Kerry babies cold case review one of three in division in 14 months

Garda also reviewed James Cahillane murder and Charles Brook Pickard abduction

The decision to open a cold case review into the death of the Cahersiveen baby over 30 years ago is one of three such reviews started over the past 14 months into unsolved serious crimes in Co Kerry.

Gardaí have also begun reviews into the murder of father of two, James Cahillane (58) in Beaufort in April 2012 and the abduction of Englishman Charles Brook Pickard (43) in Caherdaniel in 1991

According to one Garda source, the decision to carry out reviews of all three cases coincided with the appointment in December 2016 of Chief Supt Tom Myers to head up the Kerry division.

“When Tom Myers came in, he wanted to know what major cases were still outstanding so he set about reviewing each of the three cases even though two of them go back to the 1980s and 1990s.


"He knew that there would be huge controversy about opening up the Kerry babies file but he felt what had happened to Joanne Hayes was wrong and that it should be remedied so he drove it on."

The development of a full DNA profile from a blood sample taken from the Cahersiveen baby proved that the child was not linked in any way to Ms Hayes and gardaí have since apologised to her.

Garda file

Ms Hayes had originally been charged on May 1st, 1984, with the murder of the Cahersiveen baby but the charge was quickly dropped by then DPP Eamon Barnes after he saw the Garda file on the case.

Now following the apology by Acting Garda Commissioner Donall O Cualáin to Ms Hayes, Garda efforts have begun focussing in on how exactly the Cahersiveen baby, named Baby John, died.

The body of Baby John was found wedged in rocks at White Strand outside Cahersiveen on the evening of April 14th, 1984, by farmer and athlete Jack Griffin while out on a training run.

An autopsy by then State pathologist Prof John Harbison found that the baby had been deliberately killed after he was stabbed 28 times, including four times to the heart. His neck was also broken.

The new investigation into Baby John's death is being spearheaded by a local team of detectives from Kerry under the operational command of Det Insp John Brennan from Tralee Garda station.

The 12-strong local team of detectives is being assisted by a Detective Sergeant and four detectives from the specialist Serious Crime Review Team (SCRT) under Det Chief Supt Walter O'Sullivan, who is from the area.

However, one Garda source was keen to stress that the review is being led by local detectives under Det Insp Brennan with the SCRT detectives assisting in a support role.

Supporting role

"Back in the 1980s, the original Kerry Babies investigation was led by the Murder Squad under Det Supt John Courtney down from Dublin and the local detectives were much cast in a supporting role.

“This time around, the roles have been reversed with the local fellows taking the lead and that’s deliberate because a lot of people felt that was what should have happened back in the 1980s too.

“A lot of people felt that the investigation into the Kerry babies would have been far more successful if the local fellows had led it even though many of the murder squad fellows were from Kerry.

"They were hardened investigators, well used to dealing with the Provos and the emerging gangland criminals in Dublin. But adopting that sort of an approach down in Kerry didn't really work."

According to one source, the original investigation into the death of Baby John quickly shifted from Cahersiveen to north Kerry after investigators learned that Joanne Hayes had had a baby.

"Once gardaí learned that Joanne Hayes had given birth to a baby in Abbeydorney, the whole focus of the investigation shifted to Abbeydorney and Cahersiveen was almost forgotten about," he said.

According to the Kerry Babies Tribunal Report, the original investigation identified a number of suspects for the Cahersiveen baby's death – but they were eliminated on further checking.

The investigation focussed on one girl who was known to be pregnant but had not been seen in the area since September 1983, which added to suspicions that she might be Baby John’s mother.

The girl was due to give birth around April 14th, 1984 – when Baby John was found – but there was no record of her coming under the care of local doctors and her whereabouts were unknown.

But when gardaí called to her home, they found the girl had given birth to a baby girl who was living with the girl and her mother and the girl was then eliminated by gardaí from their inquiries.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times