It seemed, last March, that there had been a major breakthrough in the search for the Cork woman. Then nothing. But now it’s been almost two years since Tina Satchwell was last seen, writes Joe Leogue
A year is a long time by any measure, but it is an age for the families of missing people.
As long ago as it seems, it is less than a year since the headlines were dominated by the search for a missing Cork woman, after the long-running investigation into her disappearance appeared to have made significant progress following a call from a member of the public.
Alas, the woodland search for clues into the disappearance of Tina Satchwell — a major operation that saw the media descend en masse to east Cork — yielded nothing.
The story went quiet. Nine months have passed since then, and the only noteworthy mention of Tina’s disappearance since has been the reports of how her husband Richard spent Christmas.
He recently told the media that he would not celebrate the festive season, though he still buys Christmas, anniversary, and birthday presents for his wife in the hope that she will return.
A native of Fermoy, Co Cork, Tina Dingivan moved across the Irish Sea to Leicester in the 1980s, where she met Richard Satchwell.
They returned to her home town, and in 1989 Richard popped the question at Mount Pleasant, overlooking Youghal Harbour, where they would eventually live.
Richard was the last known person to see Tina.
He said that, on March 20 2017, he left their home in terraced Grattan St and went to nearby Dungarvan to run an errand, leaving Tina at home. When he returned, she was gone.
No one has seen her since.
Richard reported her disappearance to gardaí four days later, and despite public appeals by gardaí, her husband, and her family, no one has seen or heard from Tina for nearly two years now.
Her husband said Tina left with suitcases and over €26,000 in cash that the couple had from the sale of a house in her native Fermoy but that she had left her keys and phone behind. She had no passport to use for foreign travel.
The following June, gardaí carried out a forensic examination of the Satchwells’ home and the couple’s car.
No evidence of any foul play was found.
A month later, Richard said that he had found two suitcases in the car park of a supermarket on the outskirts of Youghal.
The suitcases were found near a clothes bank at the edge of the large car park — over 100 yards away from the entrance to the Tesco, a spot not covered by security cameras.
Believing the cases may belong to Tina, Richard reported the find to gardaí, who removed the items for a technical examination.
Investigators were happy to rule out any connection between Tina and the suitcases following the results of those forensic examinations.
In August 2017, gardaí conducted searches of the Youghal harbour, a stone’s throw away from the Satchwells’ front door.
Nothing came of that search — or similar exercises along a section of roadside ditch on the Golf Links Rd, two education centres in the area, and wasteground surrounding a nearby telephone mast.
A trawl of CCTV from Youghal premises, and Bus Éireann services in the town, yielded no footage of Tina.
Six months after Tina’s disappearance, gardaí told the Irish Examiner that they were following 200 lines of inquiry as part of the search for Tina — but there has been little word since on the status of their investigation.
Last January, Richard appeared on RTÉ’s Prime Time to appeal for information.
He told the programme that Tina was prone to mood swings and “getting down in herself”, and that he thinks she left to “get her head straight”.
The investigation seemed to be leading to a dead end — until a significant operation was launched almost a year after Tina was last seen.
On March 5, 2018, a large search operation was launched in Mitchell’s Wood, a woodland area around 20km away from Youghal, along the main Cork to Waterford road.
Gardaí had received a call from a member of the public who reported seeing activity in the area around the time Tina disappeared.
For 12 long days, some 60 personnel painstakingly combed over 40 acres of woodland, aided by specially trained dogs while the Garda Sub Aqua Unit searched nearby streams and rivers.
Steel fencing was erected around the search site, behind which operations were directed from a mobile command centre, while searches took place under spotlight.
But after nearly two weeks of searches, operations were wound down without any finds of significance.
Some items were recovered and sent for analysis, but these examinations were merely precautionary and only confirmed that no clues were uncovered in the operation.
That was the last public development in the case.
Tina remains a missing person— and this coming March marks the second anniversary of her disappearance.
For almost two years now ,Richard has insisted he had nothing to do with his wife’s disappearance. He has criticised how he has been portrayed by some elements of the media.
“If I was asked to take a lie detector test, I’d take one. My house was searched without my knowledge and the gardaí didn’t find anything to suggest anything untoward. I live on a main street, so my comings and goings are seen, so I don’t know why people are being so malicious.
“I’m innocent of any wrongdoing.”