A Touch Of Misdirection




A Garda officer with Philip Cairns’ schoolbag in 1986; Gareth O’Callaghan: The Late Show with Ryan Tubridy and crime reporter Barry Cummins

Last Friday the Late Late Show featured an item  with crime journalist and author Barry Cummins on Philip Cairns.

Philip disappeared from Rathfarnham during his school lunch break on Thursday, October 23, 1986. He was 13 years old at the time.

Discussion on the show focused on last summer’s claims by Gardai sources that there was evidence that paedophile DJ Eamon Cooke was involved in Philip’s disappearance.

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

On June 10, 2016, it was reported by the media that one of Cooke’s victims had come forward to say that she had seen Philip lying unconscious in Cooke’s radio studio on the day of his disappearance following a blow to the head.

There were also further reports that the Gardai intended to carry out digs on various sites owned by Cooke to try to locate Philip’s body, and that the DJ – who lived on the other side of the city from Philip – might have met the boy through a paedophile ring associated with a pub in Rathfarnham.

Priest Bill Carney, who featured in the Murphy Report into child abuse by priests in the Dublin diocese, was also described as having been connected with this ring.

The Late Late item also included speculation about the discovery of Philp’s schoolbag in a laneway near his home six days after his disappearance.

The schoolbag had not been discovered on previous Garda searches of the laneway. Angela Copley, an activist for victims of sexual abuse, told the media that a woman abused by Cooke had been informed by a retired Garda that another of Cooke’s victims had come forward to say that she had left the schoolbag in the laneway.

On June 15, 2016, the Gardai, at a formal press conference, requested any person with knowledge of the disposal of the schoolbag to come forward.

On August 5, 2016, the Irish Independent reported that the Gardai had been unable to link DNA on the schoolbag to Eamon Cooke.

There have been no reports of any person associated with the disposal of the schoolbag having come forward in response to the Gardai’s request for information.

Nor has any subsequent information been released by Gardai about the paedophile ring with which both Cooke and Carney were originally alleged to have been associated.

Following the disclosure of Cooke’s possible involvement, broadcaster Gareth O’Callaghan – who is distantly related to Philip Cairns and had also worked with Eamon Cooke in his radio station – went on record to say that he did not believe Cooke was associated with Philip’s disappearance.

In a series of subsequent Facebook posts, one of which has previously been featured on this site, Mr O’Callaghan instead asserts that Philip’s disappearance was associated with other paedophiles active in the Rathfarnham area in the years prior to his disappearance, some – but not all of whom – are now deceased.

Two of the deceased, named by Mr O’Callaghan as part of this ring are Father Patrick Tuohy, the former Parish Priest of Rathfarnham, and a local man, Mr Brian Ellis.

According to Mr O’Callaghan, both men were well known to Philip – Tuohy in his capacity as parish priest and organiser of local community activities for children (including a newspaper recycling project) and Ellis as a member of a local prayer group and a fishing club – the Dublin Sea Anglers Club – of which Philip and his family were active members.

Mr O’Callaghan suggests that Philip Cairns had been the victim of sexual abuse by one or more men associated with the paedophile ring and was killed as a result of having disclosed this abuse to a person who, unknown to him, was also part of the ring and subsequently passed on news of this disclosure to the person or persons concerned.

As a result Philip was picked up on his way back to school on the afternoon of October 23, 1986 and taken to the Parochial House, Rathfarnham, where he was warned of the danger of further disclosures. Philip’s death subsequently occurred when he panicked and tried to run from the house.

According to Mr O’Callaghan, the body of Philip Cairns is possibly buried in the garden of a house in the Rathfarnham area formerly owned by a deceased member of the ring.

O’Callaghan’s source for the alleged location of Philip’s body is a person, described by him as ‘Tom’, who allegedly acted as a gardener for Brian Ellis, by whom he was contacted following his initial Facebook posts on Eamon Cooke.

Another contact referenced by O’Callaghan is the brother of a woman, not named by him but identifiable as Eva Brennan, aged 39, who disappeared in the Rathfarnham area on July 25, 1993.

Like Philip, Eva was a member of local prayer groups. Her disappearance similarly remains unexplained. In 2010, Eva’s sister, Colette McCann expressed concern regarding the Garda investigation of her death.

The lack of any progress in respect of the disappearance of Philip Cairns remains similarly worrying.

A timeline of the inquiry, as referenced in a previous Broadsheet post, shows it to have many unusual characteristics – not least the discovery of the schoolbag not far from Rathfarnham Garda station and the subsequent failure of the Gardai to protect it from contamination – as evidenced by Press photographs showing it being handled by at least two Garda members following its discovery.

The most relevant evidence in respect of the disappearance of Philip Cairns remains that identified by Sunday Independent journalist Maeve Niland in an investigation carried out by her in 1989.

Ms Niland detailed two sightings of a boy in school uniform talking to the male driver of a red Japanese car along the route Philip would have taken back to school at approximately the time that he would have been likely to be on that route.

She suggests that Philip was picked up on the way back to school by the man driving this car, who was known to and respected by him, and that the man drove him in the direction of the school, but did not stop there.

Publication of Ms Niland’s investigation was followed by a number of apparently hoax phone calls and false leads, without any further public identification of the man or car involved.

It now appears that the Garda identification of Eamon Cooke as the perpetrator – shortly after his death, and in the year leading up to the thirtieth anniversary of Philip’s disappearance – is yet another false lead in an investigation inexplicably bedevilled by them.

Other cases, featured in this site, involving deaths and disappearances the perpetrators of which have gone notoriously unpunished: the murder of Noeleen Murphy in April, 1973; the disappearance of Mary Boyle in March, 1977; the death of Fr Niall Molloy in July, 1985. In all of these cases, without exception, allegations of involvement have been made against persons with significant political connections or Garda associations.

These characteristics are also present in the Philip Cairns case in relation to both of the persons named by Mr O’Callaghan as perpetrators: Fr Patrick Tuohy and Brian Ellis.

Prior to his appointment as Parish Priest of Rathfarnham, Patrick Tuohy had acted as personal chaplain to WT Cosgrave, Chairman of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State.

He subsequently retained close links to the Cosgrave family, including WT Cosgrave’s son Liam, leader of Fine Gael between 1965 and 1977 and Taoiseach between 1973 and 1977. Tuohy resigned as Parish Priest the year of Philip Cairns’ death, remaining in the area in an undefined pastoral capacity.

Like Tuohy, Brian Ellis had powerful political connections dating back to the foundation of the State. He was the son of Dr Vincent Ellis, a Sinn Féin activist and close friend of Michael Staines, the first Commissioner of An Garda Siochana.Staines appointed Ellis Chief Medical Officer of the Garda Siobhana in 1922. He served in this position for the following 35 years.

Brian Ellis, his son, was brought up in the Garda Depot in the Phoenix Park where friends included Tuohy’s superior Archbishop Dermot Ryan, whose father was also a friend of Vincent Ellis.

In 1986 the idea that paedophiles could also be persons respected in the community was not the subject of open discussion. The report of Judge Yvonne Murphy into paedophilia among priests in the Dublin diocese records both this belief and its fallacy.

The idea that members of the Gardai – universally praised by contemporaneous media for their work into Philip’s disappearance – could have been involved in covering up such disappearance would have been equally incomprehensible.

This is no longer the case. Earlier this year, retired Garda Frank Mullen – a former head of the Garda Representative Association – took to the media to deny allegations of sexual abuse made by Cynthia Owen (formerly Sindy Murphy) of Dalkey, the mother of Noeleen Murphy, whose unsolved murder is referenced above.

Mullen – who vehemently disputes the allegations – is not the only member of the Gardai alleged to have been involved in perpetrating or covering-up unsolved crimes.

According to Mr O’Callaghan, the Rathfarnham paedophile ring responsible for the death of Philip Cairns included one or more local Gardai.

Nor are the allegations made against Brian Ellis new allegations; they appeared in the Irish Sun newspaper on October 21, 2015 and, according to Mr O’Callaghan, were reported to the Gardai by his source as early as 2010.

There has, however, been no attempt by Gardai to follow up on these allegations by conducting any investigation of the garden of Ellis’s former home.

Previously: Philip Cairns And A Trail Of Disinformation

The World That Philip Cairns Felt So Threatened By Is Becoming Clearer

39 thoughts on “A Touch Of Misdirection

    1. :-Joe

      Ohh ah Paul McGrath the beast defender of Irish pride and Packi’s goal line?…

      Tell us more…


    2. Brother Barnabas

      To be fair to Paul McGrath, he’s been as clear as he can be – albeit in a legally conservative way – about his thoughts and feelings towards Frank Mullen.

  1. rotide

    please please please, if an article is not a timeline can there be some sort of editorial applied to it?

    I’m sure this wall of text is informative but after reading through it all and realising that a lot of it is repetition from the previous pieces and there still is no real meat to any of the very obtuse implications, I feel i wasted precious minutes.

    1. Feidlim MacSásta

      Is criticising the construction of the information your way of saying you don’t believe there isn’t a cover up?

      1. rotide


        I have no idea what the article is trying to say as there is no coherant narrative to it. This is a problem with many of broadsheets articles, brilliantly and painstakingly researched without any thread of editorial narrative.

        In answer to your question though, I don’t see any proof of any coverup at all here, just a lot of claims and counter claims. Again though, there is a lot of information to wade through with no dot-joining to help the reader. Maybe this is an attempt to stay impartial but broadsheet is in no way impartial so it seems contrived or something.

        1. :-Joe

          Just do it yourself in your own head…. and use your imagination a bit more on what the narrative is.

          It’s just saying here is some more relevent information we have for updating the on-going story.

          If you want editorial narratives staight from the mainstream media just go back there and take your pick, you won’t find them talking much about these stories though.


          1. Errol

            Like Joe I confess to finding the piece refreshing, however perhaps as a civilian I lack Larodidian expertise in such matters.

            Rotide, do you have any examples of good editorial treatment of such stories by yourself or others which Broadsheet could critique and learn from for future reference?

          2. The Lady Vanishes

            I obviously also lack such expertise cos I don’t have a fuppin’ clue what it is.


          3. Errol

            Lady, the word is ‘larodidian’ and it refers to the type of unusual and special expertise possessed by a commenter who sees it as his function to critique the style and content of a website he constantly comments on under the name ‘editor’ spelt backwards.

          4. The Lady Vanishes


            It would be so lovely if Rotide could edit the above post to write it the way he thinks it should be written, and perhaps post his edited version in this comments section? It probably wouldn’t take much longer for him to do than one of his many comments.

  2. Joe Small

    Lot on conjecture in that post, not much facts. I think the Gardaí were notoriously amateurish in that era. I’m more likely to believe in their incompetence than in some unsubstantiated conspiracy theory.

    I hope the family get closure some day.

    1. Feidlim MacSásta

      They were experts and still are, at framing innocent people for the crimes of their friends and superiors.

      1. Daisy Chainsaw

        Because of the likes of Gareth O’Callaghan, the attempt to simply fob Philip Cairns’ murder off on a dead paedophile failed.

        1. Djin Genie

          100%. If not for his persistence, the case could have been closed so neatly in the minds of the public. Horrifying.

          1. Sheik Yahbouti

            Whilst I appreciate the obvious good intentions of both of you – can I say STOP. I worked with Phil Cairns Snr. for years. This guy was put through hell when his child disappeared (for the usual, obvious reasons). I can truly say I have not in my life met a kinder, more diffident, more humourous man. If Mr O’Callaghan has some REAL information that would lead to a resolution in this case, I am available to torture (if necessary) him, or anyone else, to bring some sort of comfort to these decent people remaining.

          2. Sheik Yahbouti

            Again, I beg your pardon, but this case really means something to me. His Da brought the unfortunate child into work one day and I met him. Resembled his Mum more than his Dad :-) These were truly nice people, it is more than disgraceful that they are still in the wilderness.

          3. Djin Genie

            Apologies, I don’t mean to unnecessarily sensationalise this at all. I hope that Philip was swept away in the Dodder rather than having fallen victim to any of the horrific scenarios that have been put forward – I can only imagine how painful all the speculation must be for the family and I’m sorry if my comment adds to that.

            I have to stand by it, though: I am grateful that O’Callaghan is so dedicated to this case and has made me look beyond the headlines. I feel that if any elements of what he says are plausible we have a duty to acknowledge the possibility, given all that’s come to light about institutional corruption and cover-ups in Irish society. Some people seem to relish the conspiracy theorist aspect (and ironically latch onto said theories uncritically) which is a bit freakish, but I think it’s because they find it so disturbing that they become so invested.

            I really appreciate your perspective and the reminder of the impact it’s still having on the family all these years later. Awful, awful to think about what your colleague went through, jeez it would destroy a person. My heart goes out to him.

          4. Liam Deliverance

            Sheik, I am not sure your comments about torturing people are really that helpful although I recognise your passion and that of others when it comes to this case. I think that there may be any number of people out there who have varying pieces of information on this case that on their own may not produce the right lead but when brought together could do so. Gareth O’Callaghan has taken on that role, putting himself out there as a conduit for this information and has no doubt given generously of his time and resources. He also has to deal with naysayers and critics and no doubt has been warned or threatened to leave it alone. Because the Gardai are implicated it means some people will not come forward with info as they believe they cannot trust them so what he has done has been of great service in getting justice for Philip and his family. To upset the Cairns family is obviously not his intention and until they ask that he desists we have to assume that they support his efforts despite the upset it may be causing them. For all we know they may take some solace in the efforts of Gareth and many,many others who have offered information and how Philip lives on in our hearts and minds 30 years on. This article offers some updates on the investigation and allows people to think about the case once more and also invites them to pass on anything that may be of use. This happened a long time and sometimes the smallest detail is what is required to open the memory vault for a person and allow them to go back to that time and remember what they saw or heard.

          5. Sheik Yahbouti

            Sorry for the over emotional outburst. You and the other posters are quite correct. It’s just that every time the case comes up I remember that poor family, and get so angry when I think that maybe someone has the information that could help, and does nothing. Again sorry for the OTT rant.

  3. Louis Lefronde

    Well done once again Broadsheet, another well researched piece. Putting together a timeline and together with Garret O’Callaghan identifying potential culprits who were not brought to justice

    1. Louis Lefronde

      Ah yeah anyone who seeks to cast a light on the dark recesses of low standards in high places is immediately accused of being a conspiracy theorist. It’s a bit low rent? The truth always comes out.

    2. Nigel

      Wait, are you attacking this piece purely on the grounds that it has a Catholic priest in it? That’s utterly reprehensible – if you think its preposterous and defamatory, show your work. Whatever the merits of the pieces, if the fact that it features a priest means you automatically dismiss it, that’s on you – and quite disgusting.

      1. The Lady Vanishes

        There is a belief that Catholic priests are always unjustly picked on which is utterly incomprehensible given the contents of the Murphy Report, which shows both the prevalence of paedophilia within the Dublin Catholic Church and the leniency shown by the Gardai to such priests.

        Broadsheet, I would echo Carmel’s call for a recap of the Murphy Report which has not got the coverage it deserves. It is clear from the Report that it only touches the tip of the iceberg in terms of what went on in the Dublin Catholic Church under McQuaid, Ryan and McNamara’s reigns.

      1. The Lady Vanishes

        If he has what? From the above account, it sounds like he’s published all the information he has about the disappearance, whatever else, I don’t think he can be accused of holding anything back.

    1. Louis Lefronde

      You need investigating magistrates in Ireland who aren’t linked to the cops who have the power to carry out in depth investigations and subpoena witness if necessary. And if following an investigation there is evidence for prosecution, it can be handed over to state prosecutor. A bit like the office of Special Counsel in the US Department of Justice.

  4. CarmelMcC

    I find it so so difficult to understand how a young boy could disappear like this, it would be reassuring to be able to say that Philip’s abductor must have been one of those mysterious ‘men in cars’ who came from far away places to abduct and kill children, however the reappearance of the schoolbag clearly places the crime closer to home, only the craziest serial killer would return from outside the area to place a totem at the scene of a crime and there were no more serial killings of young boys or any other killings like this.

    Clearly Philip’s killer was someone known to him or someone from the area, probably both. What steps were taken by the Gardai to trace the red Japanese car which has been referred to by Barry Cummins in his account of Philip’s disappearance, were there steps taken to ascertain if anyone in the area or known to Philip drove such a car? In the light of the disclosures regarding the extent of paedophilia within Irish communities which have come to light since 1986, what steps have been taken by Gardai to re-examine the Cairns case in light of these developments.

    Regarding Tuohy and Ellis, my concern is that it is easy to attribute crimes to dead people, as was also done with Cooke, the explanation that Philip Cairns was accidentally killed during an attempt to prevent him from disclosing sexl abuse is entirely plausible, what is also quite plausible is that other people not necessarily involved in the killing may have colluded in a cover-up for fear that if the truth about the killing came out their own involvement with other young boys might also be disclosed and others may not even have consciously colluded but simply avoided directing an inquiry in directions which might cause trouble for them.

    The Gardai need to consider comprehensively all allegations of paedophile rings in the Rathfarnham area or associated with organisations of which Philip was a member and this would include investigating the allegations made to O’Callaghan. It does not appear from his account that this has been done and this is worrying. The number of people who have disappeared without trace in ireland over the past 30 years has been frankly incomprehensible.

    Unfortunately for us as a society this goes beyond Philip’s family or whether or not O’Callaghan’s allegations are correct, the point is that a young boy disappeared and possibly died in inexplicable circumstances, no perpetrator was found (something which has happened in other cases), allegations were made which appear to have been dismissed by Gardai without investigation and yet the focus instead of looking at this is on the person who subsequently publicised the Gardai’s failure to pursue these allegations, calling them a ‘leech’ and accusing them of being insensitive to the family of the victim? Despite all the inquiries and all the reports about abuse and corruption in Ireland, it seems little has changed and nothing will change until we make it do so by communicating to our elected representatives and by our comments in and letters to the media that we require something more. It is up to everyone to keep discussing this case, to keep asking questions and to communicate our concerns to our elected representatives, the media and others. O’Callaghan may not (I suspect probably does not) have the full story but he is right to publicise this and to keep doing so.

    Reply ↓

  5. nellyb

    I don’t believe this would ever get investigated, now or 20 years later. Nobody’s kid is likely dead, so there is no need to cause embarrassment to respectable people.
    Forget it.

  6. Niamh

    ‘The most relevant evidence in respect of the disappearance of Philip Cairns remains that identified by Sunday Independent journalist Maeve Niland in an investigation carried out by her in 1989.

    Ms Niland detailed two sightings of a boy in school uniform talking to the male driver of a red Japanese car along the route Philip would have taken back to school at approximately the time that he would have been likely to be on that route.

    She suggests that Philip was picked up on the way back to school by the man driving this car, who was known to and respected by him, and that the man drove him in the direction of the school, but did not stop there.’

    So this has been a feature of the investigation/theory of what happened to Philip Cairns since as early as 1989, and yet in 2005 his, now adult, brother, makes the oddly definitive claim that an ‘opportunist kidnapper’ is most likely responsible. I am sorry to say it, I know it is unpleasant to contemplate, but that doesn’t sound too different to what Mary Doyle’s mother and uncle propose re her decided, independently, to wend her way northwards, only to be snatched by another random kidnapper. As in – nobody known to the family, almost an act of God.

    I do not buy this idea that people were totally unaware of the existence of paedophile rings back in ‘the day’. There is enough anecdotal evidence of innuendo, ideas of certain men being ‘creepy’, etc: people were not innocent, they were no more clueless than we are. There is evidence of people attempting to investigate abuse in institutions in the 1930s. It was just suppressed.

    People seem to think the decision by Philip’s mother to publicly ‘forgive’ the killer in compassionate, but one might also (cynically, and again, I know it is unpleasant, but it is not impossible) point to Mary Doyle’s mother’s enthusiastic attempts to shout down her living daughter’s attempts at further investigation. The whole story has a creepy, cloying, religious aura to it.

    Philip was a citizen of this country, like Mary Boyle. Unfortunately, his story is not the property of his family, and I would be quite suspicious of calls to ‘respect’ them by, apparently, not putting perfectly logical chunks of evidence together.

    For those criticizing O’Callaghan – he’s going as far as he can legally go. He cannot make outright accusations or he will be sued.

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