Gardaí urge mother of baby killed in Kerry 37 years ago to come forward

Locals volunteer DNA samples after body of ‘Baby John’ is exhumed in Cahersiveen

The grave of ‘Baby John’ in Holy Cross Cemetery in Cahersiveen, Co Kerry. Photograph: Don MacMonagle

The grave of ‘Baby John’ in Holy Cross Cemetery in Cahersiveen, Co Kerry. Photograph: Don MacMonagle

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Gardaí reviewing the unsolved murder of a baby in Co Kerry 37 years ago have again appealed to the mother to come forward after the victim’s remains were exhumed to gather DNA samples.

They are also asking people to volunteer DNA samples for analysis as they seek to trace the infant’s relatives.

The infant, known as “Baby John” , was found on White Strand beach in Cahersiveen on April 14th, 1984 with 28 stab wounds.

Kerry Chief Supt Eileen Foster said the investigation team, involving up to 15 gardaí from both the Kerry division and the Serious Crime Review Team (SCRT), has obtained a number of DNA samples from members of the public on a voluntary basis.

“DNA is an important consideration in relation to the investigation, and people have been asked and will continue to be asked for samples,” she said.

Gardaí exhumed the remains of “Baby John” at Holy Cross Cemetery in Cahersiveen on Tuesday on foot of a ministerial order. His remains were taken to the morgue at University Hospital Kerry in Tralee where it is understood DNA samples were taken for analysis.

First light

The exhumation, which was begun at first light, was carried out by local gardaí and members of the Garda Technical Bureau with assistance from consultant forensic anthropologist Dr Laureen Buckley. Personnel from Kerry County Council and the HSE were also in attendance.

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Gardaí did not indicate the reason for the exhumation.

However, at the launch of a cold case investigation by the SCRTin 2018, it was stated that gardaí already obtained a full DNA profile.

Det Chief Supt Walter O’Sullivan told a press briefing in January 2018 that Forensic Science Ireland had been able to build a full DNA profile for Baby John from a blood sample taken at postmortem in April 1984.

Several sources suggested is was possible the testing process has resulted in damage to the original sample. “Every time you use it, you lose it,” said one source.

One genetics expert told The Irish Times it should be possible to build a new DNA sample from the skeletal remains that date back 37 years, but much depends on the conditions where the infant was buried.

“It’s a not trivial matter in the sense that it is not without difficulty, but it should be possible to get a new DNA sample unless the conditions of preservation are very poor,” he said. “A lot will depend on burial conditions such as soil chemistry, but it’s not an illogical thing to do,” he said.

The building of a new DNA profile will involve matching the profile against DNA samples already taken from people in south Kerry. It is understood 50 to 70 people may have already volunteered samples to gardaí.

Appeal

On Wednesday Supt Flor Murphy of Killarney Garda station renewed his appeal to anyone with information that might assist them to contact them.

“I’m appealing to the mother of Baby John – I believe she has information, she is the key to unlocking this mystery. Me and my colleagues, we genuinely believe that she has suffered, she has suffered loss and upset, and has grieved over the last 37 years,” he told Radio Kerry. “We want the mother of Baby John to come forward and talk to us. She will be treated with the utmost compassion and understanding. We have adequately and properly trained Garda personnel to deal with her and understand the background situation to this.”

Cahersiveen farmer Jack Griffin, who discovered Baby John’s body, told The Irish Times he had met members of the SCRT when they began their investigation and confirmed his statement about finding the body.

“I used to go running on the strand and over by the rocks on the right-hand side, something caught my eye. I thought it was a doll first of all but of course it wasn’t, it was a baby and my theory was that the baby came in with the last tide and the tide rejected him and left him there on the rocks.

“The body was face down and I never tipped him but I spotted two little marks on the back all right. When I heard of the circumstances of how he died, it gave me an awful shock. I asked the detectives were there any marks and they said, ‘Unfortunately, Jack, he was stabbed 28 times,” he said.