Gardai hold young man after killing of child

 

A young man remained in Garda custody in Drogheda last night as an investigation continued into the brutal murder of a baby in the Co Louth town.

The body of 18-month-old Jack Brennan was recovered early yesterday from a disused quarry some 300 yards from his home at Marsh Road. He was wearing pyjamas and was lying face down in about 5 ft of water, with a rope tied round his neck and fastened to a brick.

The child's body was taken from the quarry by members of the Drogheda River Rescue Service. It was brought to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, where a post-mortem was being carried out last night by the Deputy State Pathologist, Dr Marie Cassidy.

The preliminary post-mortem findings indicate the boy had been strangled and was dead before he was put into the water, according to gardai. The child had been put to bed at 7.30 p.m. on Tuesday night and checked again by his mother, Ms Barbara Brennan, at 10 p.m. He was reported missing at 11 a.m. yesterday, and his body found at 11.30 a.m.

Local gardai have appealed for information from anybody who saw a young male pushing a buggy along that stretch of road between 10 p.m. on Tuesday and 2 a.m. on Wednesday.

Ms Brennan (21) and her mother Patty, who also lives in the house, were being comforted by friends and neighbours. A Garda spokesman said both were "very traumatised" and had appealed for the media to respect their privacy.

The arrest was made at about 1.30 p.m. The 18-year-old local man was initially held for six hours, but the period of detention was later extended.

Garda forensic experts examined the scene of the discovery, at the rear of a timber yard and beneath the viaduct which carries the Dublin-Belfast railway line across the Boyne, until nightfall. The operation will continue today.

A large area, including the timber yard and an end-of-terrace garden on Marsh Road through which the site could be accessed, was cordoned off overnight. A garda also patrolled the railway line near the viaduct, just a few yards north of Drogheda station.

However, the quarry is not visible from the road, and most passers-by would be unaware of its existence. One local woman said it was a "very dangerous place," from which children would be told to stay away.

People in the area, including gardai, were in deep shock. Insp Simon O'Connor of the Garda Press Office said the case was "the worst they've ever seen". A local woman, Mrs Mary O'Reilly, said: "We're all in shock. It's an awful thing to happen, God help us. The poor mother and father must be in an awful way."

A neighbour, Ms Rita Fagan, said she had occasionally looked after the baby, who was "brilliant . . . a great little chap". Another woman who did not give her name asked: "Why would anybody do that to a child? You'd rather give it away than see that happen, God be good to it."