An Garda Síochána will begin searching slurry tanks and areas of water lagoons on farmland outside Cork city as part of their investigation into the disappearance of a 47-year-old man whom they fear may have been assaulted and abducted over three weeks ago.
Officers are treating the disappearance of Kieran Quilligan on September 1st as a missing person case but they have established an incident room at the Bridewell Garda station to co-ordinate their investigation. Sources say the case is being given all the resources a murder inquiry gets.
Mr Quilligan, who was originally from Bakers Road in Gurranabraher, was last seen alive on CCTV footage at St Finbarr’s Place, near St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, at around 9.15pm on September 1st, after he left his accommodation at Cork Simon’s Emergency Shelter on Anderson’s Quay at 8.30pm.
Gardaí have traced Mr Quilligan’s movements in the company of another man across the city centre to French’s Quay and Proby’s Quay, where he is seen going up steps but fails to exit at the top, at Fort Street.
CCTV footage from this street and nearby Dean Street have been examined and gardaí are focusing their investigation on whether Mr Quilligan may have been assaulted by a group of men and bundled into a car which left the area on to either Barrack Street or Gilabbey Street.
It’s understood that gardaí are keeping an open mind on a motive for any assault and abduction but one line of inquiry that they are looking at is whether Mr Quilligan, who had a heroin addiction, may have fallen foul of a criminal gang in an attempt to fund his addiction.
During a court appearance in June when he was charged with a break-in at a cafe, Mr Quilligan told the court that he was on a methadone treatment programme but gardaí suspect that he may have still been struggling with a heroin addiction at the time of his disappearance.
Mr Quilligan is in receipt of social welfare and has failed to collect three payments due to him over the past three weeks. He has also failed to keep a number of appointments at a methadone clinic where he used to receive the medication to treat his heroin addiction.
Detectives have spoken to the man who was last seen with Mr Quilligan and have taken a witness statement from him, as well as from staff at Cork Simon who reported him missing on September 4th and from others who are assisting them in their inquiry.
Gardaí have examined hundreds of hours of CCTV footage from the city centre and suburbs, as well as the main arteries out of it, while they have also seized a number of mobile phones for examination and searched a number of houses in the Mahon and Blackrock areas.
On Friday, gardaí from the Cork City Divisional Search team began a search of two farms at Courtown, about 10 kilometres east of the city. The search, involving Irish Coast Guard dogs, continued over the weekend without finding any trace.
Gardaí would only say that the search was based on information that has come into their possession but a team of garda divers are due to get involved over the coming days and will investigate a number of slurry tanks and areas of waters on the two adjacent farms, east of Little Island Industrial Estate.
Gardaí said they have no specific intelligence to suggest that Mr Quilligan may be in these locations on the farms but are searching them as part of a complete sweep of the areas, which have a combined size of over 70 acres.
The entrance to the farmland has been cordoned off to assist them with the search and a family liaison officer has been appointed to meet members of Mr Quilligan’s family, who have maintained a presence at the perimeter of the search area as they wait for news of their loved one.
Meanwhile, gardaí have reiterated their appeal to anyone who has any information on Mr Quilligan to contact Bridewell Garda station on 021-4943330, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111 or any Garda station.