Gardaí apologise to woman at centre of Kerry babies case

Regret expressed that it took so long to confirm Joanne Hayes is not Baby John’s mother

Acting Garda Commissioner Donal O'Cualáin has apologised to Kerry woman Joanne Hayes for her treatment by gardaí over 30 years ago when she was arrested and wrongly charged with the murder of a baby found washed up on a beach near Caherciveen.

Supt Flor Murphy of Killarney confirmed that Mr O' Cualain had written and spoken on Tuesday to Ms Hayes to apologise for the garda handling of the investigation in 1984 after a DNA profile confirmed she was not the mother of the baby found outside Caherciveen.

"The Acting Garda Commissioner has written to and spoken to Ms Hayes to formally apologise to her on behalf of An Garda Síochána, and I will now re-state that apology," said Supt Murphy, adding it was regrettable it took so long to confirm Ms Hayes was not the mother of the Caherciveen baby.

“On behalf of An Garda Síochána, I would like to sincerely apologise to Ms Hayes for that, as well as the awful stress and pain she has been put through as a result of the original investigation into this matter, which fell well short of the required standards.”


Supt Murphy said gardaí had been in close contact with Ms Hayes through a Garda family liaison officer since the DNA sample confirmed she was not the mother of the Caherciveen baby, named Baby John, and she had been informed of the results and the investigation.

A tribunal of inquiry chaired by Mr Justice Kevin Lynch into the Garda investigation which heard evidence from 109 witnesses over 77 days of hearing in Tralee and Dublin in 1985 had criticised many aspects of the investigation, he said.

“For those failings, I apologise - it is accepted that the original investigation fell short of what was required and expected of a professional police service”, he said at a press briefing at Caherciveen Garda Station on a new Serious Crime Review investigation into the death of Baby John.

Ms Hayes, then 24, was charged on May 1st, 1984 with the murder of the Caherciveen baby after gardaí arrested and questioned her when they learned she had been pregnant with a near full-term baby which had been born prior to her admission on April 14th, 1984 to Tralee General Hospital.

She had denied to hospital staff that she had given birth to a baby and refused to tell them what had become of the baby, who was not at her home, while she also had a child by the reputed father of the dead child, Jeremiah Locke. Gardaí at the time suspected she had given birth to the Caherciveen baby.

When gardaí questioned Ms Hayes about the murder of the Caherciveen baby, she signed a statement, saying that she had killed the baby in the family home in Abbeydorney while other family members signed statements, saying they had dumped the body in the sea off the Dingle Peninsula.

Ms Hayes had replied "I am guilty" when charged with murder while her siblings, Ned, Kathleen and Mike and her aunt Bridie Fuller were charged with endeavouring to conceal the birth of the child by secretly disposing of his body contrary to Section 50 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861.

But it emerged that Ms Hayes had given birth on April 13th,1984 at her home in Abbeydorney to a baby boy.

The report of the Kerry babies tribunal claimed Ms Hayes's baby was born in the family home and that she put her hands on the baby's throat to stop it crying, as a result of which it died. This was strenuously denied at the time by the Hayes family through their solicitor, Pat Mann.

Ms Hayes confirmed she hid the baby in some hay in a nearby field but later hid him in a plastic bag in a pool of water and it was there that gardaí found the baby’s remains on May 2nd, 1984 after her family found the baby’s remains and contacted their solicitor, Mr Mann, who in turn notified gardaí.

Blood tests on the baby found on the Hayes family farm showed it had the same blood type, Type O, as Ms Hayes and Mr Locke but a different blood type to that of the baby found in Caherciveen, whose blood type was Type A.

When blood tests showed that Ms Hayes and Mr Locke could not both be the parents of Baby John, gardaí did not discount Ms Hayes being the mother and they theorised she had become pregnant with twins simultaneously by two different men in a process called heteropanel superfecundation.

However the DPP directed that the murder charge against Ms Hayes and the lesser charges against her siblings and aunt all be dropped and the controversy over the garda investigation led to the dissolution of the Dublin based Murder Squad which led the investigation.

The infant, Baby John, was later buried at the cemetery on the Waterville Road in Cahersivee . His grave has been vandalised a number of times over the years, but gardaí have never been able to establish who was behind the attacks.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times