Sister of missing Philip Cairns criticises online campaign

Sandra Cairns says misleading information could hamper Garda investigation

Sandra Cairns, sister of Philip Cairns, who disappeared more than 30 years ago, speaking at Farmleigh House during a ceremony marking Missing Persons Day. Photograph: Alan Betson

Sandra Cairns, sister of Philip Cairns, who disappeared more than 30 years ago, speaking at Farmleigh House during a ceremony marking Missing Persons Day. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The disappearance of Dublin schoolboy Philip Cairns more than 30 years ago remains among the best known missing persons cases in Ireland.

Philip was last seen by his family when he left home to return to school after lunch on October 23rd, 1986. Many theories have since been aired about the 13-year-old's disappearance.

His sister Sandra Cairns said Philip vanished at a time when he was making a transition from childhood to adolescence.

“[He] was showing more interest in things that matter to teenagers like music, his clothes, and having a cooler hairstyle,” she said on Wednesday at an event marking Missing Persons Day.

Ms Cairns said the family has never given up on finding Philip and are grateful for the help and support provided over the last three decades.

Undesired attention

However, she said the case has, in recent times, received some undesired attention on social media which they family finds “deeply distressing”.

“Individuals who don’t know Philip or my family have tried to establish themselves as an authority on every aspect of his life,” she said.

She said a “sinister narrative” had been created about Philip being a “distressed, vulnerable loner” but that she remembers him as a “kind and thoughtful child”.

Ms Cairns said the misinformation may give a false impression about the case and dissuade some people who might have useful information from disclosing it to gardaí, which could then be “lost forever”.

She feared it could place “undue emphasis on theories which have no basis in fact, and deflect attention from the legitimate ongoing investigation being undertaken by the gardaí over the last 30 years”.