Philip Cairns: Woman who went to gardaí wanted ‘closure’ for family

Retired community worker accompanied ex-wife of paedophile Eamon Cooke to speak to investigators

Philip Cairns was last seen on the Ballyroan Road, Rathfarnham, Dublin on Thursday, October 23rd, 1986. He was aged 13.

Philip Cairns was last seen on the Ballyroan Road, Rathfarnham, Dublin on Thursday, October 23rd, 1986. He was aged 13.


A woman who went to gardaí with information about the case of missing boy Philip Cairns has said she only came forward because she wanted his mother and his family to have closure almost 30 years after his disappearance.

Angela Copley, from Ballyfermot in Dublin, confirmed she had received a phone call in May from a victim of paedophile Eamon Cooke. That woman told her she knew the name of the person who threw the boy’s school bag in a laneway almost a week after he went missing in October 1986.

Gardaí indicated at the weekend they believed they had made a significant breakthrough in the case.

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.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Marian Finucane programme on Sunday, retired community worker Ms Copley said the woman who phoned her told her she “had had a conversation with a garda who told her that somebody had come forward and said they were the person who threw the schoolbag into the lane”.

“She named the person to me. I’m not going to name that person.”

Ms Copley said she told the woman she hoped it was the truth and the woman had said it was.

“I believed the girl. I went and I made a few phone calls.”

It had taken several calls to the Garda confidential line and to other stations before she finally contacted gardaí in Rathfarnham, Ms Copley said.

She had also spoken to Cooke’s former wife. His ex-wife had told her that any time something came on television about the missing boy Philip Cairns, he would always say he had been out looking for him when he went missing.

They had met gardaí and Cooke’s wife “gave them a lot of information”. By that stage, Cooke was already in a hospice in Dublin. He died on June 4th.

“All I wanted them to do was to get up to the hospice and try and get the information to give whatever closure they could to that poor woman (Philip’s mother),” Ms Copley said.

Ms Copley also confirmed the woman who contacted her was not the woman who had been aged nine at the time of Philip Cairns’s disappearance and who had come forward alleging she had seen him with Cooke in a radio studio.

“I know who the nine-year-old is but I have never spoken to her and I feel very, very sorry for that girl because there’s stuff on social media about her this morning. People need to realise that what Eamon Cooke (did) with all his – I don’t call them victims, I call them survivors. He instilled fear into them.”

Ms Copley said she also knew people felt angry about the case.

“We all feel for the Cairns family. The only reason why I made that phone call was I was thinking of Philip Cairns’s mother. I didn’t think it was going to lead to all this. I was hoping there would be some kind of closure and they could find out where he is and give that family some kind of peace.”

The disappearance of the 13-year-old when he left his south Dublin home after lunch on October 23rd, 1986, remains one of the highest profile missing persons cases in the State.