiste Eanna, describe him as “a very happy child, anxious not to cause trouble, and devoted to his family.” He is stated to be the youngest of six children “popular locally, and won several trophies for angling.”

It is stated that Gardai are not claiming overtime for extra search duties. They are also asking people to keep special watch “for his faded grey canvas schoolbag, which he may have discarded.” It is further stated that, “Young Philip was keen on fishing and had gone on a fishing trip with his father to Co. Wexford the weekend before he went missing. He was due to meet a friend on Thursday, but he didn’t show up. The friend went on a camping trip over the weekend, but Gardai have established that Philip was not with the scout group.”

Separately, and years later, Barry Cummins, in his book Missing and Unsolved: Ireland’s Disappeared wrote about Philip’s disappearance, stating:

During the 1980s a now convicted paedophile, Derry O’Rourke, lived in the [Rathfarnham] area and appeared to be an upstanding member of the community, happily married and raising his five children. He was a prominent national swimming coach, but beneath it all, over a period of thirty-two years, he was sexually abusing girls he was teaching to swim.

From July 1970 until December 1992 he abused at least 13 girls in changing rooms and other places. In 1997 he was caught and jailed for 12 years for his litany of hidden abuse.

Another violent man from Rathfarnham who appeared to be a committed family man is now serving a life sentence for murdering his wife and a baby girl in 1992. Frank McCann – who, like Derry O’Rourke, was a prominent member of the swimming community – was convicted in 1996 of deliberately starting a fire at his home in Butterfield Avenue, Rathfarnham in September 1992.

His wife, Esther, and an eighteen-month-old baby girl whom the McCanns were rearing died in the blaze. Local people who witnessed the fire were traumatised by being powerless to do anything to save the victims from the raging fire that engulfed the house. McCann had used a fire accelerant to start the fire…”

McCann killed Esther as she was about to find out that, in 1986, a 17-year-old girl whom he was coaching at Terenure Swimming Club became pregnant. In August 1987, after the teenage girl gave birth to McCann’s child, Fr Michael Cleary – a friend of the teenager’s family – helped to organise a financial settlement between her family and McCann. McCann agreed to pay the teenager’s hospital bills while McCann paid £500 to £600 to the girl’s father.

October 30, 1986: It is reported that a diviner, John Proud of Dalkey, has been called in to help in the search. He claims a 90 per cent success rate. The Gardaí have taken 30 statements from boys in Philip’s class and 8 from his teachers. It is further reported that Philip’s father is a buyer with Nestlé and that a sister works for the Department of Defence. It is also stated that lanes in the vicinity have been searched by the Gardaí without trace.

On the same day, it is reported in another paper that Philip’s schoolbag has been found on the night of October 29th, by “two teenage girls [Orla O’Carroll and Catherine Hassett], both aged 18, and living locally.” It is stated that the bag was found “about 8pm in the laneway between Anne Devlin Road and Anne Devlin Drive”.

It was reported: “One of the girls had passed through the laneway several times earlier in the day without seeing the bag. The lane had also been searched extensively by Gardai several days earlier without finding any trace of the bag”.

Gardaí were reported as saying, “The bag appeared quite mysteriously, and we believe there may be a sinister motive behind this.”

Philip’s mother Alice Cairns said, “We are very hopeful that something might come of this, all we can do is keep praying.” She also said that Philip’s Irish teacher had convinced her that he had no intention of running away from home “as he had been struck by how hard he was concentrating during class last Thursday morning.”

The report mentions that Philip was doing homework while he was at home during his lunch break and that he had planned to meet friends that afternoon but didn’t turn up. His parents called the Gardaí when there was no sign of him by teatime.

A third paper reports that the bag was, “found by two local children when they were playing in the laneway about 8pm.” They “looked into the bag found the missing boy’s name on the books and immediately ran the short distance to Rathfarnham Garda Station with their find.” The laneway is near Rathfarnham Garda Station which is the headquarters of the search.

31 October 1986 : It is reported that there was no sign of damp or wetness on Philip’s bag despite the fact showers had fallen throughout the day and in the morning. It is also stated that his maths textbook and copybook were in the bag. There is a reference to rumours of older boys at Coláiste Eanna possibly bullying first year students.

November 1, 1986: A prayer vigil is held. It is also stated that the Cairns family has received a number of heavy breathing phone calls.

November 2, 1986: It is stated that hopes are fading for Philip’s return. It is mentioned that he had joined Coláiste Eanna a little over a month previously. The time of discovery of the bag is stated to be at 7.45pm. The laneway is described as a cement path between block walls separating semi-detached houses. The Gardaí, “are convinced they could not have missed it in earlier searches of the area.” There are mentions of sightings of Philip in Wexford, Tipperary and on a bus bound for Tallaght.

November 3,1986: Gardaí express concern that frightened locals may be withholding information about Philip’s disappearance. They are investigating reports that he was the target of bullying. They also say that, “it has not yet been established if any youngsters were involved in any bizarre or sinister religious ceremonies in the fields near Philip’s home” . It is further stated that Philip had £40 in building society account which has not been withdrawn.

Another report of the same day says Gardaí are investigating a religious sect angle, in particular “organisations which might be involved in teenage abductions.” They have also questioned all pupils at Colaiste Eanna.

November 3, 1986:  Cooke gets a a four-year suspended sentence at the Circuit Criminal Court after his defence counsel explained that a custodial sentence would see Cooke’s radio station “disappear” and that “Cooke could lose in excess of 100,000 pounds. Judge Frank Roe ordered Cooke to pay compensation to Mr O’Toole and another man living in Mr O’Toole’s house who suffered from smoke inhalation as a result of the attack.

November 4, 1986: Gardaí are stated to have ruled out theories that Philip was abducted by bullies or died in an initiation ceremony. The religious sect theory is being given a low priority by the Gardaí. Tony O’Toole, of the residents body ACRA, who is also a member of the same residents’ organisation as Philip’s parents, appeals for information.

November 5, 1986: Teenager Ultan Whelan is selected by Philip’s best friend Enda Cloke to participate in a television reconstruction of the events leading up to Philip’s disappearance. It is stated that the Gardaí think the schoolbag may have been ‘thrown into’ the lane in which it was found. It is suggested that the bag may have been found elsewhere and whoever found it panicked and sought to dispose of it. It is also stated that Philip’s next door neighbour John McLoughlin or Gloughlin, aged 50, disappeared in March 1983 after failing to return home from work. The Gardaí say this has no connection with Philip’s disappearance: “He is presumed to have drowned.”

November 6, 1986: There are reports that the Cairns family have received a series of silent calls with the sobbing of a young boy audible in the background. One of the calls has been traced to someone who says he rang a wrong number. There are also reports that various diviners have been distressing the family. A company in Tallaght is reported as having received a call from a 15 to 16-year-old boy saying that he ran away and can’t go home and to tell his family he is sorry.

November 7,1986: Gardaí are investigating the death of 26-year-old Brendan Houlihan who has been found in the Royal Canal in his underpants and vest with part of his shirt stuffed into his mouth. Mr Houlihan was the sacristan at the church where Philip Cairns was baptised. The priest at the church is quoted as saying, “By tragic coincidence, it emerged that, shortly before he went missing on Wednesday night [November 5, 1986], the dead man had been checking the church register to find out the baptismal date of missing Rathfarnham schoolboy Philip Cairns, who had been baptised there.”

November 10, 1986:  A joint Garda/public search for Philip takes place in the Dublin mountains. It is reported that keys and clothing belonging to a man were found in the course of the search and he was taken in by the Gardaí for questioning. However he was released after it appeared they were left there while he was jogging.

November  12,1986: It is reported that a large number of parents in the area have come forward with accounts of their children having been approached by strange men enticing them into cars. Gardaí say they have interviewed one man following a report of such cars but the “hysteria is unfounded”. They also say these occurrences were never previously reported to Gardai.

November 13, 1986: It is reported that Gardaí are looking again at the possibility of abduction by religious sects/cults.

November 15, 1986: Plans for another joint Garda/public search of the Dublin mountains are called off as Gardai have made ‘alternative arrangements.’

November 17, 1986: Gardaí carry out their own search but find nothing.

November 20 1986: Philip Cairns’ mother says that he is not involved in religious sects. She says that she would not know anything at all about these sects. It is stated that Philip was last seen by his sister Suzanne at 1.30pm. His walk to school was 10 minutes long with houses along the way.

November  25, 1986: It is stated that the investigation team has been scaled down to 12 detectives.

November  27, 1986: It is reported that the hoax calls to the Cairns family continue. It is also reported in the Irish Times that three local schoolboys insist that Philip’s satchel was in the lane the Sunday before it was discovered. It is also reported that nobody saw Philip on the way back to school with his satchel.

December 17, 1986: In a pre-Christmas appeal, it is revealed that two religious schoolbooks were missing from Philip’s room. They were the Good News Testament Bible (on loan from his friend Shane Sweeney) and the Christian Way One. It is stated that Philip’s satchel when found contained a geography book and notebook.

April 7, 1987: It is stated that an alleged sex molester from Fatima Mansions who took refuge in a Garda station after publication of story about him in the Sunday World has been questioned as a matter of routine but ruled out.

April 19, 1988: Brian Ruth (29) from Drimnagh is convicted of making an anonymous hoax phone call to Gardaí saying the remains of Philip Cairns were in or near the housing estate Lansdowne Valley.

October 21, 1988: A report about Philip’s case says that his mother and grandmother were the last to see him and neither heard the door slam behind him.

October 22 1989: A Sunday Independent investigation into Philip Cairns by journalist Geraldine Niland concludes that Philip was offered and accepted a lift back to school by an adult male close to him whom he knew and respected. It states that Philip was approached at the junction of Ballyroan Road and Ballyroan Crescent and accepted the lift because he knew the man would be going that way anyway.

The adult man drove him to the school but did not stop there. Geraldine Niland says the man lived and worked locally. He was not a sex offender. He was almost certainly interviewed by gardaí in their investigations. The removal of the religious books was a deliberate ploy to point gardaí in the direction of a sect or cult. Only the religious books were removed from the bag.

October 22, 1989: Gardaí confirm that files on Philip Cairns are to be re-examined by detectives. The article states that in the early stages of the investigation Gardaí were informed that Philip was seen talking to a man at the junction of Ballyroan Road and Ballyroan Crescent, shortly after he left his home to return to school.

October 27, 1989: It is reported that a woman – one of two anonymous callers to the Gardaí helpline – has claimed to have seen Philip talking to a man on his way back to school.

October 28, 1989: It is stated that the car driven by Philip’s abductor was a red/wine Mazda or Toyota car.

October 29, 1989: It is reported that an anonymous caller has phoned the gardaí four times claiming to have information on Philip’s case. He has named the perpetrator as a middle aged man living in the area and has given that man’s name and address. Garda have not yet approached the man as “they cannot reconcile their belief that the person who abducted Philip Cairns acted alone, with the claim by the caller that he knows who was responsible.”

Garda arranged to meet the anonymous caller but he did not turn up. The Gardaí feel he may be “either a crank or the person responsible for the boy’s disappearance.” The same day it was reported in another paper that Philip’s abductor may have been a sex attacker.

November 5, 1989: It is reported that Gardaí are still deciding whether or not to quiz the local man named by the anonymous caller.

November 14, 1989: It is reported that Garda hopes of being contacted by the anonymous caller have faded.

November 19, 1989:  The Sunday Independent carries an update by Geraldine Niland, who carried out the previous month’s investigation. She states that the calls from the anonymous caller began on 18 September, 1989 and were followed by three further calls with the last received on 10 October, 1989. She says that 18 September 1989 was ‘coincidentally’ at the beginning of the Sunday Independent investigation. She states further that the information given by the anonymous caller “could only have been given by someone with inside knowledge of the case”

She also states that Gardaí are trying to trace the identity of a man seen by the driver of an oncoming car talking to Philip on the day he disappeared. The man was seen talking to Philip at the junction of Ballyroan Crescent and Ballyroan Road at 1.30pm. The man is described as having grey curly hair and as being cleanshaven. He is further described as driving a red wine-coloured Japanese car with registration numbers including ZU and 7. Gardaí believe this was the last sighting of Philip alive. There is not enough evidence for Gardaí to make an arrest.

November 12, 1994: Gardaí issue computer-generated photographs of Philip Cairns as he might look aged 21.

December  12,1994: The computer-generated photographs are featured on a Crime Line programme into Philip’s disappearance. It is reported that Philip had a religion class on the afternoon of his disappearance.

December  13, 1994: It is reported that a major theme in the investigation of Philip’s disappearance is his abduction by a local man.

It is also reported that Gardaí have received a letter from a woman referencing an incident witnessed by her on the day of Philip’s disappearance involving a number of boys on a bridge leading from Dodder Road to Bushy Park. She states that a younger boy followed three older boys onto a bridge and a number of people gathered round to witness an ‘event’ .

A separate report says that Gardaí believe that Philip’s disappearance could have been due to an accident on the bridge, which could have collapsed due to damage incurred during Hurricane Charlie the previous year.

November 14, 1994: There are reports that Gardaí believe Philip Cairns’ fate may be known by a group of schoolboys who have kept a pact for over 8 years. There is a plea for the mystery writer of the letter reported on the 13 December, 1994 (who initialled but did not sign her letter) to come forward.

November 15, 1994: It is reported that there has been no contact from the letter writer. There are doubts about the accident story.

November 16, 1994: It is once again reported that there has been no response to the letter, which is believed to be from an elderly woman. It is stated that the incident described in the letter occurred on the night of Philip’s disappearance.

December  14,1994: An article on Philip’s disappearance describes his satchel as having been found near a lamppost in the middle of the lane.

January 20, 1995: It is reported that a “North County Dublin businessman” who wishes to remain anonymous has offered a 20,000 pound reward for information into Philip’s disappearance. The businessman – described as North Dublin sales executive and an acquaintance of Philip’s aunt Alice – also says it is possible more than one person involved in abduction.thinks that Philip was sexually abused and is looking for someone who may also have been sexually abused by his abductor as there may be another victim out there who may have kept quiet as a young boy. The adjacent story on the page refers to a lottery millionaire.

January 21, 1995: The Cairns family say they do not know the identity of the businessman who has offered the reward.

January 22, 1995: James Connolly, the businessman who offered the reward, discloses his identity in the Sunday Independent. He is a confectionery stall owner on the Halfpenny Bridge who recently won 256,000 pounds on Spin the Wheel. Mr Connolly states that he met a witness who claims he saw Philip Cairns get into a parked car. He has been investigating Philip’s disappearance for the past three years and believes he has information linking everything together and all he needs is the last piece. He appeals to friends and former classmates of Philip.

In another article the same day Connolly – described as a well-known figure in the city and a close friend of the Cairns family – says that he has spoken to people he believes were involved. He says, “they are living in a bubble which is about to burst and I am sure they cannot live with themselves for much longer.”

The article mentions that one of the intriguing aspects of the case is that Philip’s bag was found on the opposite side of the road he normally took back to school.

July 19, 1995: It is reported that James Connolly has been seriously injured in a car crash and his wife killed.

1998: Dr Roderick Murphy SC published the results of his inquiry into child sex abuse in swimming – involving Dublin-based coaches George Gibney and Derry O’Rourke. Dr Murphy is deeply involved in swimming. In addition the Murphy Inquiry looked at allegations that Frank McCann refused to act when complaints were made to him about Gibney.

All sex abuse charges against Gibney were quashed in 1994 after a judgment was reached in the Supreme Court just before Christmas, 1993. Gibney was represented in the Supreme Court by Patrick Gageby SC, while Mr Gageby’s sister Susan Denham was on the bench that day.

Gibney is currently living in America where US investigative journalist Irvin Muchnick is fighting to get the US Department of Homeland Security’s immigration file on Gibney. It emerged earlier this year that Gardai gave a certificate of character to George Gibney to support his application for an American visa. It’s date stamped January 20, 1992.

June 30, 2001: Kilkenny man Jim Cairns posts about Philip’s death claiming that he may have been abducted and killed by a quasi-satanic group masquerading as a Born Again Christian Organisation.  He refers to one such group in Kilkenny and states that one of their members has claimed to have knowledge of what may have happened. Cairns states that Philip may have come to the attention of this or a related group through his interest in religion and the fact that his mother was from Kilkenny.

Cairns says that he tape-recorded his conversations with his informant in 1997-8 and sent copies of these recording to many people – politicians, police, journalists  social workers, etc in the following years 1997-2001 but that no action has been taken.   He further points out that Philip went missing (i) just before Halloween and (ii) just after his 13th birthday.

He says that the satchel is a typical ‘false lead’ which he implies are common in satanic cases. He quotes Philip Cairns’ aunt Terry Moore on the Gay Byrne Show as saying that Philip would only have got into a car with someone he trusted and it could be someone close to the immediate family.

Cairns also points out a number of people from Kilkenny, including Jo-Jo Dollard, who have gone missing and refers to an article published in the Kilkenny People in June/July 1997 where Councillor Garry O’Halloran made reference to high ranking persons involved in child abuse.

Mr O’Halloran apparently said two Kilkenny Gardaí had been supplying children for paedophiles for years and that a Government minister, a Bishop and several well-known celebrities were known to be paedophiles.

May 13, 2002: The News of the World reports that mystery donors – described as “some unnamed wealthy businessmen” have put forward a 70,000 pound reward for information regarding Philip.

The same article states “the offer came as it emerged private eyes have been secretly spying on high-ranking members of a suspected paedophile gang for two years. They believe the alleged perverts – who include a respected businessman – murdered Philip in 1986 and buried his body on a development site.” The site was identified but the land has since been built on.

It is stated in the same article that the private investigators concerned – who are not being named to protect their investigation – are convinced that Philip was killed after threatening to spill the beans about a paedophile gang who had lured him.

They are quoted as saying, “we do not know if the criminal is telling the truth but during our investigation the same names kept cropping up again and again. We believe Philip was approached by this gang and that on the day he vanished he planned to tell someone about it. We believe the gang discovered this and tried to silence him.”

It is also reported that the private investigators have not been hired by anyone but decided to probe the case after a tip-off by a drug dealer who claimed he had overheard a customer intimating that he knew where Philip was buried. Persons involved included a Dublin businessman.

August 14, 2002: Philip’s mother says that she knows nothing about an anonymous donor who has put up an award of up to 100,000 pounds for information into Philip’s disappearance.

November 24, 2002:  The Sunday Independent publishes an article by Jimmy Guerin, brother of the late Veronica Guerin, which quotes ‘a reliable source’  as saying that Philip, who was about to reveal that he was being abused by a person well known to him, was abducted and murdered in an effort to protect his abuser.

His body was subsequently dumped in a pond in the grounds of Loreto Abbey, Rathfarnham.  It is further stated that, since 1986, the layout of the Abbey grounds have changed due to development and at least two of the ponds there have been filled in, excavated and developed.

One of the ponds, the largest in 1986, is now a tennis and basketball court and is the property of Zoe Developments.The other large pond is where the retirement home was built and is still owned by the Order.

The article also states that the grounds of the Abbey and its ponds were not searched as part of the original investigation.

December 18, 2002: Eamonn Cooke is convicted of 33 charges of sexually assaulting Siobhan Kennedy-McGuinness and three other women.  All of the women were under 15 at the time of the abuse and one was as young as 6 when it began.

In the case of the two women referred to above, the abuse took place between 1974 and 1978 and in the case of the other two, between 1987 and 1989. He is not charged in respect of alleged assaults on two other abuse victims because a psychologist finds that they were not sufficiently in fear of him to justify the delay in reporting the abuse.

Siobhan in her book details the distress of these other women at this conclusion.

Cooke subsequently successfully appeals against his conviction. The appeal is allowed on the grounds of a technicality and a retrial ordered.

2003: It is reported that there is a new Garda investigation into Philip’s disappearance. A call was made to investigating officers in the last 12 months. The male caller – who refused to identify himself – said that he and a friend had killed Philip. The Gardai traced the call to a flat in North Dublin. However the caller no longer lives there and police are searching for him in the North where he is believed to be hiding out.

As aforementioned, a discussion of the Cairns case is included in journalist Barry Cummins’s book Missing and Unsolved: Ireland’s Disappeared.

Mr Cummins states that some weeks after the disappearance of Philip Cairns a man contacted the Gardaí in Rathfarnham and told them he had been driving along Ballyroan Road from Ballyboden Road between 1.20pm and 1.30pm on Thursday, October 23, 1986 – the time Phillip is believed to have been abducted. Close to Ballyboden Road he noticed a red car, which he described as being badly parked and obstructing traffic.

He said he had seen a boy wearing a grey school jumper and carrying a bag approaching the front passenger door of the parked car. The witness had been angered by the way the car was parked and told the gardaí he had written down the registration number of the car. However, he no longer had the number.

He had gone on to the airport, and while he was away his wife had cleaned out his car and the number was lost. It was only after he learned of the disappearance of Philip Cairns that he remembered about the badly parked car.

May 11,  2003: Columnist ‘Sue Denham’ in the Sunday Times, discussing Barry Cummins’ book quotes Gardaí as saying there is ‘absolutely no proof’ that Philip was the victim of a paedophile gang.

June 22, 2003: Writing in the Sunday Times, Maeve Sheehan reports that a man dialled the 999 line in Dublin last year and confessed to Philip’s murder. The caller was drunk and the clatter of glass and raised voices was heard in background.

The call was traced to a flat near the city centre but the couple living in the flat had no knowledge of the call and said there had been no one else using their home. The Gardaí’s instinct was that the couple were not involved. They still can’t identify the caller and they are not sure if the call was a hoax. As a result of the call Gardaí are re-interviewing classmates “in the hope that any secrets they have harboured in childhood can be coaxed out now.”

The caller said that the location of Philip’s death was a pond in Loreto Abbey, a former convent in Rathfarnham, now a housing development.  At this point Ms Sheehan’s article starts to conflict significantly with the article by Jimmy Guerin published the previous year.

Ms  Sheehan states that the nuns have said there was never any pond on the site. The Gardaí have been through the topography of the area and have discounted the claims. They say the entire Loreto Abbey site was searched when Philip disappeared, there was no pond there and no body buried there.

However when Loreto Abbey was advertised for sale subsequently to Philip’s death there was reference in the sale particulars to at least one pond on the site being sold.

The existence of ponds on Loreto Abbey site in the past appear to be well documented and indeed part of the site or land close to it was known as ‘the Ponds’ for this reason. There is also a black and white postcard available to purchase online of a large pond marked ‘Loreto Abbey, Rathfarnham’.

Ms Sheehan’s article also states that the Ballyroan Road is a busy road. Philip’s schoolbag was ‘resting in the curve’ of the lane in which it was found. Forensic tests on the bag found nothing because it was canvas and fingerprints didn’t stick. There were three books missing from the bag, including two religion books.

It’s not clear whether schoolchildren found it where Philip dropped it and panicked (in another article Philip’s father suggests whoever who found the bag may have sold the missing books, which may not have had Philip’s name on them). It is further stated that reward money for information regarding Philip’s disappearance remains unclaimed.

Gardaí (Sergeant Tom Doyle) are quoted as saying, in relation to the News of the World claim that Philip was abducted by a paedophile ring, that there is no evidence of such a ring. Philip’s parents are described as horrified by the paedophile story and are quoted as saying:

“There is the memory of a young boy to be honoured and protected… as a family we don’t believe there was any ongoing abuse before Philip went missing. It’s still a mystery as far as we are concerned.”

However, in Jimmy Guerin’s previous article, Philip’s father Philip Cairns Senior is quoted as saying that he always believed Philip was taken by a paedophile.

July 19 2003: Alice Cairns again dismisses claims that Philip was lured by a paedophile ring, saying that there was no change in his behaviour in the months prior to his disappearance. It is again repeated that the call by the man claiming to have murdered Philip was traced to a flat in North Dublin but the man living in the flat had moved to Northern Ireland.

This conflicts with the account of Garda investigations into the call given by Maeve Sheehan in the Sunday Times on 22 June 2003.

October 23,  2003: The Gardai renew their appeal for information into Philip’s death.

May 7,  2004: It is reported that there had been two separate incidents of attempted abduction of young boys by men in cars near Ballyroan Road.

October 31 2006: It is reported that Gardaí are hoping DNA from Philip’s bag may help identify his abductors. The schoolbag – now described as navy – is held in a sealed container at Rathfarnham Garda Station and currently reveals a mix of DNA from different sources. It is hoped that advances in technology will soon be able to narrow it down to identify different people. Reference is made to the male caller of three years ago who claimed to have killed Philip with a friend.

February 28, 2007:  Cooke’s retrial following the quashing of his 2003 convictions for sexual assault takes place. He is convicted once again and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.

October 30, 2007: There is a fresh TV appeal for information on Crime Watch. The Irish Crimestoppers Trust offers a €10,000 reward for information.

November 5, 2007: It is reported that, following Crime Watch, two women contacted the Gardaí with information into Philip’s death, claiming that he was killed by a paedophile. The first woman – a former partner of the man described as “the new suspect” and living with him at the time of Philip’s disappearance – claimed he confessed to her that he had killed Philip and the second woman corroborated her evidence.

Paul Williams is quoted as saying that the suspect was a paedophile.

November 11, 2007: It is reported that a prime suspect into Philip’s death – described as in his 60s, from the Rathfarnham area, and a suspected paedophile – is to be arrested within days. The man is described as having been first questioned after the 13 year old went missing but no evidence as to his guilt was then available.

May 7, 2009: It is reported that part of Grange Golf Club, Rathfarnham has been sealed off following a new lead into Philip’s disappearance. It is stated that a woman has told the Gardaí that she recalled seeing a grave-shaped mound of earth at the site in question at about the time Philip disappeared.

May 9,  2009: The Garda search is completed but nothing is found.

May 20, 2009: A second more extensive search is carried out in Grange Golf Club. It is stated that information from a woman who believes the boy was killed and buried on the club grounds has redirected Gardaí to another plot 50m away.

May 25, 2009: The second search ends unsuccessfully.

January 7, 2011: Dr Mike Berry, a forensic profiler, states Philip may not have gone back to school that afternoon and died in a random act of sexual abuse or bullying.

6 Feb 2011: Brenda Power reveals she has received a letter from a neighbour of the Cairns family describing a teenage bullying ring in the area whom the neighbour thinks may have killed Philip.

December 5, 2013: Minister for Justice Alan Shatter on the verge of tears talking about Philip Cairns at a ceremony to mark Missing Persons’ Day.

 July 8,  2014: Death of Philip’s father Philip Cairns Senior.

October 19, 2015: Ryan Tubridy interviewed Philip Cairns younger brother, Eoin, for RTE Radio One. During the interview, Eoin said:

“We used to go for walks with our dad and we used to, we kind of enjoyed the outdoors and that was Philip. And even like that, we used to watch, you know, even the things that you would, all the programmes that you’d watch when you’re a kid, the children’s programmes. We’d watch the sport, you know, Saturday night TV, everything like that, go swimming maybe on a Thursday night. Just the normal things that you do with your brother…”

October 21 2015: It is reported that a gardener, Richard Kavanagh, aged 64, has disclosed to Gardaí the name of the man who murdered Philip. Mr Kavanagh urged detectives to dig up the garden of a property in south Dublin. Mr Kavanagh claims that, at the time of the disappearance, he was working for another man who later confessed, “I have done terrible things”.

Mr Kavanagh says that the man – who has since died – drove a similar car to that which formed part of the Gardaí’s original appeal and lived close to where the missing boy’s schoolbag was discovered in Washington Lane, Rathfarnham, South Dublin. Mr Kavanagh says, “I’m 99 per cent convinced the man I knew was responsible for Philip’s disappearance.

He fits the description of a suspect spotted in the area at the time of the disappearance and drove a similar car. I remember doing gardening at his home. He would always be watching me. There was a flower bed that looked out of place.

I believe Philip is buried there.” He states: “I first met this man in the 1980s and we became friends but it wasn’t only until later years when I read about Philip’s story did I start thinking he could be a suspect.

The man I knew was very weird and was into boys and he should be considered a suspect because of what he told me.”

June 4, 2016: Cooke dies in St Francis Hospice Raheny while on temporary release from Arbour Hill.

June 10, 2016:  RTÉ News and the Irish Independent report that a woman has come forward with  information indicating Eamonn Cooke may have been implicated in Philip Cairns’ death.  It is stated that the woman concerned was in a car with Cooke (it is not stated if Philip was also in the car).

She is also reported as saying that Cooke knew Philip and had promised to take him to the station (it is not specifically stated that Cooke was the person who actually took him there).  At the station a row broke out when she was in another room and she believes that Cooke struck Philip with an implement.

She subsequently saw Philip bleeding and unconscious on the floor. She then fainted and when she woke up she was in a car driven by Cooke (it is unclear if this is the same car trip referred to earlier). It is not stated whether or not she subsequently saw Philip’s body or if he was also in the car when she woke up.  Detectives are reported to regard her story as ‘credible’.

RTÉ reports the above events as having taken place ‘on the day’ of Philip’s disappearance. The Irish Independent, on the other hand, use the less specific phrase of ‘in and around the time’ he disappeared. A source is quoted in the Irish Independent as saying that ‘it took an awful lot of courage’  to come forward.

The same source says that ‘a number of aspects’ of the woman’s story have been corroborated and that ‘it is believed that Cooke verified some of the information.’ Later on in the article it is stated that ‘it is believed that Cooke told gardai he had met the schoolboy. It is not known if he verified other aspects of the woman’s story’. An official Garda spokesperson is quoted as saying ‘aspects’ of the statement were corroborated.

June 11, 2016:   It is reported that the woman providing the information regarding Cooke came forward as a result of the 25th anniversary appeal in 2011 and made a statement to Gardai in May 2016.  It is further reported that Cooke was spoken to by Gardai before his death on a number of occasions but because of his condition and the fact that he was under palliative care he could not be questioned or interrogated fully.

It is however stated that he ‘confirmed some aspects of the woman’s statement’.  This is subsequently enlarged on by saying “he gave yes/no answers and, to a limited extent, confirmed ‘aspects” of the woman’s statement. It does not however say which aspects. It says further that Cooke did not say where Philip’s remains are buried.

The Irish Times describes the events in question as occurring on ‘the day Philip disappeared’. The Daily Mirror reports on the story in similar terms but – like the previous day’s report in the Irish Independent – uses the phrase as contained in the reports of the previous day ’in and around the time’ of his disappearance.’

June 12, 2016:  It is reported that there are three strands of DNA on Philip’s bag which officers will now examine to see if they match Cooke’s DNA. They will also speak to Cooke’s close associates to see if he confided in them. It is further stated that the woman who came forward last month was a child at the time of Philip’s disappearance. Garda describe the woman as “a very credible witness”.

They appeal to other children to come forward. It is suggested that the schoolbag was a false flag and that it was left close to a river to give the impression Philip had been washed out to sea.

The Sunday Mirror reports that they have heard from ‘a source’ that Cooke was part of an alleged paedophile ring running from ‘a pub in the area’ in the 1980s.  It appears that the phrase ‘the area’ refers to the Rathfarnham area, but this is not specifically stated.

Their source describes the ring as ‘an open secret’ at the time but it is not thought the pub owners knew. It is indicated that the ring first came to the attention of Gardai as a result of the 25th anniversary appeal for information into Philip’s disappearance. The paper also states that ‘questions will need to be asked about the woman who reported Cooke’s involvement after keeping it secret for decades.

The Irish Sun states that Cooke was part of the same paedophile ring as paedophile priest Bill Carney, who featured in the Murphy Report. It quotes an unnamed source as saying, in relation to the woman who has come forward implicating Cooke, that “this woman is very credible.  it was brave of her.”

It states that the woman concerned kept her secret because she was terrified of Cooke or may have come forward over fears he was being released from jail.  The article also says that Cooke’s old radio station at Inchicore Road (where the incident involving Philip Cairns is alleged to have occurred) has now been demolished and replaced with an apartment block.

It states further that its journalists have called to the homes of one of Cooke’s former wives and his sister, who have refused to comment.

The Sunday Times reports that Cooke owned parcels of land in the Dublin/Wicklow mountains, which he used to erect masts to broadcast radio transmissions from Radio Dublin. While Cooke is said to have made some admissions in his interview with Gardaí, he did not confess to killing the missing schoolboy. It is stated that it is unclear how Cooke knew Philip Cairns.

Cooke lived between addresses at Tallaght and Clondalkin while Cairns lived with his family in Rathfarnham. The Times also states that Cooke himself was well known to gardai in the inner City in the 1970s and 1980s who regarded him as a “Walter Mitty” character.

It also says Cooke died ‘still maintaining his innocence’, although it is not clear if this means innocence in respect of his convictions for paedophilia or in respect of Philip Cairns’ death.  It quotes Gardai as saying that they are keeping an open mind on the new claims, and states that while Cooke is said to have made some admissions, he did not confess to killing Philip.

June 13 2016:  In a further report on the allegations regarding Cooke, the Irish Daily Mirror details an interview given the previous day to the Marian Finucane Show by victims’ rights campaigner Angela Copley, who has worked with a number of Cooke’s victims.

It quotes Mrs Copley as saying that she had earlier flagged Cooke’s possible involvement to social workers in Ballyfermot and that she is 99% certain teachers of children who went to school in Clondalkin and were also victims of Cooke would have raised it as well.

It reports Ms Copley told the Marian Finucane Show that she had recently been contacted by a victim of Cooke – not the woman who gave the statement in May, but a different victim – to whom she had given support to over the years.

She rang Mrs Copley periodically and Mrs Copley was trying to help her get on with her life.  Ms Copley is quoted as saying “during the conversation she came out with this. She told me a girl threw Philip Cairns’ schoolbag in the lane and Eamonn Cooke had given it to her to do it. “

However, in a subsequent interview given by Ms Copley to Kitty Holland of the Irish Times also published the same day, Ms Copley states that she herself called the woman to tell her Cooke was in the hospice, because “it would be helpful for the woman “to know he would no longer be a threat.”

According to Ms Copley, during the conversation the woman stated that “a Garda had told her someone had come forward to say she had thrown the school bag in the lane”. Ms Copley subsequently contacted the Gardai to let them know that Cooke was dying and that they should interview him as soon as possible.

Ms Copley’s account of events as set out in the Irish Times is exactly the opposite of that detailed in the Mirror insofar as in the Mirror she is reported as saying that the victim in question contacted her whereas in the Times she is quoted as saying that she contacted the victim and her quoted account of what was actually said to her by that victim appears to be completely different.

Ms Copley also states that, following this phone call, she contacted Jane Cooke, whom she knew from her work with abuse survivors, and they met with Gardai.

Ms Copley says that although Jane Cooke was able to provide a lot of information, none of this information was directly related to Philip Cairns other than the fact that Cooke had joined in the public search for Philip Cairns.

Ms Copley does not claim any personal knowledge of the woman who made the May statement. It is stated by the Irish Times that this woman was 9 years old when she witnessed the events in question.

The Irish Times further goes on to say that “Broadcaster Gareth O’Callaghan in a Facebook post over the weekend said he was related to the Cairns family. He said Philip had an interest in radio and Cooke had promised him a visit to Radio Dublin.”

This implies that Mr O’Callaghan had personal knowledge of the events concerned.

In fact this account of Mr O’Callaghan’s Facebook post – which merely cuts and pastes from the RTÉ report which used these very words, without claiming any personal knowledge – appears to be a misinterpretation on the part of the Irish Times.

The same day, Angela Copley is also interviewed in the Times (Irish edition).

In this interview, she says that she was told by the woman with whom she was in contact that a garda had informed her that a nine-year-old girl, now an adult, had been instructed by Cooke to drop off Philip’s schoolbag in a laneway in the days after his disappearance in Rathfarnham, Dublin, in October 1986.

This account corresponds with that attributed to Ms Copley in the Irish Times but conflicts with that attributed to her in the Mirror.

Later that day, the Irish Independent features an interview with Gareth O’Callaghan (possibly in response to the reference to him in the Irish Times article) in which he states that he did not believe his cousin Philip was abducted by Cooke.

Mr O’Callaghan is quoted as saying that “Eamonn Cooke, while he was a paedophile and a predator, he had a preference for younger girls from vulnerable backgrounds and Philip doesn’t fit into that.”

O’Callaghan states that he worked at the radio station in Inchicore in 1979 and it was “like an “open house” where young teenage girls came in and out, trying to look older than they were.”

Regarding the alleged corroboration by Cooke of aspects of the woman’s story, Mr O’Callaghan says,  “Cooke was in the final stages of cancer and pain managed. I don’t understand how Gardai carried out an interview and managed to get this information from him.”

Sources: BBC, RTÉ The Irish Examiner, The Irish Times, The Irish Independent, The Irish Daily Mail, Newstalk; The Irish press and Evening Press; Evening Herald, The Sunday World, Sunday Independent; The Times Ireland edition, The Sunday Times Ireland edition; ‘Missing and Unsolved: Ireland’s Disappeared by Barry Cummins’; ‘Playing In The Dark’ by Siobhan Kennedy-McGuinness, ‘Boy In The Attic’ by Dave Malone and Court transcripts.

Update: A Cold Case of Confusion

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123 thoughts on “Philip Cairns And A Trail Of Disinformation

        1. M

          +1 Amazing piece of journalism. So comprehensive. Joining the dots. Amazing. And yes, you would NEVER see this in ANY Irish newspaper. Well done dude.

      1. rotide

        Sources: BBC, RTÉ The Irish Examiner, The Irish Times,


        Never see anything like that in the irish times.

        1. Bodger

          Rory, sorry for the delay. I think several men were involved in Philip’s disappearance, but Cooke’s role, if any, was peripheral. A review of the Garda investigation and court case that followed the sacristan’s death seems an obvious place to start any serious investigation. Thank you.

  1. The People's Hero

    This is rather salient; ” Attributing a murder on a dead person is one way to end an investigation without further inquiry…”

  2. RDJ

    Fair play, Broadsheet. Excellent article.

    I noticed that over the weekend, very little coverage was given to Eamonn Dunphy’s comments at the start of the Marian Show on RTE1 when the topic was raised.

    Mr. Dunphy appeared to cast doubt on the story and question the timing, particularly given the difficulties the Gardai are encountering at the moment.

    Very tellingly, Marian never went back to Mr. Dunphy again during the piece.

    1. Pip

      That’s right – I had forgotten. It was an illuminating moment that passed quietly past!

      1. Won't somebody please think of the children

        Yes and that is a comment that commented quickly commented.

    2. Spaghetti Hoop

      Yes, I thought that suspicious also. Cooke was certainly in cahoots with the old bill, driving around in his Jag doing their work, wha?
      I also got the impression from that show that that Ms. Copley was overly keen (excited almost) to relay her story and was not considering the implications of what she was saying. Or perhaps she had not been briefed properly – and perhaps that was intentional.

      Good detailed article, BS. Ye are good at bringing together the strands of a mystery.
      Cannot even begin to surmise what happened as every time I see that schoolbag the sadness chokes me. His poor family – I hope they have lots of support.

      1. Won't somebody please think of the children

        You’ve cracked the case right there Horatio Pain.

      2. Derek

        As a matter of clarification on your observation of Mrs Copley’s ‘excited’ and ‘overly keen’ talk on Marian Finucane, she relayed the information which was asked of her, having been contacted by the radio show. She did not appear to be excited in her comments, indeed she spoke very carefully and articulate on a very difficult and intricate, multi-faceted subject.
        I am unsure as to your concern about the ‘implications’ of what she said, as what she said was how she heard information (through her support work for victims of abuse) and it was agreed that she would immediately contact gardai to relay this information; the implications of this were that the gardai were given information to determine whether it was pertinent to the case, which, as is revealed in the ample coverage since, indicates that the gardai deemed it so.
        Another thing, can I take it that ‘that that Mrs Copley’ was a typo in an otherwise well written comment, and not a snap at Mrs Copley, eg that aul wan.
        I would hope there is no personal agenda here, Spaghetti Hoop, given that the nature of your comment would seem at odds with the actual broadcast.
        Podcast of her comments:

  3. ollie

    1. The Grange Golf Club is not owned or connected to the Gardai. Please correct this misinformation
    2. The woman who reported the sighting in Grange Golf Club wasn’t the same woman who made the Loreto Abbey report. I know this for a fact.
    3. The Gardai interviewed Cooke 2 weeks before he died yet they still haven’t examined DNA from the schoolbag, why?
    Like the reporter says, very easy to blame a dead man. To me it’s obvious that there was a pedo ring in Ireland that involved very senior members of Irish political life and the establishment is doing it’s best to bury the truth.

  4. The Real Jane

    Excellent work. Poor child. Unthinkable. His young, trusting, open face.

    Why is there a twisted tale of whispers and incompetence around every single investigation into child abuse in this country?

    1. Niallo

      Same reason theres a twisted tale of lies and incompetence around everything in this dump of a country.
      Oh we all like to profess to be saints and scholars with an “ah sure it’l be grand” outlook on life.
      Truth is we are a nation of backward, narrow minded, trusting, gombeen men in comparison to our peers.
      Thats what facilitates an atrocity like this happening in the first place to people like this poor chap and perpetuates the culture that facilitates the perpetrators.

  5. louislefronde

    This is a brilliant piece, well done Broadsheet for taking the time and the effort to put this story under the microscope. Far too often the general public are drip-fed ‘news’ without critically evaluating it, and seeing whether it stands up to scrutiny. We need more of this type of journalism which investigates stories rather than that sorry type of journalism you see in the print media that involves throwing copy together which is plugged from an anonymous spokesman and then expecting the public to accept it at face value.

  6. Barry the Hatchet

    Anyone know what came of the investigation into the death of Brendan Houlihan? (see November 26, 1986) Sounds deeply fupping fishy.

    1. Blackboard Jungle

      two men were convicted of manslaughter, there is no link between the two murders

      1. Blackboard Jungle

        Philip Cairns was christened in the church he was sacristan he was near Drumcondra

        1. Buswells Babe

          There does not immediately appear to be a link. But there are some very odd aspects of the manslaughter finding in the sacristan case. See response below for full details. One wonders if the two young men who were convicted of manslaughter when the state changed the charge during the trial in return for their pleading guilty were actually hired to dispose of the victim. Their motive for killing him was not clear (the items they made off with were of low value) and it was never explained why he was found with his shirt deliberately stuffed in his mouth.

          1. Buswells Babe

            Of course none of this would be relevant to Philip Cairns were it not specifically reported in the newspapers the day after his body’s discovery that he had been looking up Cairns’ date of baptism the afternoon before his death.

            If nothing else, this might have tended to discourage people with information about Cairns’ disappearance from coming forward!!

  7. Eamonn Clancy

    Landsdowne Valley is the park area opposite Blackhorse Luas stop, where Inchicore, Bluebell and Drimnagh meet.

  8. 15 cents

    anyone involved in the covering up of horrific crimes like this, against people with their whole lives in front of them, baffles me .. people who are pedos themselves, but cover up for them, horribly selfish people. they dont go against it coz theyll lose their jobs. imagine putting your job ahead of something like this? disgusting. and theres a lot of people covering it up too. lots of cops which is scary. ya cant trust anyone. dirty pigs.

  9. Joe Small

    My god, are there any other rumours, innuendos or vague coincidences you’d like to throw in there? What a load of incoherent rubbish.

    1. DaithiG

      The vast majority of this is made up of statements either to press or the Gardai which are public record. It’s just the newspapers have not properly summarised it like this.

      Well done Broadsheet.

    2. Louis Lefronde

      Joe Small by name, small by nature. Nowhere in the press was there any coverage as detailed and comprehensive as this. If you can find it, then please point it out. Otherwise shut up.

  10. H

    Very interesting, I think some of the recent contradictions just show how inaccurate press reporting can be as opposed to finding issues with what people are saying.

    It’s surprising the way some of the witnesses took so long to come forward, particularly the guy who had noted the reg of the badly parked car, that didn’t seem to make any sense but the the thing that really stuck out for me was the apparent reluctance of the gardai to follow up the Loreto Abbey lead and the denial of the existence of any ponds makes it very suspicious!

    I was also saddened by the numbers of nutcases who phoned the family afterwards just adding to their grief.

    1. Spaghetti Hoop

      The phonecalls illustrate how badly some people want to become part of a ‘mystery’. Plus, given that several stories mentioned above are wrong or just plain heresay show the small-mindedness of some people who feel they have to wow up a tragic case and pretend to be the village sage with all the answers. A lot of that around the place…then and now.

  11. ollie

    Timing is everything. Gardaí announcing drugs seizures, arrests of suspected gangland murderers, blaming the death of a boy on a dead man
    Around 22nd May 2016, new witness comes forward (hard to find exact date on line)
    Gardai interview Cooke
    June 4th, Cooke dies.
    June 5th to 9th, nothing reported.
    June 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th various media reports (based on Garda leaks?)
    There’s a lot of gaps in this story between the new witness coming forward and Cooke dying, I wonder why

    1. Louis Lefronde

      What intrigued me is the almost synchronised release of this story last Friday evening.Independent, Irish Times and RTE. No one standing back to say hold on a moment, is there any truth to this? All the public gets is a ‘spokesperson”. I’m sorry that’s not quite good enough for the family who have endured this tragedy for so long. The public has a right to know the full background to this ‘breakthrough’ and its veracity?

  12. Junkface

    Jayzus, what a strange story. Horrible for Philip Kearns family waiting all of those years for any information. Cooke was a total scumbag, Ireland was/is still far too lenient on criminals, especially paedophiles back in those days. What is it about Radio DJs and paedophilia?

  13. Cloud9

    A great summary. It’s interesting how people take from it corruption and a cover up by the Gardai. I don’t see it myself, faced with such a massive amount of disinformation it’s not that surprising it was never solved.

    1. rory

      I don’t take away Garda corruption/cover up from it either. Wonder if they read it before they commented. Or maybe I missed something?

  14. Cloud9

    Hang on bs… It’s important to note that this is surfacing again partially because of a 30th anniversary Garda appeal, unaware of what response it would have or the fact Cooke would die. Makes a nonsense of the claim they are trying to pin it on a dead man. Dunphy et all talking nonsense. An edit perhaps?

  15. Buckfastmonkey

    Great piece. I can find nothing on the 1950 bomb incident anywhere. Anyone have a link ?

  16. Mary

    Wow! That Gareth O’Callaghan’s comment at the end ““like an “open house” where young teenage girls came in and out trying to look older than they were.”
    Ah sure Gareth they were all probably asking for it then!!!!!!


    Thank you Broadsheet for this report. The only publication that has created any clarity to this sad sad story.
    So many discrepancies on the part of the Gardai throughout.

  17. Anne

    Excellent work again from Broadsheet.

    Awful for the family of Phillip Cairns.

    And with the poor treatment Cynthia Owens continues to receive by the Irish government.. it’s quite clear that the authorities are complicit in the covering up of these paedophile rings.

    1. rory


      “It’s quite clear that the authorities are complicit in the covering up of these paedophile rings.”

      Where is it clear in the above post?

  18. Steph Pinker

    I was in Loreto Abbey in the late 80s and early 90s and there was only one pond on the grounds (including the Nuns’ private garden and graveyard) which was only a few feet deep. I never knew there had been other ponds on the grounds previously. I remember being told by other pupils about the satanic rituals which went on up at the Hellfire Club, which I didn’t believe at the time.

    Well done BS, you’ve excelled yourselves, keep it lit for Philip and his family’s sake.

    1. Liam Deliverance

      @Steph – I think that local rumours more often than not tend to hold a great deal of truth and it is only after, sometimes a great deal of time, that we see that.

  19. Declan Meehan

    On a point in article refering to Cooke founding Radio Dublin this is my recollection. Ken Sheehan founded Radio Dublin in the late 60’s and broadcast from Drimnagh every Sunday lunchtime. As there were a growing number of pirates in the early 70’s this lead to interest by the Dept of P and T. Ken decided to sell the station to Roger Lloyd in Crumlin. After the raid on Radio Melinda (Milinda sic) in December 72 and the conviction of the operators , me included , the pirates went quiet. Radio Dublin eventuality moved from Lloyd to Don Moore who broadcast from Cabra in 1976.The Dept became active and started raids, Cooke met Moore and offered Sarsfield Road as an alternative site to keep Dept guessing location every Sunday. They fell out in 1977 and Cooke excluded Moore from Inchicore and kept the equipment and therefore Radio Dublin.

    1. Kieran

      Thanks for that Declan. This fills in a few gaps on the history of pirate radio I was not able to find out.

  20. Cynic3000

    The country was full of pedo rings run by Gardaí, Priests, Businessmen, Legal Professionals and they preyed on the working class kids whose families didn’t have the money or connections to pursue the criminals.

    The victims stories are rarely told because they end up on drugs, drink or kill themselves or are murdered by their assailants. The DPP don’t prosecute complaints because they move in the same social circles as the assailants and have an innate hatred of the weak in society.

    The assailants are the so called respectable members of the community, their evil cloaked by an arrogant self regard and sustained by cap doffing supporters.

    Ireland has many faces.

  21. Blackboard Jungle

    Great piece Bodger, along with broadsheets work on fr. Niall Molly, swim Ireland coach and Mary Doyle you are asking the big questions. I don’t know if I’m any the wiser as to what actual happened to Philip after reading it but Ireland at a political level and within the gardai seems to be highly suspect in denying justice to people who have had the misfortune for awful tragedy to befall them. Was listening to drive time today how the Touhy family in Clara are currently the victims of the same institutionalized cover ups. How lucky we are not to have this misfortune visit our door, hopefully the Cairns family will one day get justice

  22. Peter Dempsey

    Excellent article Bodger. Easily the most comprehensive I have seen about this case.

    Hopefully closure will come.

  23. Eighties8eist

    good work bodger in putting the investigation in order, and dispelling some of the discrepancies. one issue which seems missing is that there was a born again Christian group nearby (3 minutes drive from where his school bag was found) based in Templeogue House at the time, but they also had access/use of a house in templeogue wood for meetings as well. I was the same age as Philip around that Halloween, and from the previous summer, we were allowed to hang around the grounds of this old building (nicknamed “Paro”, meaning paradise), but were then invited in where they set up an ad-hoc youth club / rec room with a table tennis table, and we were offered tea, shelter from the rain and only had to listen to preaching about Jesus. Most of the kids, especially older guys around 15/16, stayed outside on the steps, but some got more involved in the sing songs and started to go to the nearby detached house for “discussions”, especially the ones who were either from religious families and had found this place via the youth club in St.Judes, or those from broken homes who didn’t have to get home at regular times. Over the next year, people stopped hanging around the area, especially after one of the kids smashed windows, and the group got hostile to local kids and started to ask us not to go there.
    While I had never seen anything close to abuse (or to my knowledge any accusations of it), it seems unusual that a religious group based in a nearby listed building with numerous empty rooms, and had been inviting young children in without the knowledge of their parents had not been mentioned, but one in Kilkenny was. Hopefully, as a result of these updates, we can finally piece together Philip’s last movements and get some resolution.

    1. Liam Deliverance

      @ Eighties8eist – That’s interesting, thanks for posting that. It causes me to remember a story that would seem to have no connection to anything here at all but possibly does. I would have to research a bit more. I know Templeogue House but I know little of it’s history. I know it’s just off Templeogue Wood but you suggest they had another house close by? What is the new building right beside Templeogue House, its on the same grounds and uses the same driveway entrance I think. Is it and the House still owned by the same Christian group. Why was it called Paradise or Paro and do you have any more info on it’s original use and subsequent use’s? Thanks

  24. anon

    from what I remember about Radio Dublin in 1986 when I was a teenager hanging around up there, there was a man that lived in the house with Cooke he stands out because he had no front teeth. I do remember his first name also they had an receptionist who worked Monday to Friday answering the phones these two people would have had to be there the day Phillip was supposed to be there. I wonder were they interviewed.

  25. Paul

    A well-researched article for a change. Well done.
    I just have a couple of thoughts…
    First – possibly a minor/unimportant detail – but is there such a location as Sarsfield Avenue? I know the Sarsfield Road area fairly well – or I thought I did – but I’ve never heard of Sarsfield Avenue, nor can I find it on the Google map. Where exactly is it?
    Second, I have read in a number of articles that Philip Cairns’ mother was not at home on the day he disappeared, because she accompanied her daughter to a dental appointment. Therefore I was surprised to read this: “A report about Philip’s case says that his mother and grandmother were the last to see him and neither heard the door slam behind him.”
    In addition, many reports specifically stated that his grandmother *did* hear him leave the house (he was reported to have called out, “I’m off, Gran.”)
    Presumably this statement is simply wrong?
    Third, the author seems to give some credence to the report of the three boys who insisted that Philip’s schoolbag had been in the lane for several days before it was “discovered”. And no one thought to pick it up? Not even those boys themselves? Bearing in mind that hundreds of people – and Gardai – were searching the area, it seems far-fetched to me that the bag, sitting in the middle of a lane under a lamp-post, would have been ignored for several days. At the very least it would have been kicked around by local kids, or picked up by street cleaners.
    Fourth, the suspicious death of Brendan Houlihan, whose body was found in the canal, surely deserved more attention, occurring, as it did, just a few weeks after Philip Cairns disappeared. Was there an investigation into Houlihan’s death? And if so what was the outcome? One doesn’t accidentally drown in the canal with a shirt stuffed into one’s mouth. Did the Gardai investigate to find out whether the dead man had had any contact with Philip? Presumably they would have known each other, since Philip was a regular visitor to the church where Houlihan was the sacristan.
    Fifth, I listened to the interview with Angela Copley on the Marian Finucane Show the other day. She commented that the woman who had contacted her (or whom she had contacted), identified only as “one of Cooke’s victims”, had told her that whenever the Philip Cairns case was mentioned in the news, he made a point of saying that he had taken part in the search. Copley said that she and the other woman always laughed at this because they knew Cooke wasn’t the type of person to offer to help with police investigations. And yet we know that Cooke frequently played the role of vigilante, reporting crimes-in-progress, pursuing criminals etc. He even had his own police code handle. It would be completely in character, therefore, for him to take part in the search for Philip Cairns.
    Sixth, the author seems to be of the opinion that because the men who assisted Cooke with the arson attack were sentenced just a day before Philip’s disappearance, and because Cooke himself was in court a day earlier, this makes it unlikely that Cooke could have carried out an abduction or a murder. I don’t agree with this line of reasoning. Seasoned criminals frequently commit crimes within hours of walking out of the courtroom. A person like Cooke wouldn’t have been intimidated in the slightest by having to appear in court. It wouldn’t have cramped his style one iota.
    Seventh, Gareth O’Callaghan is quoted as saying that Philip had an interest in radio and that “Cooke had promised him a visit to Radio Dublin.” But how could O’Callaghan possibly know this? He only found out three years ago – by accident – that he was related to Philip Cairns (apparently they had the same great-grandfather). He didn’t know Philip, and he didn’t know the Cairns family. And rather oddly there is no mention of the fact that O’Callaghan actually worked as a DJ for Cooke at Radio Dublin.
    Eighth – and lastly – the story recounted by the woman who, as a nine-year-old child, saw Philip Cairns unconscious on the floor strikes me as being highly improbable. She claims to have fainted and regained consciousness in Cooke’s car. Hmm… Would Philip Cairns – repeatedly described as a quiet, timid boy, young for his age – have become involved in a violent confrontation with someone like Cooke? We are told that there was always people in the studio – wouldn’t somebody else have also witnessed this incident? Where were the DJs? Would a child really faint at the sight of a boy lying on the floor? If Cooke had actually killed Philip Cairns, would he leave the body where it lay (with all those people coming and going) to drive this girl home? Or was this girl “out” long enough for Cooke to hide the body (in the middle of the day, in a busy radio station)? Everything is possible, of course, but this story just doesn’t make sense, to me at least.

    1. Salmon of Nollaig

      Hi, on the O’Callaghan point I read the facebook post and it seems that Kitty Holland in the irish Times completely misconstrued this post, O’Callaghan had merely cut and pasted from the article about the woman and was not claiming personal knowledge. He subsequently came on record to say he felt had Cooke had no involvement.

    2. Liam Deliverance

      @ Paul – Great post and you have posed some of the questions that came to my mind after reading this article yesterday, it also strikes me how great the internet can be as a tool in such circumstances, see my post a couple before yours in response to a post from Eighties8eist

      1. Buswells Babe

        Paul, they are very interesting questions.

        There are just so many odd things about this case. The fact that Cooke was in court the week of Philip’s disappearance (though not the day) does not on its own indicate that he could not have killed him. However there is no evidence of Cooke being recorded as carrying out any other killings or attempting to kill other children he abused. It therefore seems unlikely – though I agree not impossible – that he would start doing so between conviction and sentencing for a crime of passion. When you ad this to the fact it is also unlikely that he would have much privacy in the radio station to carry out the killing, the two things together raise a question as to the veracity of the story.

        You ask about the killing of Brendan Houlihan the sacristan. This is a very odd case too. I had a look at irishnewspaperarchives (a great resource!) and two very young men from Dorset Street were charged with his murder. However it is stated that abruptly, in the course of the trial, the state agreed a change in the plea to manslaughter, to which they pleaded guilty. As a result there is very little information as to their motive for the killing. It appears that they attacked Houlihan when he was cycling along the Royal Canal at 10 pm, beat him, threw him in the canal (where he drowned) and made off with some of his clothes and a watch. However the earlier inquest reports that he was found in the canal with a shirt stuffed in his mouth which seems odd if they simply thought they were disposing of a dead body they had already killed in a violent attack. If they knew he was alive when they threw him in, well then it was a case of murder, not manslughter. Plea bargaining is not usual in Ireland, which makes the trial very strange to say tha least. There does not appear to have been any allegation made by the defence of either self-defence or provocation which might have turned an intentional killing into manslaugher. Very odd and this case definitely merits further investigation. The fact that it comes up in searches for Cairns is just another odd coincidence in this case. A shirt stuffed in a corpse’s mouth might be interpreted as a message to others to stay quiet.

        1. Buswells Babe

          Just to add that I have now had a further look on the archive and one of the youths convicted of the sacristan’s death subsequently escaped from Mountjoy during a prison officers’ picket. He was dressed in army uniform at the time.

        2. Paul

          Hi there,
          You say there is no evidence of Cooke killing or attempting to kill children, but would you expect there to be evidence? Cooke was obviously a sly fox, and he had connections in the Gardai, the Republican movement (alright, the IRA), the criminal underworld, and even the government of the day. With those kind of connections it wouldn’t have been hard for him to cover his tracks. Was he a killer? His very first conviction was for shooting at a group of Gardai (a very unusual thing for a criminal to do back in the 1950s). He also tried to murder at least two people in their homes, on separate occasions, by fire-bombing them. So we know he had no compunction about killing people if they got in his way or posed a threat to him of any kind. Given what we now know about him, I would be very surprised if, in the course of his 70-year criminal career, he didn’t leave a trail of dead bodies behind him. He had all the characteristics of a serial killer – arrogance, secrecy, control freakery, ruthlessness and a psychopathic personality. His surviving victims had good reason to be terrified of him.

          1. Buswells Babe

            There were quite a few paedophile psychopaths in Ireland in 1986, many of them with a history of violence, but that is not enough in itself to attribute the crime to Cooke. At the moment all we have is the evidence of one woman, and such of this evidence as disclosed by Gardai sources raises a lot of unanswered questions. The fact that the woman was a victim of Cooke’s paedophilia or that Cooke fits the profile of a paedophile psychopath should not mean that her evidence is immune from scrutiny. At the moment I have yet to be convinced that Cooke was the killer. There are too many holes in the accounts of the woman’s statement as provided.

          2. Buswells Babe

            The reality – and I am sorry to be so blunt about it – is that this story will die like all the other stories the Gardai have expressed confidence about over the years, with the Gardai being able to blame its death on the fact that the perpetrator is a dead man. If they could, they would claim the credit for having cracked the case, however the fact that many members of the public have questioned the woman’s story makes it difficult for them to do so at the moment. When public criticism dies down they will try again to claim they have solved the case and Cooke is the perpetrator with no more information than they have at the moment. Philip’s body will never be found, nothing will change and we will continue to be a country of unjustly vilified Gardai management, missing persons, many rapacious but entirely unconnected paedophiles and a tragically large amount of abuse victims. That is the reality and we will all get as little as we expect until we start expecting and demanding something better. Even now it may not be too late to resolve this case properly and bring Philip home if the right questions are asked and continue to be asked. It is up to everyone who cares to ask and keep asking them and this does not just apply in the context of Philip, or even missing persons generally. It applies to all aspects of Irish life and it applies to the public as well as journalists. It is called empowerment and as far as holding our police force to account is concerned it is very very badly needed.

          3. Buswells Babe

            or rather I should say ‘allegedly’ unjustly vilified – since it seems to me from the way in which information about this story has been provided to the public by Gardai in such a way as to insult our intelligence that the vilification is entirely justified.

  26. Truth in the News

    The in depth presenation of the sequence of events in the case is excellent
    and exposes the contradictions, there is one curious aspect, the leaking last
    friday, why, who briefed the media or leaked the information, as if the Guards
    are in possession of the school bag, why was not DNA profiled earlier.
    Eammon Dunphy was right to ask why and its not the first time he smelled a rat.
    If this was conjured up to take heat off Noirin and her crew and aided by section’s
    of the media……then there is something rotten at the top
    Cooke was reputed to own property at Aclare Co Sligo, when was this purchased
    and who were the intermediaries that interested him in the property, it is in the
    public record that member of the Guards stationed in Aclare was convicted
    of sexual abuse to a juvenile in the same locality some years ago.

  27. Black & White

    I heard on the news over the weekend that DNA from the schoolbag was being compared for similarities with Cook. So a convicted child abuser is in prison, who is from the same general area that a missing child is from and the cops don’t automatically do a DNA comparison against all open cases ??

    I mean, I know they’re not CSI but FFS is it not just simple common sense ???

    1. Bill Maher

      I totally agree. Why were DNA tests not done before now ? During the course of “Inquiries” into my Uncle’s case ( Fr Niall Molloy ) we were told that the Garda forensic scientist, Dr Maureen Walsh, “was not only the best DNA specialist in Ireland , but in the world” I wonder ?

      1. Buswells Babe

        What a great little country.

        We have the best forensic scientist in the world and a plethora of missing persons.

        Who knew?

  28. Nigel

    Horrible case in so many way but three things jumped out at me.
    1) The guy was playing cod-cop with a blue light and a call-sign and ramming stolen cars? The same guy who was convicted of shooting at Guards?
    2) The papers referring to the abuse victim as his ‘lover.’ This is literally giving the guy a pass on child abuse.
    3) Diviners. One thing for the police to bring one in, crazy at it seems, but the ones bugging the family, to say nothing of the sheer quantity of hoaxes. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that toxic trolling behaviour is something the internet created rather then enabled.

    1. Liam Deliverance

      @ Nigel – Mmm, it does suggest a very, very close relationship between Cooke and our esteemed police force doesn’t it. It also appears that Cooke got away with a lot of serious carry on for a very long time without the police getting involved. Now why might that be, what sort of relationship was it. It also echos the carry on in Dalkey as reported here on BS.

  29. Sam

    A very well-researched piece Bodger.

    I’ve come across two little mentions that may also help provide more background information on Cooke.

    Brief bio from c. 1999. Link –

    “EAMON COOKE. Secretary and Managing Director. Born in Dublin 4/11/1936.
    Educated St. Vincent’s Primary and Secondary Schools, Glasnevin and two years
    Technical College. First employment was in clerical work. Branched into electrical
    work, radio and television installations and qualified as an electrician, worked
    under contract with ESB and Dublin Corporation. Involved in all aspects of radio
    broadcasting – technical, production and management – since 1974 after taking
    over the then unregistered operation RADIO DUBLIN.”

    When he was up in court in 1986 over the arson incident, it was revealed that he had “five previous convictions” with the last one dating back to 1957. Besides the Hollybrook Garage incident, do we know what the other four were? Was the O’Connell Monument explosion one of them?

  30. louislefronde

    According to the Irish Times, the Blue Light Brigade ‘working on the case’ will make an appeal through print and broadcast media later today as they attempt to determine the veracity of claims Eamon Cooke, the former pirate radio DJ who died last month, killed the boy.

    This comes six days after the ‘revelations’ involving Cooke.

    Methinks, Broadsheet set the cat-amonst-the-pigeons with yesterday’s timeline.

    Interestingly, the usual ‘we looked up every tree, and searched every bush’ yarn appears in T̶h̶e̶ ̶I̶r̶i̶s̶h̶ ̶B̶l̶i̶g̶h̶t̶e̶r̶I mean Irish Independent (surprise surprise)

  31. paul holland

    An unadulterated tragedy, and it just goes on.
    All the newsprint and now cloudspace of what is largely speculation.
    And it’s not the only case where a family has suffered such devastation – and little realistic hope of closure either

  32. Louis Lefronde

    Now, here is something which tweaked my curiosity. Cooke was evidently in the IRA at some stage. At some point he moves to Heatherview Avenue, Tallaght. The question is when? The reason this is interesting is because a story that surfaced in The Irish Times on 15th December 2014 about a book written by Retired Detective Sergeant Alan Bailey (formerly national co-or donator” of Operation Thrace) in which he puts forward the story that Annie McCarrick was killed by an IRA man who was staying in a safe house in the Rathfarnham/ Tallaght area.

    “He told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme that the American student met the IRA man, to whom he gave a fictional name Manus Dunne, at Johnnie Fox’s pub in Glencullen in the Dublin mountains.
    He said the information from a “very reliable source”, was a story that “needs to be checked out”.
    Mr Bailey said the IRA member was part of an active service unit at the time, responsible for shootings and punishment beatings in west Belfast.
    He was believed to be in a safe house in the Rathfarnham Tallaght area of Dublin having fallen foul of an IRA member, higher in the hierarchy.
    He went to Johnnie Fox’s that night in March 1993 where he met Ms McCarrick and during the evening he “started bragging about different exploits”, Mr Bailey said.
    He began naming names and naming colleagues and then “he realised the enormity of what he’d done and it sealed her fate”.
    He offered a lift into town but “drove her up the mountains where he killed her and concealed her body behind some bushes”.
    When he went back to the safe house he told his colleagues he believed she was a spy and the following morning two cards went out, one to take her body and the other to run interference in case gardaí were following.
    Her body was then concealed in the mountains.
    Later that year ‘Manus Dunne’ was moved to the US after he sexually abused the child of another IRA member.
    Both were “high up in the organisation” and a split in the IRA was feared “if one or other was taken out”.

    There maybe no link here between the two cases, but it is certainly worth following up on. Namely, was the safe house Eammon Cooke’s place in Heatherview Avenue?

    1. Louis Lefronde

      Or indeed, was Cooke involved in ‘the interference operation’? Remember Cooke was into Radios, CBs and followed The Gardai on radio (Alpha 7)

      The other point in the ‘Manus Dunne’ equation if its true, is that he is alleged to have sexually abused the child of another IRA member. Who that person was, may or may not be relevant. It might be up north or in Dublin.

      Cooke was a convicted child abuser. Dunne it is alleged was also a child abuser. Both were in the IRA. It may well be they were both in the vicinity of Tallaght / Rathfarnham area in the early 90’s, that point has to be established. The question is therefore were they known to each other?

      This maybe conjecture, and there might not be any connection between the two. But what if there is?

      If Cooke was involved in some way with the disappearance of Philip Cairns, his form both before and after the event has to be examined thoroughly.

      Cooke might have been a solo abuser and his involvement in the Republican movement only peripheral. If on the other hand he was part of a paedophile ring, the identities of those individuals has to be established. Of course where there are abusers there are victims. Complaints may have been made.

      The McCarrick case officially remains open and unsolved. The question is whether Alan Bailey’s version of events stands up to scrutiny. The question is whether there is any link?

  33. Truth in the News

    No doubt Bodger’s article on Broadsheet has rattled the Guards, now let’s look
    into the police response in holding a Press Presentation seeking more public
    assistance, is it not about time that at least one of the properties owned by
    Cooke at Kilmacteige near Aclare County Sligo was cordoned off and subject
    to a search, it is belived that Cooke was taken into custody from this location
    when inital charges were preferred, there are rumours that part of a building
    on the property went on fire at some time….all properties connected with
    Cooke need forensic scrutiny, we know the Guards are streched, can’t search
    everwhere at once, however a start has to be made, if only to eliminate some
    places connected with Cooke, there is an added issue of previous abuse of
    a juvenile by member of the Guards now deceased, who was stationed at
    Aclare Station, there also allegations connected with a deceased cleric in the
    same area, of abuse, whether this all is coincidental or not, remains to be established….what ever we say or do will not bring Philip Cairns back, but at
    least every credible lead should be followed up even if only to eliminate it.

  34. Paul

    A few additional thoughts…

    For me, the possibility that Eamon Cooke was involved in Philip Cairns’ disappearance depends on the answer to one question: Did Cooke know Philip Cairns, or did he not?
    If he did, then I think it is almost certain that he had something to do with Cairns’ disappearance.
    So what exactly is the evidence that they knew each other?

    There is the testimony of the woman who claims to have seen Philip Cairns unconscious on the floor of the Radio Dublin studio when she was nine years old (she would now be 39).
    How much credence can we give her account? It’s hard to assess. The details of her story don’t add up, in my opinion (she fainted and woke up in Cooke’s car? Having killed Cairns in the (busy) studio, he carried this unconscious girl to his car and drove her home, leaving Cairns’ dead body on the studio floor? I can’t see it.) However, she may nevertheless be telling what she believes to be the truth. Maybe it happened differently to the way she remembers it. Human memory is far from reliable, especially after thirty years.

    Then we have the testimony of Cooke himself, who, according to the Gardai, admitted to knowing Philip Cairns, when they questioned him on his deathbed. But just how ill and incoherent was Cooke during these interviews? We know that he was sedated and on heavy duty pain medication. And we know that he was only able to give “yes” and “no” answers, and make a grunting noise. (Incidentally, I would be interested to know whether these interviews were recorded, as of course they ought to have been.) If Cooke was “out of it” on medication, and he was asked a question like “Do you remember Philip Cairns?” or “Did you know Philip Cairns?” he might easily have misunderstood the question and answered yes. It seems odd that he would admit to knowing Cairns, or to having him in his car, and yet deny involvement in his disappearance. He must surely have realised, even if he was only semi-lucid, that admitting to having Philip Cairns in his car was almost the same as admitting to involvement in his murder. If he didn’t want the Gardai to conclude that he was responsible for whatever happened to Philip Cairns, why didn’t he just deny all knowledge of him? I would have been his word against that of a woman who was nine years old at the time of Cairns’ disappearance.

    What does seem clear to me – regardless of whether Cooke killed Philip Cairns – is that the recent revelations surrounding this case have raised a number of serious and broader questions, and opened an enormous can of worms. These revelations have exposed a web of criminality, pedophilia, blackmail, coercion and corruption which allowed Cooke was able to move freely and without official scrutiny, sexually abusing scores if not hundreds of children, protected, for the most part, by individuals in positions of power and authority.

    1. Buswells Babe

      Sorry Paul, just one further comment.

      UTV reported Alice Cairns as saying that Cooke admitted to knowing Philip in one interview, but denied it in another.

      “Cooke, who was 79 when he died earlier this month, admitted to Gardaí that he met Philip however Alice Cairns explained that he subsequently denied it in a separate interview..”

      Yet the Gardai have said Cooke knew Philip, without drawing atteniton to this.

      This further intensifies my concerns.

      Link to UTV story here;_

      1. Spaghetti Hoop

        The retired garda is quoted as saying he hoped that Cooke was responsible for the boy’s disappearance. That’s clearly showing the self-interest of the Gardai in wanting the case closed and tidily wrapped up…because what he has really said is that he hoped Philip was subjected to the henious crimes of a paedophile. I would have hoped that the boy was not subject to abuse before he was killed. Remarks such as these must be harrowing for his family. How insensitive can people get.

  35. Paul

    Yes, that’s the question I was raising – ie, whether Cooke did, in fact, admit to knowing Philip Cairns, or whether his response to this question was less clear and categorical than the impression given in the Garda version of their interview with Cooke. Again, I’d be interested to know whether these interviews were recorded.

    On the question of whether Cooke was a killer: again, we know that he attempted to murder at least three people, and that he threatened to murder at least several others. Therefore he had no compunction about killing people if they got in his way or posed a threat of some kind to him. And, again, if he did murder any of the children he sexually abused, he had the resources and the connections to successfully cover his tracks. Personally, I’d be very surprised if he wasn’t a serial killer. We shall see. (Maybe.)

  36. tdf

    From a post by Paul above:

    “Fourth, the suspicious death of Brendan Houlihan, whose body was found in the canal, surely deserved more attention, occurring, as it did, just a few weeks after Philip Cairns disappeared. Was there an investigation into Houlihan’s death? And if so what was the outcome? One doesn’t accidentally drown in the canal with a shirt stuffed into one’s mouth. Did the Gardai investigate to find out whether the dead man had had any contact with Philip? Presumably they would have known each other, since Philip was a regular visitor to the church where Houlihan was the sacristan.”

    Agree that this is very important, if it can be stacked up.

    Bodger can you please provide links to contemporaneous media reports on the above, or advise as to where to find them?

    1. Buswells Babe

      Hi, I put in a comment with details of this above.

      The media reports were in the Irish Press, the Irish Examiner, and the Irish Independent and they are readily available on the site irishnewsarchives (just search for sacristan Brendan Houlihan). It is a subscription site but open to the public and you can get a day subscription.

      I do not have time to recap in detail because working but what happened was as follows:

      News reports stated that Mr Houlihan – a sacristan at the church in another part of Dublin where Philip was baptised- was found in the Royal Canal in his underwear with his shirt stuffed in his mouth. Mr Houlihan was in his late twenties. The priest at the church said that by coincidence he had spent the afternoon before Mr Houlihan’s death with him looking up the date of Philip’s baptism.

      The next report is of two brothers from Dorset St and Ballyfermot – the Kenna brothers, John and Declan – being charged. John was charged with murder. They were 23 and 18 years old.

      The next report is of their trial and says that abruptly during the trial prosecution counsel Kevin Haugh had the charge against John changed to manslaughter, to which he pleaded guilty. That meant little or no evidence was heard. John got 14 years. Declan was convicted of robbery after pleading guilty and sentenced to 3 years. The items robbed were Mr Houlihan’s shirt, trousers, jacket and watch.

      The inquest report heard after the trial heard that Mr Houlihan had been badly beaten and aphyixiated before being thown into the canal. It is unclear whether he died by aphyxiation or subsequent drowning. When thrown in his shirt was looped round his head and neck in a granny knot and also stuffed into his mouth.

      2 years or so after conviction and sentencing Declan Kenna (the one in for robbery) escaped from Mountjoy dressed in army uniform. There was a prison officers strike on and it was alleged he walked right past the guards without being stopped.

      That’s all I have been able to find to date. I have forwarded copies of the articles to Broadsheet but they are readily accessible on payment of a small subscription fee to irish news archives.

  37. Buswells Babe

    Excuse spelling and any minor inaccuracies because under pressure of work. Thank you for your interest, I looked up all this because I found it disturbing and now I find it even more disturbing.

  38. Buswells Babe

    I should say that I haven’t come across any references to Philip having specifically known Houlihan but as stated he was the sacristan at the church where Philip was baptised and was reported to have been looking up Philip’s baptism – sorry, not birth – date the day of his (Houlihan’s) death.

    1. Blackboard Jungle

      There was no link between the two people or their murders, its just a very unfortunate coincidence

  39. Buswells Babe

    The key article is that in the Irish Press about the charge being dropped and it was the 20 October 1987 (I will put up the dates of the other articles later). The church at which Houlihan worked was St Columba’s Church, Iona Road, Glasnevin.

  40. louislefronde

    @Buswells Babe. For that update. It’s very important to have independent voices which challenge the narrative being pedalled in the mainstream media. It seems that there are more than a few embedded journalists out there who are happy to play ‘The Parrot’ by receiving tip-offs from the Gardai and then passing it off as news in the press, without ever challenging or looking behind the story to see if it stands up to scrutiny.

  41. Frank

    I’d never heard about Brendan Houlihan, the sacristan found in the royal canal…. I can’t find any information about him or his death online ? Can anyone direct to online source ?

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