Deirdre Jacob's parents: ‘When the cold word ‘murder’ came out over the airways. . . It hit us’

Michael and Bernie Jacob appeal for help in solving daughter’s murder

 Deirdre Jacob’s parents,  Michael and Bernadette,   at Naas Garda Station, Co Kildare, during an appeal to the public marking the 20th anniversary of Deirdre’s disappearance. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Deirdre Jacob’s parents, Michael and Bernadette, at Naas Garda Station, Co Kildare, during an appeal to the public marking the 20th anniversary of Deirdre’s disappearance. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Michael and Bernie Jacob have clung to it for 20 years. Hope. There was a chance, even if it was just a slither, that their daughter Deirdre would turn up on their doorstep one day.

They could reach out and embrace her; just to see and touch her again would be heaven.

“It might happen,” they’d say, “there was always a chance.”

On Tuesday morning a little piece of them died. The hope they had desperately clung to was displaced by unforgiving reality.

The Garda had new information about their daughter Deirdre’s case; her disappearance on a country road in Co Kildare 20 years ago.

The detectives were now sure Deirdre had been murdered rather than, for example, chosen to disappear or somehow been killed accidentally and her body never found.

Hearing news of the latest developments hit the Jacob family hard. Even for a family who’ve endured more than most, it was the bitterest pill.

Deirdre Jacob: detectives are now sure Deirdre was murdered. Photograph: Collins
Deirdre Jacob: detectives are now sure Deirdre was murdered. Photograph: Collins

“We were devastated this morning when we heard the announcement that Deirdre’s case was going to be treated as a murder case, even though we were aware it was coming, the gardaí had kept us informed,” Michael told The Irish Times.

“It’s just when the cold word ‘murder’ came out over the airways . . . It hit us. It was heart-wrenching.

“But we are where we are and we have to take it one step at a time. This has gotten the investigation another step along the way.

“And there are people who can help with the next couple of steps. And that’s how we have managed to survive over the years.”

Sacrificing privacy

Michael and Bernie are a quiet couple; the type of people who are uncomfortable in the spotlight.

But they sacrifice their privacy because they want to know what happened to Deirdre. Maybe the next interview they do, maybe this one, will prick a guilty conscience; someone will come forward, and information the gardaí need to solve Deirdre’s case will finally become available.

And how would they feel if that hoped-for breakthrough came to pass?

“It would be very satisfying to us,” Michael said, speaking on the same day the name Deirdre Jacob has dominated the headlines.

“Over the years we’ve always held out a great deal of hope that Deirdre was out there somewhere and would make contact or come back along the way. Now, we still have that little bit of hope; that’s human nature, but . . . ”

Michael doesn’t say it, but the news that gardaí are, for the first time, speaking publicly of Deirdre as a murder victim changes the dynamic for them.

But at least it seems like progress, according to Michael. And even if a really big breakthrough was made, he wonders whether they would ever have all the answers anyway.

“We will always have lots of questions. Even when a lot more becomes known, we will still always have questions. But we will know more.

“From the very early days, we never looked too far down the road. But the investigation has taken a step forward in recent weeks; it is upgraded to a murder case.

“And by the very nature of that the gardaí will have to throw more resources at it.

“Having said that, they’ve already done a lot of work over the last year; they’ve taken the case apart and put it back together.”

Hoax call

Back in 1998 they believed the answers were edging closer only for an apparent breakthrough to be unmasked as a cruel hoax caller.

He had contacted gardaí at a crucial time; just 10 days after Deirdre 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.

The last known images of Deirdre Jacob, who went missing on July 28th, 1998. Photograph: Colin Keegan
The last known images of Deirdre Jacob, who went missing on July 28th, 1998. Photograph: Colin Keegan

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.

As it happened, Deirdre had spent the weekend before she went missing in Carrickmacross with college friends. Michael and Bernie’s hopes were raised very high; the information seemed to fit.

The couple, who have one other daughter aged 14 years when Deirdre vanished, took themselves north and did a leafleting and poster campaign in Monaghan and Fermanagh appealing for information.

For the next five or six months they handed out leaflets at GAA matches in the region. They were urging the caller to make contact again and solve the case.

However, when the caller never came forward, gardaí decided to play one of his calls on RTÉ’s midday news.

And within minutes they had identified him. He was a man who had suffered a family tragedy and was driven, as a result, to impose on the Jacob family.

Michael and Bernie were heartbroken and confused but had to fight on. They hope for a more positive outcome this time.

They made an appeal for information last month on the 20th anniversary of Deirdre’s disappearance. And since then intelligence has emerged that the case was one of murder perpetrated by a named individual, now the chief suspect.

Michael said the new information also suggested other people had for two decades kept vital information to themselves. And he said if that information was shared with gardaí, even through an intermediary, it could unlock the case.

“We’re appealing desperately to whoever has that information; this is a good time for those people to come forward. This is a really good time,” said Michael of the renewed energy in the case.

“Could they give it a little bit of thought? If they were in our situation, wouldn’t they love someone to come forward if it was their child?”