Profiles of men who have "shown serious sexual violence against women" are to be compiled as part of the Garda investigation into six missing women in the Leinster area.
Operation Trace, which stands for Tracing, Reviewing And Collating Evidence, was set up last month by the Garda Commissioner, Mr Pat Byrne, to review the files of Fiona Sinnott, Josephine Dullard, Deirdre Jacob, Ciara Breen, Fiona Pender and Annie McCarrick.
The Assistant Commissioner, Mr Tony Hickey, who is leading the investigation, said last night he was optimistic that the approach would lead to a breakthrough.
The six-member team, based in Naas, Co Kildare, is identifying people with a history of sexual violence. This trawl will include prison records to check if any possible suspects were on temporary release on those dates. The earliest of the six disappearances, that of Annie McCarrick, was in 1993.
"It's painstaking, old-fashioned police work," Asst Commissioner Hickey said. A staff of five gardai under Supt Gerry O'Connell will bring "fresh ideas, fresh minds, and fresh eyes" to the case files, he said.
Two common factors were obvious in all six cases. The women were attractive young women in the same age group, he said. The second factor was that they had disappeared without trace.
"We have selected those six victims and are looking at those six cases. We are aware of all the other cases as well."
Asked about the possibility that a serial killer was responsible for the disappearances, he said: "We don't want to scare the public and we'd be foolish if we didn't consider that. But there is absolutely no evidence that one person or persons is responsible for the six."
Asst Commissioner Hickey said the team had not yet interviewed any suspects who were interviewed as part of the original investigations. The question of making international inquiries did not arise in any of the cases, he said, apart from the McCarrick case, where a large number had been made.
The American student was last seen at Johnny Fox's pub in Glencullen, Co Wicklow, in March 1993. Josephine Dullard went missing after phoning a friend from Moone, Co Kildare, in November 1995. Fiona Pender, who was seven months pregnant, has been missing since August 1996 from her home in Tullamore, Co Offaly.
Ciara Breen disappeared from her Dundalk home in February 1997. Fiona Sinnott went missing from Bridgetown, Co Wexford, in February, and Deirdre Jacob was last seen on July 28th outside Newbridge, Co Kildare.