Scene of natural beauty reveals terrifying secrets

BE IT a sunny or a dark day, the Dublin mountains offer majestic views that are attractive to tourists and locals alike. But the old, winding roads that snake up from the suburbia of Tallaght and Rathfarnham can bring you very quickly into dense forest and desolate and dangerous locations.

Scene of natural beauty reveals  terrifying secrets

Within 4km of where the partial skeletal remains of Elaine O’Hara were found in the Dublin mountains eight days ago, lie the locations where two women’s bodies were buried in bogland six years apart.

The first such horrific murder was that of Antoinette Smith, a young mother of two who doted on her little girls, Lisa and Rachel. She vanished from Dublin City in Jul 1987, after returning by bus from the David Bowie concert in Slane.

She was abducted by a random killer or killers, who brought her up the Killakee Road into the mountains south of Rathfarnham.

It is still not known if Antoinette was alive or dead when she was taken in off the Killakee Road and up a disused bog dirt track and then across the bog to where her body was found eight months after she vanished.

It was the hot weather in the early summer of 1988 that saw the bog at Glendoo begin to crack and shift; Antoinette’s skeletal remains became visible beneath the soil.

She was still wearing a concert T-shirt with ‘David Bowie’ and the support act ‘Big Country’ emblazoned on it, and her denim jacket and jeans.

As gardaí gently peeled back the soil around Antoinette’s skeleton, they found that a plastic bag was tied tightly around her head.

To this day, it’s not known if the bag was used as the murder weapon, whereby Antoinette was suffocated by her killer, or whether the bag was placed over her head after she was already dead?

Because Antoinette’s body had decomposed to such an extent, the then state pathologist, John Harbison, was unable to determine exactly how she had died, but most certainly she was murdered.

The next woman to be abducted, murdered, and buried in the Dublin mountains was also a mother of two. Patricia Doherty, 29, was last seen alive when she left her home in Tallaght to do some last-minute Christmas shopping in Dec 1991.

Six months later, a man out cutting turf found Patricia’s body buried in bogland at Glassamucky Brakes near Featherbed Mountain. Patricia was still wearing her long coat, and the keys to her house were found in the bog soil. Patricia’s body was found within a kilometre or two of where Antoinette’s body was found in 1988 and where Elaine O’Hara’s remains were recovered last week.

Ironically, where Patricia’s body lay hidden was close to a memorial stone called Lemass Cross. This stone marks the place where the body of Noel Lemass, a member of the anti-Treaty IRA forces, was found in 1923. He had been abducted from a Dublin street and shot dead by pro-Treaty forces. Noel’s brother Seán went on to become leader of Fianna Fáil and Taoiseach. Noel’s murder clearly shows that the Dublin mountains have long been used to hide bodies. In more recent years, it seems predatory killers, perhaps a serial killer or killers, have homed in on this particular part of the country to commit their crimes. Geographical profiles would point to the fact that remote spots such as the Featherbeds and Killakee mountain and Glassamucky Brakes are only 10 or 15 minutes drive from the M50. The killers do not necessarily come from this part of south Dublin. They could live anywhere.

The killer or killers of Antoinette Smith and Patricia Doherty were never caught and both cases are currently being investigated by the Garda Cold Case Unit. This team is also examining the abduction and murder of Annie McCarrick, who vanished 20 years ago after going walking in the Dublin mountains.

Somewhere around this part of the Dublin mountains, Annie’s body lies hidden. It is also possible that, for 20 years, the body of Eva Brennan has been hidden here. Eva vanished from Rathgar in Jul 1993.

The fact that the killer of Elaine O’Hara also chose to use this area to hide her body means gardaí will logically consider whether this most recent murder is related to any other unsolved cases.

This part of south Co Dublin has also been used by other killers to hide bodies above ground.

It was close to the historic Hell Fire Club that convicted double-rapist Philip Colgan left Layla Brennan’s body after murdering her in March 1998. Colgan had only met Layla that night, having encountered her at Dublin’s Nassau St.

Layla would have had no idea that 27-year-old Colgan had previously served eight years in jail for raping a woman in her 70s and a Spanish student. Colgan is still in prison, serving a life sentence for murder.

Another man who murdered a woman and left her body in a remote spot south of Rathfarnham was Seán Courtney, who met Patricia O’Toole in a chance encounter in Sept 1991 and beat her to death, before leaving her body at Mount Venus Rd, close to Killakee Rd.

Patricia’s body was found in a ditch by a man cycling to work. She had been punched and battered and bludgeoned with a brick.

About 8km from where Elaine O’Hara’s body was uncovered last week, a young woman was strangled to death over 30 years ago while attending a beer festival in the scenic mountain location of Glencullen.

Patricia Furlong was just 21 years old when she was attacked in Jul 1982. Her body was found a short time later. A man with a history of violence was considered the prime suspect; he died in 1998.

Just a few hundred yards from where Elaine O’Hara’s body was found last week lies a spot very popular with tourists which offers a panoramic wonderful view of Dublin, from Bray and Dún Laoghaire to the Ringsend towers to Howth and Ireland’s Eye further north.

Driving from here up the mountains quickly brings you to where Antoinette Smith’s body was hidden by her killer in 1987 and where Patricia Doherty’s murderer hid her in Dec 1991. Going past the Lemass Cross, which recalls how these mountains were used to hide bodies as far back as the Civil War, you come to the German War Cemetery close to the Glencree Reconciliation Centre.

It is here that the bodies of more than 100 German soldiers lie buried — men whose planes fell from the Irish sky during the Second World War or whose bodies were washed up from bombed submarines and boats in the early 1940s.

The cemetery is a beautiful and quiet place of reflection, where Irish society has made sure these men, many still unidentified, rest in peace.

It is quite possible that within just a few kilometres of here, in unmarked and crudely dug graves, lie the hidden bodies of some of Ireland’s missing women, who still cannot rest — and nor their families.

* Barry Cummins, a reporter with RTÉ’s Prime Time, is the author of Missing.

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