Two or three people, now aged in their late 30s or early 40s, could hold the key to unlocking the 30-year-old mystery surrounding the fate of Philip Cairns.
Gardaí yesterday made a specific appeal to these people, who were children at the time of the 13-year-old’s disappearance on October 23, 1986, from Rathfarnham, Dublin, to come forward.
Officers said the events may be “playing on their minds” and that for the sake of Philip’s family, it was important the inquiry be brought to a conclusion.
Gardaí suspect that these individuals, who might have been aged as young as eight at the time, were used by Philip’s abductor to discard the boy’s schoolbag in a Rathfarnham laneway after he disappeared during the school lunchtime break.
These individuals could corroborate reports from an eyewitness linking the boy to convicted paedophile and Radio Dublin DJ Eamonn Cooke, who died earlier this month, aged 79.
Gardaí said if these people confirmed Cooke ordered them to dispose of the bag, it would provide that corroboration and could open up avenues as to where the boy’s remains might be.
It emerged last Friday that a woman made a statement to gardaí a month ago that, when she was a child, Cooke had struck Philip with an implement in the radio station around the time of his disappearance.
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She reportedly told gardaí she saw Philip bleeding and unconscious on the floor of the station’s office, in Inchicore, in the south inner city.
Gardaí are awaiting forensic test results as to whether DNA profiles from Philip’s schoolbag match those of a suspect.
Gardaí spoke to Cooke a number of times at the hospice he was in, but it is not clear to what extent he confirmed contact with Philip.
Supt Peter Duff, who is leading the investigation, yesterday said that “aspects” of the woman’s statement had been corroborated, leading to fresh interviews and checks on DNA profiles on the schoolbag.
Supt Duff made a specific appeal: “From our inquiries, I believe there are people who were young at the time who may have information in relation to Philip’s schoolbag and for whatever reason did not come forward.” He said with the passage of time and changed circumstances, these people might now be able to assist.
“This may be playing on their minds and I would ask these people to now come forward. For the sake of Mrs Cairns and her family, who have been suffering for 30 years, it is important that we bring this investigation to a conclusion.”
He declined to comment on any individual suspect, saying the Garda team was examining 160 lines of inquiry. Anyone with information can contact the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111 or Rathfarnham Garda Station on 01 6666500.
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