Gardaí search land for remains of missing six-year-old Mary Boyle

Separately officers are carrying out a cold case review of evidence gathered since 1977

Gardaí investigating the disappearance and presumed murder of six-year-old Mary Boyle almost 40 years ago have begun searching a piece of land close to where she was last seen alive near Ballyshannon in Co Donegal.

In recent days gardaí said they were carrying out a cold case review of the evidence gathered since Mary was last seen alive in 1977.

However, the search being undertaken on Friday is part of a local operation and is unrelated to the cold case review, which has been ordered by Garda Headquarters but is yet to commence.

The fresh search now underway had been planned for some time and it coming within days of news of the cold case review is “coincidence”, according to Garda sources.


It is understood some members of the missing girl’s family believe the lands being searched today may contain her remains.

The search will involve digging and draining of the lands if required.

Mary was last seen alive in the afternoon of March 18th, 1977. She was playing outside her grandparent’s home in Cashelard near Ballyshannon when she disappeared.

Mary's twin sister Ann Doherty believes Mary was being sexually abused and was killed by her abuser because he suspected the child was about to reveal the abuse.

There have long been suspicions about the person suspected of being behind Mary’s disappearance and also about a politician who may have protected the suspect using his friendships with senior gardaí to ensure the suspect was not fully investigated.

Ms Doherty alleges that a retired gardai told her the politician rang Ballyshannon Garda station and instructed the Garda to cease treating the man, and any member of his family, as suspects.

Interest in Mary's disappearance has intensified recently following the broadcast of a documentary about her case on Youtube, Mary Boyle The Untold Story by reporter Gemma O'Doherty.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times