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
Larry Murphy was not in Ireland last year when Elaine O’Hara was killed, and the other man was, and is, in prison. “The case proves there is someone else out there,” says Bernie.
Michael Jacob recently retired from his agricultural-research post at Teagasc, and Bernie from her job as registrar of civil marriages in Co Kildare. They believe they are probably defined in many people’s eyes as “the parents of the missing woman Deirdre Jacob”.
But they also had full careers that they enjoyed. They say that the publicity around interacting with the media comes at a price but that it is part of trying to find out what happened to their daughter.
“You don’t want that. We’re not that kind of a family,” Bernie says of the newspaper coverage. “But our need for the publicity is greater than our need for privacy.”
Some people “will solve the crime for you”, says Michael. “They will have all the solutions; they mean well.” He says they have met the families of the other missing women, but, without a link between his daughter’s case and the other missing women, he believes his daughter’s interests are best served by him and Bernie continuing to try to raise awareness of their family’s plight alone.
Bernie in particular becomes visibly upset several times when she talks about her missing daughter, one of two children. Deirdre’s sister, now 30, was 14 in 1998. July was the 15th anniversary of Deirdre’s disappearance, and the Garda’s cold-case unit organised a media event to appeal for information. The publicity has not stopped since then, and the discovery of Elaine O’Hara’s remains has been a continuation of that.
Michael says that the past week has been hard but that the hardest thing they’ve had to contend with was a hoax caller who first contacted the Garda and the media about 10 days after his daughter disappeared.
Based in Co Fermanagh, the man first called the Leinster Leader newspaper, in Kildare, and then several Garda stations. He said he gave a lift to a girl from Clane village, in Co Kildare, to Carrickmacross, in Co Monaghan. In the calls he made elaborate claims about the route he had taken and where they had stopped off. He appeared to know the entire route well.
For the first time in the conversation Michael sounds despairing and angry. “She was only gone 10 days. The significance of this was that she spent the weekend before she went missing in the Carrickmacross area, with Irish friends of hers from college in England. We got our hopes up that time. We got them up high, very, very high.”
The search in Co Kildare was stopped and the operation diverted to Monaghan and Fermanagh. The Jacobs travelled north based on the information from the hoaxer.
“We did up posters with Deirdre’s photo. We asked on it, ‘Are you the Fermanagh man with information to help us?’ We put them up on lamp posts, in businesses. We went to football matches and handed them out. This went on into December and even January – six months.”
The caller never stepped forward. The family finally pressed to have the tape of his calls released, to identify him. “They played it on the midday news on RTÉ. Within half an hour they had so many calls they knew who he was,” says Michael.
“It was impossible to understand,” says Bernie. “They said he had had a tragedy in his own family, and this is why he had done this. I find it impossible to reconcile that, having gone through a tragedy himself, he would impose one on us.”
A file was sent to the director of public prosecutions, but no charge was pressed. That was the least of the Jacobs’ worries, however. The hoaxer had taken the investigation in the wrong direction. Huge resources had been wasted during the key investigative time just after their daughter’s disappearance. “The call it the golden period,” Michael says.
Deirdre Jacob went missing on a Tuesday. That Thursday and Friday a women answering her description walked into a delicatessen near Tara Street Dart station, on the south bank of the Liffey in the middle of Dublin. The two women who worked there remain convinced it was Deirdre. When they were shown CCTV tapes of her last movements around Newbridge, it only strengthened the women’s view. They recognised a branded bag she was carrying and her distinctive thick eyebrows, a characteristic of Michael’s side of the family.