Alice Cairns: ‘I wonder what Philip would be doing now’

Mother of boy who disappeared says she only recently accepted he will not be coming back

Philip Cairns who disappeared on October 29th, 1986.

Philip Cairns who disappeared on October 29th, 1986.


The mother of Philip Cairns, the schoolboy who disappeared 30 years ago, has said she only recently accepted he will not be coming back.

Gardaí investigating the case said on Wednesday that the boy’s schoolbag may be key to solving the disappearance. Late DJ Eamon Cooke is suspected of killing the 13-year-old in 1986.

Alice Cairns on Thursday said she wants to know where her boy is, “to give him a Christian burial, to put and end to it”.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Ms Cairns said she only started to accept in the last year or two, since her husband Philip died, that her son would not be coming back.

She recalled that on the day her boy went missing, October 23rd 1986, she returned home to Rathfarnam in Dublin at 6.30pm. Philip ate lunch at home that day but hadn’t made it back to school afterwards.

“I went to his friends’ houses, they said he didn’t come home with them,” Ms Cairns said. “My husband was not too fussed at first. He thought he was just delayed, it wasn’t until later that he became worried.”

She said she was hopeful Philip would return after his school bag was found in a laneway six day later.

“It’s only in the last year or two that I have come to terms that he won’t be coming back,” she added. “It was all the time on my mind. For a long time we didn’t talk about him, it was too painful. Life had to go on with five other children.

“I always hoped to hear from someone somewhere. My husband was always waiting and hoping and gave up much quicker than I did. But he held out hope for years.

“Philip was quiet, he never gave any trouble. He had a good sense of humour, he played football. He was a normal little boy. He had made his confirmation just months before. A lot of people recognise him from that photograph. It’s on my phone.”

Ms Cairns said her son was delighted to have been in secondary school but that he was robbed of his future and his family was robbed of him. She added that she does not think too much about the person who took him, she could waste her life doing that.

“I just focus on Philip. I wonder what he’d be doing now,” she said. “It’s very hard to know how there can be a happy ending.”