Four Kerry children are spending their first Christmas without their father, who was killed in a hit and run accident close to his home on July 1.
The death of cyclist Paud O’Leary, 42, is one of 2012’s unsolved Garda cases, despite intensive efforts by members of the force, and scores of volunteers in Mr O’Leary’s native Cork/Kerry border area.
Gardaí believe a missing charcoal grey Toyota Land Cruiser, registered between 2002 and 2010, was involved in the accident at Scrahanfadda, on the road between Killarney and Gneeveguilla.
Mr O’Leary lived at Leamyglissane, Gneeveguilla, and had been out training for the annual Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle.
The manner in which the driver of the vehicle left a gravely injured Mr O’Leary at the scene shocked a close-knit community and evoked a huge outpouring of sympathy and support for the bereaved family.
His children — Shannon, Antoinette, Paudie, and Ross — are aged between 8 years old and 12.
Despite heart-felt appeals from Mr O’Leary’s widow, Margaret; his brothers Dermot and Seán Óg, and family friend Fr John Kerin, to the driver to hand himself or herself in, nobody has come forward.
In a nationwide appeal, Margaret O’Leary said: “That person made the decision to leave the accident scene and they will have to live with that. But nobody is an island and that jeep did not just disappear. That person must have spoken to somebody.
“My life, and our children’s lives, have been turned upside down. But we are not alone in suffering the loss of Paudie — he had elderly parents and family.”
Mr O’Leary’s brothers said the family was going through torment and appealed to the driver to come forward to help bring some closure to the case.
Inspector Tony Sugrue, Kanturk, who is heading the investigation, revealed that a suspect has been identified. He declined to comment on speculation that the person involved may have fled abroad. “We’re hoping we’ll get to the end of this one way, or another,” he said.
Insp Sugrue said no suspect had been arrested, but a number of suspects had been investigated early in the investigation and ruled out. However, they were unable to question the latest suspect at this stage.
Also, despite a number of searches, gardaí have not located the suspected vehicle.
They believe the vehicle, which would have damage to the front right side as a result of the crash, travelled into north-west Cork after the accident, and the focus of the probe has been in the Duhallow area.
It is likely the bumper, lights, or right wing of the vehicle would have had clearly visible damage. The key to solving the case lies in Duhallow, according to the gardaí.
Insp Sugrue stressed the probe is still active. A substantial reward has been put up for information leading to the recovery of the vehicle and the arrest and conviction of the driver.
Upwards of 150 people have taken part in searches for the vehicle in forestry and other areas around Ballydesmond and Meelin, Co Cork, but turned up nothing.
The search was extended countrywide, with gardaí checking on the owners of similar vehicles and also calling on panel beaters who may have been asked to repair, or provide parts, for damaged vehicles.
The death of Mr O’Leary, a popular man in the Cork/Kerry border area, where he was involved in sport and a leading figure to young people, caused widespread shock in the community.
He was only 1km from his home when knocked down, but was missing for several hours before being found.
Mr O’Leary, a farmer and school caretaker, was heading towards Killarney and was hit by a vehicle coming in the opposite direction some time between 7am and 10am.
A search for him was started when he failed to return home as expected and his body was found in a ditch by his brother-in-law and a teenage nephew at 1.15pm that day.
An inquest into his death opened in Killarney, on Sept 24, but was adjourned until investigations into the case have been completed. He died instantly, according to an autopsy, the inquest heard.
Anyone with information can contact Crimestoppers on 1800 250025, or gardaí in Kanturk on 029 20680.
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