Gardaí apologise to woman at centre of Kerry babies case

Regret expressed that it took so long to confirm Joanne Hayes is not Baby John’s mother

Joanne Hayes: charges against her were dropped.

Gardaí have apologised to Joanne Hayes for the stress caused by their original flawed investigation into the death of 'Baby John' in Kerry in 1984.

In a statement this afternoon the force said it had established a number of new facts in relation to its investigation into the death of a new-born baby boy whose body was found on a beach in Co Kerry over 30 years ago.

The infant, referred to as 'Baby John' was found with 28 stab wounds including four to the heart on White Strand outside Cahersiveen in South Kerry on April 14th, 1984.

Superintendent Flor Murphy, who is leading the investigation, said “a viable DNA profile has been obtained from samples taken from Baby John in the course of the original investigation”.


It said this “sample has been examined and compared, and as a result of this analysis, we can conclusively state that Joanne Hayes is not the mother of Baby John.”

This finding runs contrary to a theory proposed by Garda investigators at the time who suspected Ms Hayes had given birth to the baby and killed him.

Supt Murphy said it was a "matter of significant regret for An Garda Síochána that it has taken such a long time for it to be confirmed that Ms Hayes is not the mother of Baby John."

“On behalf of An Garda Síochána, I would like to sincerely apologise to Ms Hayes for that, as well as the awful stress and pain she has been put through as a result of the original investigation into this matter, which fell well short of the required standards.

The Garda investigation of the case led to the establishment of the Kerry Babies Tribunal which, Supt Murphy said, rightly criticised many aspects of that investigation. For those failings, I apologise.

“It is accepted that the original investigation fell short of what was required and expected of a professional police service, but I want to reassure the public that this will be a thorough and professional investigation.”

He appealed for anyone living in the Cahersiveen or South Kerry area around April 1984 with information to contact them.

Ms Hayes, then 24, was charged on May 1st, 1984 with the murder of the Cahersiveen baby after gardaí arrested and questioned her.

They did so when they learned she had been pregnant with a near full-term baby which had been born prior to her admission on April 14th, 1984, to Tralee General Hospital.

She had denied to hospital staff that she had had a baby, refused to tell them what had become of the baby who was not at her home.

She also had a child by the reputed father of the dead child, Jeremiah Locke, all of which prompted gardaí to suspect she gave birth to the Cahersiveen baby.


When gardaí questioned Ms Hayes about the murder of the Cahersiveen baby, she signed a statement, saying she had killed the baby in the family home in Abbeydorney while other family members signed statements, saying they had dumped the body in the sea off the Dingle Peninsula.

Ms Hayes had replied “I am guilty” when charged with murder. Her siblings, Ned, Kathleen and Mike and her aunt, Bridie Fuller were charged with endeavouring to conceal the birth of the child by secretly disposing of his body contrary to Section 50 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

But it emerged Ms Hayes had given birth on April 13th, 1984 at her home in Abbeydorney to a baby boy.

The report of the Kerry babies tribunal claimed Joanne Hayes’s baby was born in the family home and that she put her hands on the baby’s throat to stop it crying, as a result of which it died.

This was strenuously denied at the time by the Hayes family through their solicitor, Pat Mann. She later retrieved her baby’s body and decided to hide him in a plastic bag in a pool of water. It was there that gardaí found the baby’s remains on May 2nd, 1984 after her family found the baby’s remains and contacted their solicitor, Pat Mann, who in turn notified gardaí.

Blood tests on the baby found on the Hayes family farm showed it had the same blood type, Type O, as Ms Hayes and Mr Locke but a different blood type to that of the baby found in Cahersiveen, whose blood type was Type A.

When blood tests showed Ms Hayes and Mr Locke could not both be the parents of Baby John, gardaí did not discount Ms Hayes being the mother. They theorised she had become pregnant with twins simultaneously by two different men in a process called heteropanel superfecundation.

However, the DPP directed the murder charge against Ms Hayes and the lesser charges against her siblings and aunt all be dropped. Ms Hayes returned to work in the Tralee Sports Centre where she had first met Jeremiah Locke around 1980.


The Garda investigation of the case led to the establishment of the Kerry Babies Tribunal in late 1984. Chaired by Mr Justice Kevin Lynch, it ran for 77 days in Tralee and Dublin and heard evidence from 109 witnesses including the Hayes family.

The Hayes family alleged they were coerced by gardaí into making false statements of admission but this was strenuously denied by gardaí. Mr Justice Lynch rejected the claims by the Hayes family that they had been intimidated by gardaí into making false confessions.

Confirmation today that Ms Hayes is not the mother of Baby John means gardaí are still searching for his parents.

It is understood gardaí have notified Ms Hayes’s solicitor Pat Mann of the development and he in turn has communicated the news to Ms Hayes. But so far they have made no comment in relation to the confirmation that she was not the mother of the Cahersiveen baby.

The infant was later buried in Cahersiveen at the cemetery on the Waterville Road. His grave has been vandalised a number of times over the years, but gardaí have never been able to establish who was behind the attacks.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times