Philip Cairns case: Gardaí open new lines of inquiry

Investigation into 1986 disappearance focused on late paedophile and pirate DJ Eamon Cooke


Gardaí believe they may have made a significant breakthrough in the case of Philip Cairns, the 13-year old boy who went missing in Dublin nearly 30 years ago.

His disappearance on October 23rd, 1986 remains one of the highest profile missing persons cases in the country.

The Garda suspicions are focused on the late Eamon Cooke, a former pirate radio broadcaster who was jailed in 2007 for 10 years for multiple indecent assaults of two young girls.

He died last week in a Dublin hospice at the age of 79 while serving his sentence.

New lines of inquiry were opened by gardaí following the receipt of fresh information shortly before Cooke’s death, a Garda spokesman said.

RTÉ on Friday night reported that detectives spoke to Cooke in the hospice shortly before his death but received only limited responses to their questions. It is believed they received no information to help them to find where the remains of the missing boy might be located.

A Garda spokesman said, in 2011, an appeal marking the 25th anniversary of his disappearance was circulated and yielded a response.

“As a result of this appeal a member of the public came forward and in May of this year gave a statement to the investigating gardaí at Rathfarnham Garda station. Aspects of this statement were corroborated which opened new lines of inquiry,” the spokesman said.

“These lines of inquiry include interviewing people and cross-referencing DNA profiles with those on items recovered as part of this investigation.

“At this point in time these new lines of inquiry have not yielded positive results. However the investigation is very much active and ongoing.”

Gardaí said they were still seeking information from anyone who might know anything which could help them to bring the investigation to a conclusion.

According to RTÉ, the woman who provided information last month told gardaí Cooke may have killed the boy at the studios of the Radio Dublin pirate station in October 1986.

It is understood the Cairns family are being kept informed about the latest developments. His father Phil died in 2014.

Philip was last seen on Ballyroan Road in Rathfarnham on Thursday, October 23rd, 1986. Despite extensive searches in the aftermath of his disappearance, no trace of him was found.

He had left Coláiste Éanna secondary school at 12.45pm and returned to his home on Ballyroan Road for lunch. At 1.30pm, he left his home to return to the school, but never arrived.

His schoolbag was found the following week in a laneway, linking Anne Devlin Road and Anne Devlin Drive, near the school.

Gardaí, along with hundreds of local people and sub-aqua divers, were involved in searching rivers, lakes, forests and the Dublin mountains. There were more than 400 reported sightings of him, all of which were followed up in one of the biggest operations of its kind ever mounted.

In 2009, gardaí carried out another extensive search of a site at Rathfarnham in south Dublin. It was prompted by information received from a Dublin woman who believed the boy had been killed and was buried at the site.

In 2007, the Irish Crimestoppers Trust offered a €10,000 reward for any information that could solve the case.

Cooke was found guilty at a retrial in 2007 at the Central Criminal Court of 42 counts of indecent assault against two girls arising from offences that occurred between May 1974 and May 1978, several years before Philip Cairns disappeared. He had denied the charges.

Cooke had previously been found guilty in 2003 of multiple offences in respect of the same two complainants but his convictions were quashed in 2006 following an appeal.

Last year he was unsuccessful in a bid to have his appeal against his conviction referred to the Supreme Court.