By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Top detectives who led the Veronica Guerin murder hunt have been assigned to a new investigation into the possibility that a serial killer might have been responsible for the disappearance of a number of women.
The investigation, codenamed "Operation TRACE", is initially concentrating on the cases of six women who went missing since 1993.
A special team has been set up by Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne modeled on the U.S. "cold case" units.
Last month, Byrne said he believed that all six women were dead.
American police forces use cold case units to carry out comprehensive reviews and cross-referencing of unsolved cases using computer programs and psychologists and psychiatrists to profile possible killers.
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The six women who disappeared over the five-year period are American student Annie McCarrick, 26, Fiona Pender, 25, from Tullamore, Jo Jo Dullard, 21, from Kilkenny, Fiona Sinnott, 19, from Wexford, Ciara Breen, 18, from Dundalk and Deirdre Jacob, 18, from Newbridge.
Operation TRACE (Tracing, Reviewing and Collating Evidence), which will be based in Naas, Co. Kildare, will begin by identifying men who have used serious sexual violence against women.
"The investigation will invariably put people like that under the microscope and we will be doing it on a nationwide basis," said Assistant Commissioner Tony Hickey, who is overseeing the investigation.
He said other cases dating back up to 20 years could also be examined. He is optimistic that the new approach will lead to a breakthrough.
"We will be pulling the threads together from various other investigations," he said.