Remains of Kilkenny mother murdered more than 30 years ago exhumed today

Marie Tierney was strangled and her body dumped in a ditch in 1984


The remains of a mother-of-two who was brutally murdered more than 30 years ago are being exhumed from a graveyard in Co Kilkenny this morning as detectives gather the final pieces of evidence in their investigation.

The graveside exhumation of the remains of the murdered mother-of-two Marie Tierney is taking place at Conahy graveyard.

Gardaí began work at 6am and Ms Tierney’s remains were expected to be examined onsite. It is hoped that new scientific developments will allow officers gather evidence.

New witnesses have also come forward during the cold case investigation, which started in November 2017, when gardaí made a fresh appeal for information.

The exhumation of bodies involves a complex application process, and is only allowed in the rarest of circumstances.

The body of Marie Tierney was found on December 21st, 1984. Photograph: Garda Press Office
The body of Marie Tierney was found on December 21st, 1984. Photograph: Garda Press Office

Investigating gardaí had to apply to Kilkenny County Council for a licence for the process and a Ministerial Order was also required. It was granted by the Department of Justice.

The law requires that the exhumation be carried out “with due care and decency, and in such a manner as not to endanger public health”.

An environmental protection officer from the local council must be present to supervise the process.

A special coffin, lined with zinc, known as a “shell” is then used to transport the remains.

A forensic anthropologist, State pathologist, gardaí from the Technical Bureau and a forensic scientist from Forensic Ireland Limited all attended the exhumation.

The exhumed body must be reburied or cremated within 48 hours.

As part of the investigation over 300 lines of enquiry have been examined and 200 people have been interviewed. House-to-house enquires have taken place in a number of areas including the Bleach Road, Conahy, the Ballyragget Road, Lovers’ Lane and Old Newpark and Newpark.

Inspector Liam Connolly is heading the investigation and is continuing to liaise with the Tierney and Bourke families. Ms Tierney’s maiden name was Bourke.

Chief Superintendent Dominic Hayes has outlined how every necessary resource has been deployed in the investigation.

“It is incumbent on us that we put a huge effort into solving this murder for Marie’s family. I have no doubt that we will have a successful outcome,” he said.

Ms Tierney was reported missing by her husband Jim Tierney on October 22nd, 1984. He told gardaí that she left her home at Clinstown, Jenkinstown at approximately 10.30pm on October 21st, 1984 in the family car, a Renault 18. The car was located at Newpark Fen the following day.

On December 21st, 1984 her body was spotted in a ditch by a man who had been walking on the Bleach Road on the outskirts of Kilkenny City. She had been violently strangled.

Marie’s siblings, Breda Fay and John Bourke, have pleaded with her killer “to do the right thing” and “hand yourself in”.

“We strongly believe that her murderer is alive. You know who you are and we are asking you to please come forward.

“Hand yourself in for the sake of her children, her grandchildren and all her family. We need justice for Marie,” they said.

Anyone with information can contact Kilkenny Garda station on 056 - 7775000 or the Garda Confidential Line 1800-666111.