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New Garda team to probe possible serial murders

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — A U.S.-style special team of Gardai is being set up to bring a new approach to a wide-ranging review of cases files of women who have gone missing and are believed to have been murdered.

There has been speculation that a serial killer may have been responsible for the disappearances over the last 20 years.

The new group will be similar to the "cold case" units in American police forces and they will be using special computer programs that cross-reference cases in search of similarities. Computer systems of this kind used by police in Britain, Canada and America are being considered.

The unit will initially be looking at the cases of six women who have vanished since 1993.

It is hoped that the review will give a new boost to the investigations and lead to a breakthrough when fresh eyes examine all the paperwork and re-check the evidence.

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Initially up to 10 experienced detectives will be assigned to the probe, which is a radical departure for the force.

In all cases the women have vanished without trace and no body has been found. At this stage there is no evidence of a link between the disappearances.

The initiative was announced by Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne, who said a senior officer at the rank of deputy or assistant commissioner will head the unit.

Byrne said Gardai involved in the past in these investigations had worked together and coordinated their analysis to see if there is a common thread.

"If we got a common thread it would be a great help to us, but there is not," Byrne said. "We are not ruling out anything. There have been suggestions of a serial killers and at this stage we have absolutely no evidence to suggest a serial killer or killers is involved — but that it not something we are ruling out either."

The move has been welcomed by John McCarrick, father of 26-year-old Annie, an American student who vanished after apparently visiting the Wicklow Mountains in March 1993. Her case will be one of the ones revisited.

The New York-based McCarrick, a former policeman, has been employing a private detective in an effort to solve his daughter’s disappearance but has made no progress. He now believes she is dead.

"I think when you have this number of people missing, that you can assume there has been a crime committed," McCarrick said.

He would like to have seen a computerized comparison of the events that led to the disappearance of the women and the use of outside experts, like psychologists and psychiatrists, who might have profiled who could have been responsible.

The other missing-person cases to be probed include student teacher Deirdre Jacob, 18, from Newbridge, Co. Kildare, who was last seen on July 28 when she was walking home after sending a money order; Jo Jo Dullard, 21, who was hitchhiking home to Callan, Co. Kilkenny, on Nov. 9, 1995 when she went missing; Fiona Pender, 25, who was seven months pregnant when she went missing from her home outside Tullamore, Co. Offaly, in August 1996; Ciara Breen, 18, of Dundalk, who was last seen in the town on Feb. 12, 1997, and Fiona Sinnott, 19, of Lady’s Island, Wexford, who hasn’t been seen since she left a local pub last Feb. 8.

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