Gardaí investigating the case of missing Cork woman Tina Satchwell have appealed to anyone who may have witnessed any unusual activity in woods near her home around the time of her disappearance last March to contact them.
Ms Satchwell (45) has been missing from Grattan Street in Youghal since March 20th last. Her husband, Richard, returned from a shopping trip to Dungarvan and found she had left the house and contacted gardaí four days later to report her missing.
Supt Colm Noonan, of Midleton Garda station, who is heading up the investigation, appealed for information as a team from the North Cork Garda Division began an extensive search of about 40 acres of woodland at Mitchel's Wood, Bridgetstown, near Castlemartyr.
Supt Noonan confirmed the search for Ms Satchwell was scheduled to last two to three weeks but he refused to be drawn on what prompted the search.
However, The Irish Times understands gardaí were contacted about a month ago by a witness described as "a credible source".
It is understood that the man reported he had seen another man acting suspiciously in the woodland early one morning around the time that Ms Satchwell disappeared. The man only realised the significance of what he had seen following a recent media appeal for information about the case.
The search operation involves a team of about 16 gardaí equipped with slashhooks and other clearing tools working their way through the area along with a specially trained cadaver dog, which was brought in from the UK.
Two Garda search dogs will join the operation on Tuesday along with members of the Defence Forces engineering corps attached to Collins Barracks in Cork, who will be equipped with special radar equipment which can tell if soil has been disturbed and if digging has taken place.
A Garda source said the search operation was being carried out on a grid basis with those involved combing areas of 20m by 20m for any clues as to what may have happened to Ms Satchwell. The search is being hampered somewhat by the uneven nature of much of the woodland terrain.
It is understood Midleton gardaí obtained advice from consultants who last year assisted the force during a six-week search at a three-acre site in Chapelizod, Dublin, for missing man Trevor Deeley.
Supt Noonan said Mr Satchwell and Ms Satchwell's family, the Dingivans from Fermoy, had been informed of the search operation by Garda liaison officers.
“You will appreciate that this is a very stressful time for them and I would urge that they be afforded privacy at this time,” he said.
Mr Satchwell told TV3 news last night he was shocked to learn about the search but he remained hopeful that his wife was alive.
“What I’m hoping is that Tina is out there and just going to get in touch – I don’t want to go down the road of thinking the other way because I won’t be able to cope,” he said.
“I feel sick and I’ve been in touch with Tina’s family and they’re the same way – we hope it’s not but you’ve always got that feeling. Like I didn’t sleep a wink last night and I’m not going to say I am tonight because the worry is always there.”
Gardaí have put a security cordon around the woods which were closed off from public access with temporary fencing erected by private contractors on Monday. The search will continue on Tuesday.