Missing for 15 years: Deirdre Jacob’s parents wait and hope
Michael and Bernie Jacob, whose daughter disappeared in 1998, say the discovery of Elaine O’Hara’s remains has challenged theories about women who went missing in the 1990s
Deirdre Jacob: disappeared while walking home from the middle of Newbridge, Co Kildare
Missing: the last known image, from CCTV in Newbridge, of Deirdre Jacob
Last Saturday morning in Michael and Bernie Jacob’s house the map came out, as it has done at regular intervals since the couple’s daughter Deirdre, then 18, vanished without trace, a decade and a half ago.
Last weekend the couple had just heard the news that skeletal remains had been found on Killakee Mountain, in Rathfarnham in south Dublin. They wanted to identify the spot on the map for themselves, to look at the distance between it and their house in Newbridge, Co Kildare, where Deirdre Jacob was last seen by a passing motorist as she reached the gate on a July afternoon in 1998.
They looked at the map and made an unspoken calculation. How likely was it for someone to have abducted their daughter from under their noses, killed her and brought her body to that mountainside?
This time the map, and gardaí, told them quickly that the remains were not those of their daughter. They were identified as those of 37-year-old Elaine O’Hara, from Killiney, in south Co Dublin.
“The spot was more the Dublin side of things from where we live, and the gardaí quickly felt the death was much more recent,” says Bernie.
Michael appears relieved that he has come out of this week still able to hope that his daughter could be alive. “At all times you would always hold out the chance that Deirdre took herself off, took herself out of the way for some reason, and that she may decide to return again or make contact. You always hold out for that,” he says.
If those bones were his daughter’s, his hope would have been dead with her. “There’s hope, there’s fear; it’s all there. At different times your thoughts carry you in all directions. When that news came first you would say, ‘Maybe it’s not her.’ Maybe then you feel it could be. Then the news from the gardaí starts to go in one direction . . . It’s a roller coaster of emotions. You’re up and down.”
Both believe the events of the past week cast their daughter’s disappearance in a new light. They clash with the public perception of Deirdre’s case and those of other women whose disappearances were probed for links by the Garda’s Operation Trace in 1998.
“People assumed this lady Elaine O’Hara maybe was depressed, and that was the main element informing people’s theories on what happened to her, how she may have died. But now it turns out that’s not the case,” says Michael.
He believes it proves people shouldn’t believe that the convicted rapist Larry Murphy killed all, or indeed any, of the missing women. Michael says repeated reports promoting one theory, usually based around Murphy’s being a “serial killer”, harm the chances of his daughter’s case being solved.
He believes that when people who might have useful information read these stories they surrender the possibility of having an open mind, that they no longer believe that someone else might have been involved and that their information might be relevant after all.
Murphy and, to a lesser extent, another convicted rapist are the only two candidates who have been named as credible suspects in the disappearances investigated by Operation Trace. They include those of Deirdre Jacob, Annie McCarrick, Jo Jo Dullard, Fiona Sinnott, Fiona Pender, Eva Brennan and Ciara Breen.
Murphy has been linked time and again to the disappearance of Deirdre Jacob, on Tuesday, July 28th, 1998, as she was walking home from the middle of Newbridge, about 1.5km away, where she had gone to get a bank draft to pay for student accommodation in London. She was studying there to be a primary-school teacher.
A theory has gained hold that Murphy, a carpenter by trade, had worked in Deirdre’s grandmother’s newsagent in the town just weeks before she disappeared and most likely first noticed her there. “But Larry Murphy never worked in my mother’s shop,” says Bernie. “We can’t say he never went in and bought a packet of cigarettes or a bar of chocolate, but he never worked there.”
For the Jacobs, Elaine O’Hara’s killing has forced a new reality to the fore: that she was killed by somebody who is not on the Garda radar as a suspect for the disappearances.