Man held over disappearance of Mary Boyle (6) in 1977

Mother says she lives with the hope that missing child is still alive

The mother of Mary Boyle, the Donegal girl who went missing in 1977 when she was six-years-old, said she has never given up hope the daughter she last saw nearly 40 years ago might still be alive.

Ann Boyle told The Irish Times she was informed by gardaí in recent weeks that they were preparing to arrest a new chief suspect, the first ever arrest in the case.

The suspect was arrested yesterday in prison, where he is serving a sentence for sex offences. He grew up in Donegal and was living there when Mary disappeared.

“I live with the hope that she is alive,” Ms Boyle said. “After all, not a ribbon or anything else was found belonging to Mary, so she could still be alive.


“If she is dead, then I just want her back to give her a Christian burial. That is all I want in my life now. I pray every day, and that’s the only thing that gets me through it.”

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

Speaking from her home in Belcruit, Kincasslagh, Mary’s mother said her hopes of a major breakthrough in the case would be shared by her husband Charlie if he were still alive. Mr Boyle drowned in a fishing accident in 2005, aged 62 years.

“Charlie was my rock and he helped me get through everything after Mary went missing,” she said.

“I just hope we can find an end to this now. It’s all that he ever wanted.”

The suspect was arrested yesterday at about noon when he was taken from a prison outside Dublin and brought to Mullingar Garda station for questioning, where he was still being held last night.

He had never been a suspect before now. However, he became a suspect for Mary’s disappearance and presumed murder after his conviction for the crimes that he is serving a prison term for, which were committed in Donegal and were historical.

Investigations since a review of the case that began three years ago also yielded fresh information that underlined his status as the new chief suspect and resulted in his arrest yesterday.

“The gardaí have always been very kind and courteous to me,” Ms Boyle said. “They telephoned me this morning to tell me they were about to arrest him.”

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times