Gardaí to reopen unsolved ‘Kerry babies’ case from 1984

Cold case review to be undertaken into death of baby found on a Cahersiveen beach

Joanne Hayes: charges against her were dropped

Gardaí are to begin a cold case review into the death of a baby whose body was found with multiple stab wounds on White Strand beach in Cahersiveen, Co Kerry, in April 1984.

The person responsible for killing the unidentified infant, named Baby John, was never found. The handling of the Garda murder inquiry 33 years ago led to the establishment of a tribunal into what became known as the “Kerry babies” case.

The review is being conducted by local gardaí in Cahersiveen and will be supported by the Garda Serious Crime Review Team.

The murder of the young child, who died from stab wounds to the heart, was at the time connected by gardaí to Joanne Hayes.


Ms Hayes, who was about 24 at the time, gave birth to a child who did not survive in a field near her family’s farm in Abbeydorney, north Kerry, on April 12th, 1984. The body of the child was placed in a bag in an area near the farm.

Investigating gardaí questioned Ms Hayes and members of the family about the murder of the baby found in Cahersiveen on April 14th, 1984.

Under Garda questioning, Ms Hayes signed a statement saying she had killed her baby in the house. Other members of the family signed statements about dumping the baby’s body in the sea off the Dingle peninsula, which the family later said were made under pressure. Gardaí strenuously denied allegations by the Hayes family that they were coerced into making the statements.

Body located

Requests from Ms Hayes to show gardaí the location where she had dumped the body of her child, which would prove she was not the mother of the baby found on Cahersiveen beach, were refused, and the body was located by family members on her directions.

Blood group findings between the Cahersiveen baby and the married man Ms Hayes had been having a relationship with also did not match. The charges against Ms Hayes were dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

A judicial tribunal was set up to examine the handling of the case, at which the cross-examination of Ms Hayes by legal representatives for the gardaí was criticised as abrasive and deeply personal.

Now gardaí in Cahersiveen are reopening the unsolved case into the murder of Baby John. Gardaí investigating the cold case will make an appeal for information on Tuesday to anyone who lived in Cahersiveen or the nearby areas around the time of April 1984.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times