Crumbling loyalties could lead to breakthroughs in many of the missing women cases, according to a senior garda who investigated them.
Retired detective sergeant Alan Bailey told the Irish Examiner that people have “covered up” for those responsible in a number of the cases, either out of love of fear.
In a forthcoming book about the six missing women, Mr Bailey reveals that an IRA hitman was the only suspect in the Annie McCarrick case yet to be ruled out of the investigation into her disappearance in March 1993.
Gardaí believe the suspect was subsequently flown out of the North by the IRA to the US after claims he sexually assaulted the daughter of a republican.
The revelations, first reported in yesterday’s Sunday World, come against the backdrop of reports that IRA men alleged to have sexually abused girls were sent out of the North to escape prosecution.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner in the run-up to the publication of his book, Missing, Presumed, Mr Bailey said the loyalty of people close to those involved in the disappearances “doesn’t last forever”.
He said: “There are a number of missing persons cases where people are aware of what happened and who committed the crimes, who have covered up for years and years out of misplaced loyalty of one form or another.”
Mr Bailey worked as a detective for 13 years in Operation Trace — the investigation into the six cases — and afterwards in the Serious Crime Review Team, which continued the work.
As well Ms McCarrick’s case, his book covers the investigations into Eva Brennan, who went missing in Dublin in July 1993; Fiona Pender, who disappeared in Offaly in November 1995; Ciara Breen, who went missing in Louth in February 1997; Deirdre Jacob, who disappeared in Kildare in July 1998; and Fiona Sinnott, from went missing in Wexford in February 1998.
Mr Bailey said the loyalty of people was based either on love or fear, adding that “fear is as strong as an emotion as love”. He was hopeful that these people — which may now be former girlfriends or partners — will at some stage decide to talk to the gardaí.
“That loyalty doesn’t last forever and the recent developments in the Fiona Pender case is an example of that, hopefully,” he said.
This is a reference to the recent arrest abroad of the main suspect in her case for a suspected assault on another woman. This woman gave police information in relation to Ms Pender which she said the suspect had told her.
Ms Pender, aged 25, was pregnant when she disappeared from her home in Tullamore on August 26, 1996. Gardaí from Tullamore have flown to the country and spoken to the woman.
In Ms McCarrick’s case, Mr Bailey said the IRA hitman still had to be eliminated from the investigation.
“A large number of people were nominated as potential suspects,” said Mr Bailey. He said all of those suspects were investigated and ruled out, “except this one”.
The man is still thought to be in the US, but Mr Bailey hopes that, in time, he will come back to Ireland and be questioned.
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