MORE than 150 unsolved crimes are to be probed by a new Garda cold case unit which is being formally launched next week.
The unit was set up by Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy with the task of looking afresh at a range of serious crimes which have not been solved.
These include murders, rapes and missing person cases, including those of people feared murdered.
The unit is located within the serious crime squad, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI), and has access to all the databases and files held by the NBCI.
The NBCI is the central Garda unit which provides expertise to local detectives in investigating murders, sexual assaults and missing person cases.
The cold case squad is led by Chief Supt Paul Hargadon and Detective Superintendent Christy Mangan, supported by a small team of officers.
It is expected the unit may be boosted over time as the number of investigations mount.
Local detectives will assist the unit in their investigations.
Only a small number of the 150-plus cases will be subject to a full-blown investigation initially.
Cases will have to meet certain criteria in terms of available and prospective evidence before being marked for further investigation.
It is understood that murders, including gangland murders, will account for a large number of cases.
Gardaí will use improved DNA and forensic technologies. They will also see if witnesses are now in a position to come forward.
Officers will have the benefit of a powerful Garda computer database. The ViCLAS (Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System) system was created by Canadian police and was set up here in May 2005.
It’s understood the unit has been contacted by several families who are still searching for answers to unsolved murders or disappearances of loved ones.
The squad will re-examine the six missing women cases which were investigated in Operation Trace, a dedicated investigative unit set up in 1999.
Despite intensive inquiries, the operation failed to make significant progress.
The six missing women are Fiona Sinnott, 19, missing from her Wexford home since 1998; Josephine Dullard, who went missing as she was about to hitch a lift to her home in Kilkenny; Deirdre Jacob, 18, who disappeared while walking in Kildare in July 1998; Ciara Breen, 18, from Dundalk, Co Louth, missing since 1997; Fiona Pender, 25, who disappeared from her flat in Tullamore, Co Offaly, in August, 1996; and Annie McCarrick, 26, missing from her home in Sandymount, Dublin, since March 1993.
Other missing cases include Philip Cairns, 13, who failed to return to school after lunch at his home in Rathfarnham, south Dublin in October 1986.
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