Man being questioned about 1977 abduction of Mary Boyle

Gardaí make first arrest in case of Ireland’s longest-missing person

A man being questioned about the abduction and presumed murder of Mary Boyle in 1977 is a convicted serial sex offender due for release from prison early in the new year.

The Donegal man was never a suspect in the disappearance of the six-year-old almost 40 years ago. However, a fresh review of the case that began three years ago has seen him become the first person to be arrested in connection with the disappearance.

Mary disappeared on March 18th, 1977, while on a visit to her grandparents at Cashelard, near Ballyshannon in Co Donegal.

On the day she was last seen alive, she followed her uncle across a peat bog and was told to return home.


However, while the return walk should have only taken a couple of minutes she was never see again.

A massive investigation and search was conducted at the time and there have been further searches since. She is officially Ireland’s longest-missing person.

The man now at the centre of the case was being held at Mullingar Garda station, where he was brought after his arrest in prison at about noon on Tuesday.

He was detained under section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act and can be held without charge for up to 24 hours.

Allowing for the suspension of his questioning overnight, he was due to be released or charged at about 8pm today.

Regarded as a recluse, he grew up in Donegal. While he has in recent years been living in Sligo, gardaí believe he lived in Donegal at the time of Mary’s disappearance and they believe they can place him in the area where she was last seen alive.

While convicted of sexual offences in the courts only in recent years, some of the crimes for which he was convicted span a period from when he was in his mid-teens to his early 20s.

Mary Boyle went missing about two years after the last offence for which he has been convicted was committed.

However, Garda sources say they believe he preyed on other children into the 1980s and beyond.

He has over 30 sexual convictions and beat his victims as well as sexually abusing them, targeting both boys and girls.

Assistant Commissioner Kieran Kenny said while there had been previous reviews of the case, he was hopeful the fresh review by a Garda team based in the force's northern region would now bring the breakthrough the Boyle family had always hoped for.

“We’ve used all of the materials that has been gathered from the initial investigation that happened at the time of the disappearance,” he said.

“Obviously for us to arrest somebody we need to have some evidence to do that. This is a line of inquiry that has led from new evidence that came up in the review.”

When asked if the investigation was close to finding the missing child’s remains, he said: “I would like to think that, but I can’t take it any further than that”.

“Searches have been ongoing as we have felt the need to do the searches.

“Obviously if new evidence arrives that prompts a search to be done, you can take it that the search will be done.”

He said Mary's mother, Ann Boyle, of Belcruit, Kincasslagh, had been kept informed of developments and that members of the force were supporting her and other family members at this time.

“They have lived with this for a long number of years but every time it surfaces unfortunately . . . it probably causes trauma for them.”

The review team has conducted a large number of interviews and re-examined statements given by people at the time Mary vanished.

A number of searches and excavations have also taken place, some with the help of forensic and geology experts.

Mr Kenny, who is in charge of policing in the Northern Region, said the investigation was ongoing and was dependent on assistance from the public.

“We are appealing for anyone with any information on the circumstances around Mary’s disappearance to contact us,” he said.

“Even something that people may have thought was insignificant at the time could help us advance the continuing investigation.”