Kerry Babies: Number of DNA samples taken in ‘double figures’

Samples being used to try to identify parents of Baby John, found dead in Cahersiveen

Joanne Hayes:  Under Garda questioning, Ms Hayes signed a statement saying she had killed her baby in the house. Photograph: Peter Thursfield

Joanne Hayes: Under Garda questioning, Ms Hayes signed a statement saying she had killed her baby in the house. Photograph: Peter Thursfield

 

Gardaí reviewing the “Kerry babies” case have uncovered new information and gathered DNA samples from several people living in the south of the county.

The samples are being used to try to identify the parents of Baby John, who was just days old when he was found dead on White Strand, Cahersiveen on April 14th, 1984. He had been stabbed a number of times and the person responsible for the killing was never found.

In January gardaí said they had obtained “a viable DNA profile” of the baby from a sample taken in the course of the original investigation.

This profile did not link the child to Joanne Hayes, the woman wrongly suspected of being the baby’s mother. The force and the Taoiseach issued apologies to Ms Hayes for the stress she had endured as a result of the case.

Supt Flor Murphy, of Killarney Garda station, who is leading the investigation, said DNA samples had been taken from a number of people and the process was continuing. He said the numbers involved were “in the double figures”.

“We are sampling people as a result of the investigation and that process will continue and is continuing,” Supt Murphy said.

Selective sampling

The sampling to determine the parentage of the child is selective and people are being approached as a result of information available to investigators. Others have also come forward in an attempt to rule themselves out.

Supt Walter O’Sullivan, part of the serious crime review team, said gardaí would not be looking outside the Iveragh peninsula in Co Kerry for answers in the case

Analysis of the samples, which have been taken voluntarily, takes a number of weeks and a number of people have so far been deemed not to be linked to the baby. While mass sampling can take place under the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Act, gardaí say this has not been employed in this case.

Supt Walter O’Sullivan, part of the serious crime review team, said gardaí would not be looking outside the Iveragh peninsula in Co Kerry for answers in the case. “The truth lies in south Kerry, in Iveragh,” he said, adding that DNA would be crucial in the case.

Supt Murphy agreed it was possible that one or both of Baby John’s parents may no longer be alive or could have moved from the area. However, he said DNA from relatives, siblings, aunts, uncles and grandparents could pinpoint the boy’s parentage.

Chief Supt Tom Myers, who last Friday updated the county’s Joint Policing Committee on the inquiry, said investigators had interviewed “numerous people” and were acting on material from the original investigation as well as new information.

Pregnant

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 and refused to tell them what had become of the baby. It later emerged that Ms Hayes had given birth on April 13th, 1984 in a field near her family’s home in Abbeydorney to a baby boy who did not survive. His body was placed in a bag and left in an area near her home.

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. However, the force issued an apology for their treatment in the case more than 33 years later.