Exhumation ‘would resolve’ Kerry Babies case

A retired detective inspector who was involved in the Kerry Babies investigation 30 years ago has called for the exhumation of the remains of both male infants for full DNA analysis.

Gerry O’Carroll still agrees with a prevailing Garda view at the time that Joanne Hayes, the woman at the centre of the saga, had twins, though Judge Kevin Lynch, who conducted the 82-day Kerry Babies Tribunal, concluded she had just one baby.

The issue of twins goes to the heart of the case, which has never been fully resolved.

Mr O’Carroll said the only way to put an end to the “sad, sorrowful and pathetic saga’’ was to have DNA analysis carried out.

“DNA was not available to us 30 years ago, but I strongly believe it should be used now so that it can be positively ascertained if the babies in the case were twins and were the offspring of Joanne Hayes,’’ he said.

He maintained an incorrect body sample could have been used to determine the blood grouping of one of the babies.

The Kerry Babies saga started on April 14, 1984, with the finding of a baby’s body with 28 stab wounds on White Strand, Caherciveen.

Joanne Hayes, then 25, was subsequently charged with the murder of that baby, but on the day after her court appearance the body of a second baby was found on the Hayes farm in Abbeydorney, near Tralee. The murder charge was later dropped and the Kerry Babies Tribunal set up, essentially to inquire into Garda handling of the case.

In statements to gardaí, Ms Hayes admitted having a baby outside on the farm. She and other members of her family also said her baby had been beaten and stabbed to death and thrown into the sea at Slea Head, near Dingle. The suggestion was that this was the baby later found in Caherciveen.

But the result of blood tests on the Caherciveen baby showed it to be Group A, while Joanne’s blood and that of Jeremiah Locke — the married man by whom she became pregnant — was Group O, meaning they could not have been the parents of the Caherciveen baby.

However, Mr O’Carroll, a member of the Dublin- based Garda murder squad in 1984, said the then-state pathologist, Professor John Harbison, who conducted an autopsy, was very busy at the time and was taking samples in a number of investigations.

“I believe an error was made and I don’t believe a proper sample of the Caherciveen baby was sent for analysis to the forensic science laboratory,’’ Mr O’Carroll said.

“For that reason, there’s no other way to establish if the babies were twins, only by DNA analysis.’’

Though retired for 14 years, Mr O’Carroll, a native of Listowel, Co Kerry, said he thinks of the Kerry Babies Tribunal, during which he gave evidence over several days, almost every day.

In his 34-year career as a garda, he investigated about 80 murders but said the memory of the Kerry Babies had never left him.

“Even 30 years on, we still don’t know where the truth lies and it’s important that the truth comes out.

“I rejected the findings of Judge Lynch — that Ms Hayes had just one baby — and we’re still no nearer the truth,’’ he said.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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