Fianna Fáil headquarters, Mount Street, Dublin 2.
Thanks Gary McNulty.
Previously: Philip Cairns on Broadsheet
— Dyane Connor (@Dyaneconnor) October 23, 2016
Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.
Fianna Fáil headquarters, Mount Street, Dublin 2.
Thanks Gary McNulty.
Previously: Philip Cairns on Broadsheet
— Dyane Connor (@Dyaneconnor) October 23, 2016
Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.
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
From top: Philip Cairns; Gareth O’Callaghan
Broadcaster Gareth O’Callaghan has been commenting on Facebook on the Philip Cairns case since ‘new evidence’ concerning DJ Eamonn Cooke came to light.
Mr O’Callaghan believes these ‘revelations’ are a distraction and that Philip was the victim of a paedophile ring operating in Rathfarnham, Dublin 14/16.
Mr O’Callaghan writes:
The world that Philip Cairns felt so threatened by for many years is becoming much clearer in recent weeks.
It is a world that continues to get smaller because the people who controlled it are all getting older and dying.
Thanks to a number of individuals who have given me crucial information in recent days, we are slowly threading together a timeline of valuable insights as to what led up to Philip’s disappearance.
There have been many stories and theories in the years that have passed since Philip vanished in October 1986 – as to what might have happened to him. But one fact I have always been sure of is that someone out there knows exactly what happened; and today we are much closer to finding out what really happened.
Much of this is brand new information and I am grateful to those who have been brave enough to share it with me.
What follows here will no doubt be difficult to read if you have been abused by someone in the past. I need to say that at the outset because I am aware that there is information here that will deeply upset many people.
Some will chose not to believe it; others will feel hurt and uncomfortable by memories it will bring up.
Hopefully it might also help some individuals to heal from the pain of a past they have been terrified to talk about through the years.
There was once a time, not long ago, when the Catholic Church believed that it was more important to protect its paedophile priests than to safeguard the innocent children these predators preyed on. For decades the church had lived by its own rules and laws, and its priests remained untouchable.
Because of their seeming invincibility, these priests were joined in their systematic rape and abuse of young children by other ‘pillars’ of society, namely gardai, teachers, swimming instructors, scout leaders, and many other individuals parents naturally assumed their young children were safe in the care of. Within a group of influential people there is guaranteed safety in numbers.
Some of these children died as a result of their abuse, while others ‘disappeared’ because – in deciding that they couldn’t take anymore of the pain – they wanted to tell someone that their young lives were slowly being destroyed.
Sadly the reason they disappeared was because they disclosed their abuse to the wrong person.
I believe this is what happened to Philip Cairns.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Ireland was awash with paedophile rings. Each group was autonomous and anonymous; but each group would have known of other neighbouring rings.
Secrecy and protection were the key words to the survival of these groups and their members, no matter what that protection entailed. If you had to kill to survive, then there often was no other option.
Evidence shows now that the archdiocese of Dublin was home to some of the most vile and violent paedophile rings in the country. Rathfarnham was the home of one of the most secretive and dangerous rings of predators that ever existed.
No one on the outside would have suspected anything of the sort because of its upmarket status back then. Its leafy, wealthy appearance gave the impression of stability and contentment.
It was perfect for the crimes that were committed against children whose lives were threatened if they dared to speak out. Unfortunately Philip was unique in that he was prepared to speak out against his abusers.
In 1971, Archbishop John Charles McQuaid appointed a priest called Patrick Tuohy to Ringsend church in Dublin. Tuohy would remain there until 1973 when he was appointed parish priest of Rathfarnham.
As soon as Fr Tuohy had settled into life in his new parish he started to abuse young boys. Tuohy was a close friend of McQuaid – another low-profile paedophile – who died in April 1973. Tuohy’s appointment to Rathfarnham was made by McQuaid’s successor, Dermot Ryan.
Tuohy set up a newspaper recycling project and encouraged the young boys from the local national schools to get involved. He suggested they collect old newspapers from their neighbourhoods and bring them to a large recycling collector he had installed close to the paraochial house.
He was supported by a number of local businessmen in the project – one of these was a local newsagent who is now dead. A barber has also been mentioned. Also a primary school teacher, a swimming instructor, and at least one garda (possibly three).
The garda, was actively supporting (and protecting) and willingly participating in what was going on behind the scenes, namely the abuse of many of the young boys who had become involved in the newspaper recycling project.
It didn’t just stop at the recycling business. Tuohy, with the help of the other abusers, used every opportunity he could get to groom young boys.
Philip’s abuse would have started around 1982, when he was nine years old. This is usually the age that paedophiles target young children as it’s known as the modelling age when children look for a role model who will influence them and encourage them. Children trust their role models implicitly.
However, by the time Philip had turned thirteen, the abuse was no longer sitting comfortably with him.
He was in a new school. His newly-acquired teenage status was being hindered by the experiences he could no longer bury deep within. He was discovering what it meant to have a consience; and a newly-formed conscience has no space for sexual abuse.
It’s my belief that Philip told someone in confidence about the abuse he was suffering at the hands of Tuohy. It may have been an old teacher from his primary school days. It might have been the local garda, who unknown to Philip was up to his eyes in the abuse ring. Whoever he told then reported back to Tuohy, and from that moment the dye was set. Philip’s fate was sealed.
Philip was returning to school that afternoon when he was stopped by someone he knew, someone who asked him to get into the car for a few moments.
Whoever was driving, I believe, took him to Fr Tuohy’s house where Philip was warned that if he ever talked about his abuse, he would disappear. I believe at that moment that Philip panicked and tried to run from the house.
Whatever men were in Patrick Tuohy’s parochial house that afternoon – It’s my understanding that there were three men present – were the last to see Philip Cairn’s alive. They were the same men who disposed of Philip’s body.
Patrick Tuohy was relieved of his priestly duties within a fortnight of Philip Cairns disappearance by the then archbishop Kevin McNamara.
Clearly damage limitation quickly became a priority. There was no public explanation given as to why Tuohy was being taken out of priestly circulation. He remained on in the parish in some sort of strange pastoral role until his death in 1994.
In order to understand why no one has ever been charged and convicted of paedophile offences against children in the Rathfarnham area it’s important to look at the backdrop politically and religiously in those days.
Herein lies the reasons that a gang of locally respected men who raped and abused local children got away with their disgusting crimes.
The Rathfarnham paedophile gang was heavily protected religiously and politically from outside of their jurisdiction. It consisted of approximately seven individuals. One of them was a political activist who had higher support.
Following the retirement of John Charles McQuaid as archbishop of Dublin, the papal nuncio Gaetano Alibrandi, was left with a dilemma. McQuaid’s successor was Dermot Ryan – a man many regarded as far more liberal and progressive than his medieval predecessor.
Alibrandi, an arch-conservative and protector of the old world of Pope Paul VI, hated the new liberalism of the modern church.
So it’s not surprising that Alibrandi had a very tense relationship with taoiseach Garrett Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald had even asked for Alibrandi to be removed because of his suspected closeness to the IRA and to Charles Haughey. Alibrandi had great sympathy for the provisional IRA.
Alibrandi had greater power than the bishops. He was happy for his paedophile priests to be protected at any cost.
He knew that if his priests were looked after by sympathetic gardai and political activists in the area, then no one could touch them. No one would dare to go up against them and challenge them. The risks would be huge and the cost of being so stupid would be enormous.
Alibrandi wanted the archbishop who succeeded Ryan to be ‘doctrinally sound’ -someone who would put the needs of the church and its priests above everything else, including innocent defenceless children.
He wanted an archbishop who was opposed to divorce and contraception and the the idea of any significant role for women in the church. He ignored the reports that were piling up on his desk that priests were abusing young children. He didn’t care.
The appointment of Kevin McNamara as Ryan’s successor was hopefully going to solve all of his problems. McNamara was one of those conservative old-guards of the traditional church – the same church that ignored child abuse and simply moved the abusers from one parish to another.
McNamara’s fate was also sealed however. Cancer killed him after only three years in office. But by then Philip Cairns had disappeared, never to be seen again.
A number of individuals – both men and women – have contacted me privately in recent days to say they went to Rathfarnham garda station many years ago to report savage abuse they suffered at the hands of the individuals in this paedophile ring.
Their files and statements remain ignored all these years later – locked up in some filing cabinet somewhere in that building – their complaints never investigated.
One woman told me only last week that as a young child she was taken into the Dublin mountains by three local men and repeatedly raped, and then dropped back close to where she lived.
Philip’s disappearance has been used as the ultimate threat that still hangs over the lives of so many of those young people who were abused by this group of men back in the 70s and 80s.
Each of those victims of abuse was told, “if you ever tell anyone what happened, you will end up like Philip Cairns”.
One victim told me this last week. Thirty years later he is still terrified that he will ‘vanish’ and never be found if he speaks out. Such a threat can last a lifetime for so many reasons.
I want to make a special appeal to those of you who read this piece today:
These men – these paedophiles – are dying. They are old now. Back then, they were physically stronger and more influential than they are now. Their ominous threats stand for nothing today.
A small child who is threatened can often still remain in part a small child thirty years later, terrified and frozen in time by the threat of death from someone you were afraid of – someone who is now a very old, frail and frightened man.
The fear young boys felt thirty years ago is now the same fear that a group of men in their late sixties and seventies are feeling.
I was abused in the early 70s and warned that if I ever divulged anything about what happened to me that I would also be killed.
I am still alive despite talking out for years about my abuse. I expect that my writing here today is making a small group of men feel very uncomfortable – the same men who hope that death might come to them before the world finally discovers who they are.
Time has a habit of catching up on these individuals. And that seems to be what’s happening in these past few weeks.
You might have taken Philip’s life, but he hasn’t gone away.
Previously: Philip Cairns And A Trail of Disinformation
From top: St Columba’s Church, Iona Road, Glasnevin, Dublin 9; The Irish Independent, November 7, 1986
Thirteen days after Philip’s disappearance the body of Brendan Houlihan was discovered in the Royal Canal in Phibsborough, Dublin 7
Brendan, 26, was attached to St Columba’s Chuch, Iona Road, Glasnevin, Dublin 9.
A sacristan arranges the liturgical books, vestments, and other items necessary in the celebration of Mass.
Brendan had been sacristan for eight years at St Columba’s and, before that, an altar boy. News reports described him as ‘quiet and shy’.
On the afternoon of his death Brendan had been checking the baptismal register for Philip Cairns’ name, according to then parish priest Monsignor Tom Fehily.
Monsignor Fehily was the curate in charge of Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1979.
He was also well known for his work with Travellers. In 1975 he was instrumental in founding Trudder House, a refuge for Traveller children, in Newtownmountkennedy, County Wicklow.
Trudder House was eventually closed in 1995 and a Garda investigation commenced into allegations of child sexual abuse dating back to its founding.
The Cairns family and the Houlihans lived close to the church. Brendan lived, with his parents Michael and Bridie, on St Brigid’s Road while the Cairns lived on the parallel St Columba’s Road. The Cairns moved to Rathfarnham in 1978 when Philip was five.
Brendan left St Columba’s church on his bicycle at approximately 8.45pm on Wednesday, November 5, 1986, to deliver letters on behalf of Msgr Fehily to an unnamed family in the parish, according to the Monsignor.
Brendan’s body was discovered at 10am the next day, Thursday, November 6, in the Royal Canal at Cross Guns Bridge, Phibsborough, about two minutes’ cycle from his home.
Brendan had been beaten, stripped naked and gagged. His shirt was tied into a granny knot and placed in his mouth before he was thrown into the canal.
His body was discovered by businessman Des Kelly, of Des Kelly Carpets, according to reports in the Irish Independent and the Irish Press.
However during the eventual trial it was stated that the body was found by CIE workers while the inquest was told Brendan was discovered by gardaí with no mention of Mr Kelly.
In the afternoon, following the discovery of Brendan’s body, two brothers, John and Declan Kenna were arrested on a bus in Parnell Square, Dublin 1 for drunken behaviour.
A Garda detective later reportedly noticed one of the brothers wearing an anorak similar to that worn by Brendan when he was last seen.
That evening, at a special sitting of the District Court in the Bridewell prison John Kenna, aged 23, and Declan, aged 16, were charged with the murder of Brendan Houlihan.
Unusually, despite the savagery of the attack, both were freed on bail.
Then, in October, 1987, the murder trial at the Central Criminal Court before Justice Donal Barrington was stopped when Kevin Haugh SC, acting for the prosecution, told the court that the DPP had agreed to drop the charge of murder against John Kenna, who would instead plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Declan Kenna would be only charged for the robbery of clothing and a watch.
The law of manslaughter then and now – as defined by the Law Reform Commission in their Report on Homicide (2008) – recognises two types of manslaughter.
The first is voluntary manslaughter, where there is an intention to kill but the accused is either provoked or acting in self-defence.
The second is where there is no intention to kill on the part of the accused, but they have caused the death of another person as a result of a criminal act carrying with it the risk of bodily harm or in circumstances where they were grossly negligent as to that person’s life.
No evidence was put to the court that either of the Kennas were acting in self-defence. Nor was there any evidence proffered that their attack had been provoked in any way by Brendan Houlihan.
On the contrary, Mr Haugh informed the court that the brothers set upon Brendan as he cycled along the banks of the canal. They had drunk a ‘gallon of cider’ and demanded money from the sacristan.
In circumstances where the accused, no matter how drunk, had first badly beaten up a man and then thrown him into the canal gagged, it is hard to see how it could be argued that they did not have intention to kill.
Plea-bargaining is not a feature of Irish law and why it appears to have been engaged in in this case is as hard to understand as the apparently motiveless attack on Brendan Houlihan.
John Kenna was jailed for 10 years while Declan Kenna was jailed for three years on the robbery charge.
Pics: Irish Independent archive; Google maps
Previously: Philip Cairns And A Trail of Disinformation
Below is a detailed timeline before and after the death of Brendan Houlihan. We will correct any errors/omissions.
November 7, 1986: It’s reported that a ‘full-scale murder hunt’ is under way in Dublin following the death of 26-year-old Brendan Houlihan whose body was found partially clothed in the Royal Canal at around 10am on November 6.
Wearing just underpants and a shirt, Mr Houlihan, of St Brigid’s Road Lower in Drumcondra, had a shirt sleeve stuffed in his mouth when he was found by Des Kelly, of Des Kelly Carpets. His dark grey trousers and black leather jacket are reportedly missing.
It’s reported that he “was last seen alive around 10pm on Wednesday as he walked his bicycle near Crossguns Bridge, Phibsboro – only a short distance from where he was found”.
Elsewhere, it’s reported that Mr Houlihan “locked up the church around 9pm on Wednesday and went to deliver some church letters.”
Brendan didn’t have any money on him and the only items in his possession were the letters that he was delivering for the parish priest of St Columba’s Church, Iona Road, Monsignor Tom Fehily. These were reportedly found floating on the water around his body.
It’s reported that Mr Houlihan had attended evening mass on the night he died, but no time for the mass is given. It’s also said that he didn’t reach his destination before he died.
It’s also reported that Mr Houlihan’s parents called Monsignor Fehily at 1am on the morning of November 7 after he failed to return. Elsewhere it’s reported that after Mr Houlihan’s parents contacted the gardaí, a search of the area was carried out.
Mr Houlihan – the son of Michael and Bridie Houlihan and brother to Margaret, aged 22 – is described as a “gentle young man to whom the church was his whole life”.
Monsignor Fehily is quoted as saying:
“Nobody can remember him ever being unhappy. Today even children called here, hysterical. People are absolutely devastated. I have never seen such widespread grief and shock.”
November 8, 1986: It’s reported that John Kenna, aged 23, is charged at a special sitting of the District Court, in the Bridewell with the murder of Mr Houlihan.
November 13, 1986: John Kenna appears in Dublin District Court and is remanded to the Dublin Juvenile Court on November 17. It’s reported that he is charged with murdering Mr Houlihan between 7pm on November 5 and 10am on November 6. It’s further reported that John’s younger brother is also charged with the murder and will also appear in court on November 17.
November 22, 1986: It’s reported that, in the High Court in Dublin, a 16-year-old youth charged with Mr Houlihan’s murder is granted bail of 1,000 pounds, or two independent sureties of 500 pounds each.. John Kenna is freed on bail of 10,000 pounds.
December 6, 1986: A notice appears in the Irish Press in which the parents and sister of Mr Houlihan thanks those who shared in their loss. They extend special thanks to the Archbishop of Dublin Dr Kevin McNamara, his coadjutor bishops and Monsignor Fehily. The pupils of Iona Road School, who formed a guard of honour at Mr Houlihan’s funeral, the staff of CIE, the Gardaí and members of Dáil Éireann are also thanked.
October 20, 1987: It’s reported that the murder trial that was due to take place in the Central Criminal Court “came to an abrupt end when the State accepted a plea of manslaughter from one of two brothers accused of the murder of a sacristan [Brendan Houlihan].”
John Kenna, now described as 18, plead guilty to the manslaughter of Mr Houlihan before Mr Justice Donal Barrington and State prosecutor Mr Kevin Haugh, SC, told the court that, in accepting John Kenna’s plea, the State was entering a nolle prosequi [essentially dropping the charge of murder] against his brother Declan Kenna, aged 23.
It’s further reported that two brothers pleaded guilty to “the robbery of an anorak, a pair of trousers, a jumper, a pair of shows and a watch from Mr Houlihan on the same date.”
The two brothers are remanded in custody for sentencing.
October 21, 1987: It’s reported that John Kenna, now described as 24, is jailed for 10 years and given a concurrent four-year prison sentence for stealing Mr Houlihan’s clothes and watch. Declan Kenna, reported now as being 17, is jailed for three years after pleading guilty to robbery.
The Central Criminal Court hears Mr Houlihan was cycling along the banks of the Royal Canal when the Kenna brothers “who had consumed almost a gallon of cider and were drinking on the canal banks asked him for money”.
Mr Kevin Haugh SC told the court that John Kenna stripped Mr Houlihan of his clothes and used his shirt to gag him.
Superintendant Patrick MaGuinn, of Fitzgibbon Street, told the court that State Pathologist Dr John Harbison found “large areas of extensive bruising over all areas of Mr Houlihan’s body. He had suffered serious blows to the head and had six fractured ribs.” In addition “there were signs of asphyxiation and drowning and it appeared Mr Houlihan was in the process of asphyxiating when he was thrown or fell into the canal”.
While reportedly sentencing John Kenna, Justice Barrington says, “It is to say the least distressing that an innocent citizen could be going along the canal and meet somebody like you maddened by cider savagery.”
It’s further noted, “The judge told Declan Kenna that he had taken into account the fact that he was only 16 at the time of the attack and that his role had been minor.”
The court also hears that CIE workers found Mr Houlihan’s body.
December 4, 1986: An inquest into Mr Houlihan’s death, before Dr P.J.Bofin, hears that Mr Houlihan was found by gardaí and that “a granny knot in the shirt had been tied round his head and stuffed in his mouth. He had suffered broken ribs and a head injury”.
Dr Bofin recorded a verdict of death due to asphyxia and drowning.
In addition, it’s reported that “The court was told by a Garda that two people had been jailed in connection with the incident – one had been jailed for manslaughter for 10 years and another for four years, on a charge of robbery.”
April 24, 1988: It’s reported that “18-year-old” Declan Kenna who “was serving three years for a combination of offences, including robbery and was due for release next October” escaped from Mountjoy Prison on the night of April 23 during a prison officers’ strike.
It’s reported that he was carrying army identification at the time and that he must have had to produce the identification he was carrying at least twice before he got out of the prison. he is arrested later that day at his family home in Ballyfermot.
April 20, 1990: It’s reported that Declan Kenna, reported to be in this twenties, has been stabbed in the face with a kitchen knife after a row at his home on Cremona Road in Ballyfermot. Unnamed “local gardaí”, who were reportedly “earlier called to a disturbance at the house” are quoted as saying, “A bitter feud was behind the incident. Mr Kenna lost a lot of blood and was quickly taken to St James’s Hospital”.
Pic via Irish Independent archive
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; Court transcripts; Irish Newspaper Archives
From top: Philip Cairns, Angela Copley, Paul Williams and retired detective Gerry O’Carroll
The investigation into the 1986 disappearance of Philip Cairns has been marred by contradictions, confusion and misrepresentation.
Not least in the past 24 hours.
The information provided by unnamed Gardai sources on June 10 to RTÉ and the Irish Independent to date may be summarised follows.
A woman was ‘in a car’ with Eamon Cooke either ‘on the day of’ Philip’s disappearance or ‘in or around the time of’ his diappearance. It is not stated that Philip was also in the car.
It is however stated that Philip was in Cooke’s Radio Dublin studio on a day which appears to have been the same day the woman was in Cooke’s car. Although not stated, this must have been his studio at Inchicore Road, as this was the place Radio Dublin was operating from in 1986.
The woman says she saw Philip unconscious and bleeding in the studio. She believes that this was after being hit with a blunt implement.
The woman was not in the room at the time Philip was hit and only saw the aftermath. It is then stated that the woman fainted and then when she woke up she was in a car being driven by Cooke. It is not stated if Philip or his body was also in the car.
Nor is it stated how Philip got to the studio in the first place.
It is further stated that the woman made a formal statement to Gardai in May 2016. It has more recently been stated that the woman originally came forward to Gardai in 2011 at the time of the anniversary appeal but did not make a statement until later.
Eamon Cooke died in a hospice on June 4, 2016. It is stated that Gardai interviewed him in the hospice on at least two occasions before his death.
It appears that these interviews took place after the May statement. It is not explained why Cooke – who was under palliative care at the time of the interviews, which took place shortly before his death – was not interviewed before, if the information in the May statement had – as indicated above – been communicated in some form to Gardai in 2011.
It was originally stated that Cooke corroborated or confirmed ‘some aspects’ of the statement but had not disclosed the location of Philip’s body.
It was subsequently stated that Cooke had denied killing Philip. It was however stated that he admitted knowing Philip.
However in another report – by UTV – Alice Cairns is specifically quoted as saying that Cooke admitted knowing Philip in one interview, but denied it in another.
Nonetheless gardai – as reported by RTE yesterday – continue to contend that Cooke knew Philip
They qualified this however by saying ‘in the sense of inviting children to visit his radio station’.
The use of the term ‘children’ makes it unclear whether the invitation allegedly issued by Cooke to Philip was a general invitation to a number of children or an invitation to Philip specifically.
There are also reports of the Gardai in 2011 having been made aware of a paedophile ring in a pub in which Cooke and paedophile priest Fr Bill Carney was involved.
It is not clear whether or not the woman who made the May statement was also the informant in relation to this ring. It is not stated in reports where the pub was located. The ring in the pub was described as an ‘open secret’ although it is also stated that the pub owner was unaware of it.
It is not stated how Philip would have come to the attention of this ring.
Although he subsequently moved to Clondalkin, Eamonn Cooke had been born and brought up in Glasnevin, subsequently lived in Inchicore, and was still living there at the time of Philip’s disappearance. The Radio Dublin offices where Cooke worked were in his home in Inchicore.
According to the Murphy Report, Fr Carney had been receiving treatment for paedophilia for some years prior to Philip’s death.
Although he had been released from the treatment facility and was serving again in a Dublin parish at the time of Philip’s disappearance, this was only a recent appointment and it was not Philip’s parish.
The Murphy Report found that Fr Carney took local children swimming, organised regular outings for children and worked with the boy scouts.
It also states he had developed very familiar relationships with a small number of families that had problems and had no father figure, and had holidayed with these families.
Philip was a student at Colaiste Eanna, Rathfarnham. He was a member of the Legion of Mary, a prayer group and the Irish Sea Anglers’ Association. He also according to his mother in one interview ‘swam a bit in the pool’.
The woman who made the allegation against Cooke is described as having been 9 years old at the time of the events alleged. She is also described as having been one of Cooke’s victims, in the sense of having been sexually abused by him.
Today Paul Williams in the Irish Independent further reports that:
“Detectives are also understood to have made progress in tracing another former child victim who, it is alleged, was instructed by Cooke to dump the bag.
This separate development in the investigation came to light when another one of Cooke’s victims divulged the girl’s identity to a community worker who supports sex abuse survivors.”
There is indeed a community worker working with victims of Cooke who has given extensive interviews to the media regarding this story.
She is Angela Copley from Ballyfermot in Dublin, who supports survivors of childhood sex abuse,
Ms Copley was referred to in an article published by Maeve Sheehan and Paul Williams in the Sunday Independent on Sunday June 12, posted at 2.30pm in which Ms Copley is quoted as saying
”This girl rang me. She rang me periodically. She was a victim of Eamon Cooke’s and I was trying to help her get on with her life. During the conversation, she came out with this. She told me that a girl threw Philip Cairns’s school bag in the lane and that Eamon Cooke had given it to her to do it.“
The same day Ms Copley had appeared on the Marian Finucane Radio show. According to our transcript of this show, Ms Copley stated as follows:
“I received a phonecall from a victim of Eamon Cooke, who I have offered support to over the years. And she told me she had had a conversation with a Garda who told her that somebody had come forward and said they were the person who threw the schoolbag into the lane. She named the person to me, I’m not going to name that person.”
When asked by Marian Finucane if the victim she spoke with on the phone in May was the 9-year-old victim mentioned in news reports, Ms Copley explained:
“No, it wasn’t. I have never spoken to the 9-year-old. I know who the 9-year-old is but I have never spoken to her.”
In an interview with Kitty Holland in the Irish Times the following day, Monday June 13,, Ms Copley said that she was in contact with a woman whom Eamon Cooke had abused as a child.
Ms Copley told the Irish Times:
”I have been supporting the woman over the years. I called her to tell her Cooke was in the hospice.” Ms Copley said that she called the woman because “it would be helpful for her “to know he would no longer be a threat”.
Ms Copley says that, during the phone conversation the woman told Ms Copley that
“a Garda had told her someone had come forward to say she had thrown the schoolbag in the lane.”
It is clear from the above that Ms Copley had no personal knowledge of the woman who made the May statement, who to avoid further confusion is referred to here as “Victim 1”.
It is also clear that Ms Copley did have personal knowledge of, and spoke on the phone with, a second victim of Eamon Cooke (“Victim 2”).
It is also clear from Ms Copley’s subsequent interviews in the Irish Times and on the Marian Finucane Show (although not from the initial report in the Sunday Independent) that Victim 2 did not tell Ms Copley that she herself had thrown the schoolbag in the lane or indeed that she knew that anyone else had done so.
What Victim 2 in fact said, according to Ms Copley, was that a Garda had told her that another victim had come forward with information about the schoolbag in the lane.
It is not clear from Ms Copley’s account whether or not the Garda said to Victim 2 that this other victim had herself admitted to having thrown the schoolbag in the lane or whether or not the other victim claimed Victim 2 had done so.
It is also not clear whether the victim who was alleged by the Garda to have come forward with information about the schoolbag was Victim 1 or a third victim of Cooke (Victim 3).
What is however clear is that Victim 2 – the only victim who spoke to Ms Copley – did not say – as reported in the Sunday Independent – that she herself threw the schoolbag in the lane.
Nor was it the case that Ms Copley informed the Gardai that Victim 2 – or any other victim – had told her that they had thrown the schoolbag in the lane.
As set out by Ms Copley in the Irish Times and Marian Finucane interviews, she did indeed approach the Gardai, following this telephone conversation, with her concerns about Cooke.
These concerns, however, were based solely on Cooke’s status as a Dublin paedophile and the fact that – along with many other citizens, some well-known, he had joined in the search for Philip.
Ms Copley in fact specifically complains about a lack of Garda response to her allegations.
The member of Gardai who approached Ms Copley’s informant is not identified. He is however described in one report as a ‘retired Garda’.
One retired detective Inspector Gerry O’Carroll, who previously worked on the Cairns case, has appeared in the media to discuss recent developments.
In an article authored by him in the Irish Independent on June 13, Mr O’Carroll states as follows:
“As a detective who worked on this case, and in light of this compelling new witness evidence and Cooke’s later paedophile convictions, it’s clear that there’s now a strong case that [Cooke] abducted and murdered Philip Cairns.”
However, in another report published in the Irish Times the very same day as his Irish Independent piece, Mr O’Carroll is reported as saying:
“I have serious questions. I don’t for one instance feel all the dots have been joined or that we have yet reached a stage of conclusivity that Eamon Cooke took little Philip… Part of this entire story lacks credibility.
I can’t figure out how this little witness of nine years of age, who was an abused child herself, could have witnessed what went on in the studio without someone seeing.[Radio Dublin] was an extraordinary busy place. How did Philip materialise from Ballyroan Road into the studio in Inchicore?”
UTV News the following day also quotes Mr O’Carroll as saying
“There are gaps that have to be joined up. Until all that happens, I am not satisfied, I cannot be convinced that we have the right man for this crime.”
More as we get it.
Previously: Philip Cairns And A Trail Of Disinformation
An Garda Síochána hold a press conference appealing to the public for any new information about the 1986 disappearance of Philip Cairns.
More as they get it.
5 days on from the new information in the Philip Cairns case and gardai finally hold a press conference.
— Richie Oakley (@roakleyIRL) June 15, 2016
Earlier: Cast A Paul Over The Story
Previously: Philip Cairns And A Trail Of Disinformation
Pic: Michael O’Toole
Paul Reynolds, crime correspondent, RTÉ News
RTÉ News chose to lead on the Philip Cairns case again today.
The station’s Crime Correspondent Paul Reynolds spoke to Áine Lawlor on News at One about ‘new developments’ in the case.
Some may feel these new developments bear similarities to the new developments announced last Friday night by Mr Reynolds.
Ms Lawlor began their discussion by asserting that gardaí had made a link between Philip Cairns and convicted paedophile Eamonn Cooke and then asking if this assertion was a correct one.
A small tay.
Paul Reynolds: “Yeah, they’ve confirmed new lines of enquiry have opened up after the woman came forward. Now, Gardaí were in contact with this woman since the appeal on the 25th anniversary of Philip’s disappearance in October of 2011. Now she was clearly still very traumatised and she was a 9-year-old child at the time. The gardaí kept in contact with her, they reassured her, they worked to build trust with her and they waited until she felt that she could come forward and make a statement.”
“And that happened last month and we know that, in that statement, she told them that convicted paedophile Eamonn Cooke had struck the 13-year-old boy with an implement at the pirate radio station, Radio Dublin in Inchicore. And that she wasn’t in the room at the time but that she’d went in and seen Philip Cairns lying unconscious and bleeding on the floor. That she fainted and when she woke up she was in a car, being driven by Cooke.”
“Now the Gardaí, the woman told the Gardaí that Cooke knew Philip Kerins and had promised to take him to visit the radio station. They still don’t know exactly how Eamonn Cooke got to know the child but at that time, you know, it was apparently a regular occurrence for Eamonn Cooke to visit the radio station, Radio Dublin.”
“And there is a context for all this as anybody who was around at the time will know Áine, I mean broadcasting was a huge interest at the time. People who owned and worked in pirate radio stations were stars. There was huge glamour, fame and celebrity surrounding pirate radio and thousands of people – adults teenagers and children – were fascinated by radio, much as they are by the media today.”
“And many wanted to work in radio. So it wasn’t really unusual for children to be interested in this. And not unusual for Eamonn Cooke to take advantage of that, to abuse children. And when he was questioned on his deathbed about Philip Cairns, by the Gardaií, he refused to tell them directly, or through an intermediary – a solicitor or a priest – where Philip’s remains are but he did, I understand, indicate to the Gardaí that he did know the child.”
Lawlor: “And of course Philip’s mother has spoken about her hopes again. In terms of trying to track him down because this obviously must be a priority for the gardaí is to try to give his family some certainty and closure on this. Are they appealing for more information – do they have further lines of inquiry?”
Reynolds: “Yeah, I mean they did confirm [transmission cuts out briefly before continuing]…this afternoon they’re to give a number of new lines of appeal in relation to specifically other people who may have been at either location. Now the locations are the Ballyroan Road – when Philip was on his way back to school, the place where he’s believed to have disappeared from. And then subsequently, six days later, the laneway where his schoolbag is found. And also they’re seeking information about Eamonn Cooke and his movements at the time. Was he in that area at the time? And also his movements in and around Radio Dublin, the radio station at that time and indeed people who were there and who may have seen children coming and going at the time.”
“Now, specifically as well, now what they will do this afternoon is commend the victim, the victim was only nine years of age at the time and the Gardaí say it’s perfectly understandable that victims of violent, dangerous, serial and recidivist abusers take some time to come forward with information. Many victims only come forward after their abusers have died and can do them no further harm. And Eamonn Cooke was, to many people, a frightening figure, a convicted paedophile who had abused children at that time. So the Gardaí say, as part of this appeal, they want to work and build trust with others who may have information and still might be afraid to come forward.”
Lawlor: “Ok, Paul. Thank you very much indeed for that.”
Listen back here
Yesterday: Philip Cairns And A Trail Of Disinformation
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.
“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