Gardaí have secured a no-fly zone restriction over the woodland area in Co Cork where they are searching for the remains of Tina Satchwell, who is missing and feared dead.
The no-fly zone has been granted by the Irish Aviation Authority and is aimed at preventing drones being flown over the site to take photographs or record video of the Garda search team at work near Castlemartyr.
It restricts the flying of all aircraft in the area and will remain in place until 10pm on March 20th, which is the anniversary of the last reported sighting of Ms Satchwell (45).
Her husband, Richard, returned to their home on Grattan Street in Youghal from a shopping trip to Dungarvan and found she had left the house. He contacted gardaí four days later to report her missing.
Mr Satchwell last night told RTÉ's Prime Time that he "honestly, truly" believes his wife will be found alive.
I say it to Tina's family's and friends that maybe I should have gone to the doctor myself to say what I was feeling about the way she was
“She knew she was depressed. I think she went away to go sort her own feelings out to be honest,” he said.
Mr Satchwell said he did not believe his wife had ever visited the area that is being searched, which is close to their home.
“Tina is just not a trusting person so I know for a fact she wouldn’t walk in any strange woods without me so there’s no way she would go there,” he said. “It makes no sense at all because I know Tina. I just know, I can vouch for this as much as I’m sitting here, she would not go near the woods.”
Person of interest
New information about the movements of a person of interest in the investigation led to the current search. Sightings were reported to the Garda of the person at Mitchel’s Wood in Bridgetstown around the time of her disappearance.
Some members of the public did not come forward with this information until earlier this year and it appears they did not regarded what they had seen as significant until a recent public appeal.
Mr Satchwell said he and his wife would only know Castlemartyr from passing through it or visiting a local shop to do the lottery. “I read a piece about a man being seen with a blonde women in the woods but I have no more official information other than what has been given to press,” he said.
“When these things happen you have two feelings - it’s telling you she is outthere and she is fine, then you get this awful feeling in your stomach.”
Mr Satchwell said he continues to reflect on the four days between his wife leaving their home and him reporting her missing.
“I say it to Tina’s family’s and friends that maybe I should have gone to the doctor myself to say what I was feeling about the way she was. But I have always gone by Tina’s wishes and it was always from the day that we met, was to never let her on anti-depressants,” he said.
Gardaí are carrying out the search of a 40 acre site for any evidence in the case but officers have feared for the safety of Ms Satchwell from the time she went missing. The search now underway is for her remains as much as for any clues in the case. Dogs trained to detect and follow the scent of human remains are part of the search effort including one animal from the UK.
Supt Colm Noonan of Midleton Garda station has reiterated the Garda’s appeal for any information on the missing woman. Investigators have urged anyone who may have seen any suspicious activity in the Mitchel’s Woods area on or around March 20th last to come forward.
Search teams, digging equipment, fencing, portacabins and other facilities such as toilets were prepared in recent weeks to bring onto the site last week.
The substantive search was then set to get underway last Friday but this was Gardaí had been planning to publicly announce the search last Friday but postponed as a result of the snowy conditions.
The search operation is now in its third day and the site has been split into zones of about 20m by 20m, each of which will be cleared by a team of gardaí.
Scanning equipment is also available to the Garda. It can determine if anything was buried recently or if any significant movement of earth had taken place. That kit is capable of detecting historical movements in soil. Members of the Defence Forces engineering corps attached to Collins Barracks in Cork will be involved in that part of the search.
Tarpaulin has been fitted to the fencing put in place to cordon off the search area in order to prevent members of the public and media from seeing into the site, save when the gates are opened when personnel or vehicles enter and exit.