Gardaí issue fresh appeal in Elaine O’Hara case

Anyone who met, spoke to or engaged with dead woman between August 22nd and August 24th 2012 asked to make contact with gardaí

Gardaí renewed their appeal this evening for anyone who met, spoke to or engaged with Elaine O’Hara between August 22nd and August 24th 2012 or who saw her turquoise 05 D Fiat Punto to contact their incident room at Blackrock garda station on 01 666 5200.

On the day she went missing, Ms O’Hara was wearing navy tracksuit bottoms, white runners and a bright blue zip-up top.

Gardaí said Ms O’Hara was a childcare assistant and a trusted person. She worked part-time at a newsagents in Blackrock Shopping Centre where she was described as a very popular employee. On the day she went missing, she had volunteered to work at the Tall Ships Festival in Dublin city centre.

Elaine’s father reported her missing on the Friday 24th August 2012. She was last seen leaving her home at Belarmine Plaza, Stepaside at approximately 5.05pm on Wednesday 22nd August 2012.

A reported sighting of Ms O’Hara placed her close to the footbridge that crosses the railway at Shanganagh Park, Shankill at approximately 6.15pm on that Wednesday.

Her car was located by gardaí at Shanganagh Cemetery at 3pm on Friday 24th August.

Earlier, detectives investigating the presumed murder of Ms O’ Hara have not ruled out the possibility that her death is linked to a string of high profile cases in the 1990s where young women disappeared and are presumed killed.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has warned women using internet dating services to exercise caution, with one line of inquiry in the O'Hara case focused on whether she met a man during online dating and was killed by him.

"Like every other facility the internet is a marvellous creation," Mr Callinan said at a cross border crime summit in Dundalk, Co Louth today.

“But I think it is important that people are careful about who they communicate with. The advice I would give would be the advice any police officer would give; to know who you are dealing with, know the circumstances surrounding the business you’re dealing with and to exercise reasonable caution and care, as in every other facet of life.”

He made his comments after The Irish Times this morning revealed the online dating link to the O'Hara case.

Mr Callinan said he had seen media reports on the fact that handcuffs and restraints used for sexual activity had been found with Ms O’Hara’s personal items including her phone and work keys. “I am not so sure how helpful it is,” he said of the coverage.

“It is the case that in this particular area it brings back all of the entities involved in Operation Trace. For the moment it is far too early to speculate how Elaine met her demise.”

Operation Trace was established in the late 1990s under then assistant commissioner Tony Hickey to examine if there were any links between a string of cases in which young women disappeared from various locations in Leinster in the 1990s. The women are all assumed to be dead and include; Annie McCarrick, Jo Jo Dullard, Deirdre Jacob, Fiona Pender, Fiona Sinnott and others.

The fact those Garda members who have worked on Operation Trace, as well as members of the Cold Case Unit, are involved in the O’Hara investigation will give rise to fresh hopes among the families of the women missing since the 1990s that a fresh impetus will now brought into the investigation of those cases.

It will also give rise to hopes that the O’Hara case will be solved and if her killer was caught, he may be linked to some of the historical cases.

One Garda source said while it was far too early to say what may have happened to Elaine O'Hara, the discovery of her personal items in Vartry reservoir near Roundwood, Co Wicklow, last Wednesday and then the chance discovery of her partial skeletal remains in Killakee Mountain, Rathfarnham, south Co Dublin, last Friday were an "amazing coincidence".

“Sometimes investigations need that little bit of luck to unlock things from the past,” the source said.