The search for the remains of 43-year-old Charles Brooke Pickard, missing since his abduction by a number of masked, armed men in South Kerry a quarter of a century ago, is part of an investigation that was “very much live”, a press conference was told yesterday.
Gardaí have long believed the disappearance was linked to a dispute over drugs money and involved hired gunmen from the North.
An excavation of an area surrounded by forestry at Derrennageeha near the remote Ballaghisheen Pass, 1km from where Mr Pickard’s burnt-out van was found three weeks after his disappearance, began at first light yesterday and will continue for at least a week, or as long as necessary.
The finding of the remains would be “significant” in the investigation into what gardaí believe was a planned operation by a number of perpetrators in April 1991, said Supt Flor Murphy of Killarney gardaí.
This was a “renewed investigation” as the result of information, and gardaí have identified an area “that had to be searched”, said Supt Murphy.
Mr Pickard’s family are being kept informed and gardaí and the family were hopeful his remains would be found, he also said.
The detailed search of the approximately 40sq m site involves up to 20 gardaí and army personnel, heavy plant equipment, and metal detectors.
The site had been forested but the timber had been taken out in recent years.
Mr Pickard, a father of four, had moved from Leeds in Britain to Castlecove with his wife Penny in the 1980s.
The couple had four children aged 15, 11, 7, and 5 at the time of his disappearance on the morning of Friday, April 26, 1991.
He was observed at White Strand, Castlecove, being bundled into his navy Ford Transit Van by five armed and masked men.
The family were hit with a number of tragedies after the abduction, including the death of Lisa, the eldest child, in a road traffic accident.
The last his wife Penny and children saw of him was when he left home on that Friday morning, Supt Murphy said, renewing his appeal for information: “There are people out there with information and I am asking them to come forward.”
In 25 years, loyalties changed, friendships changed and circumstances changed, he noted.
Penny Pickard lives in South Kerry with her son, and they were informed on Monday night of the search.
A dedicated family liaison officer has been assigned to keep them fully informed.
“The family are very much appreciative of our efforts and they are hopeful,” Supt Murphy said.
Irrespective of finding the remains, the investigation “into the abduction and disappearance” will continue, the garda also said.
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