AN APPEAL has been launched that could finally help crack one of Ireland’s longest unsolved murder mysteries.
Anybody associated with the brutal death of one of two babies in the infamous 1980s ‘Kerry Babies‘ case has been urged to come forward. The appeal follows other appeals that have attempted to help solve the case ‘once and for all’.
These appeals, mostly made on the 30th anniversary of the Kerry Babies case, have centred round the use of DNA from the possible exhumation of one of the babies’ bodies.
Indeed, recent reporting of this appeal has mistakenly centred on those same appeals – which were made last year. However, this latest appeal is the first time such a direct appeal has been made to anybody actually associated with the brutal death of one of the babies to come forward since charges in connection with that death were withdrawn against a Kerry woman accused of his murder in 1984. It has also been made just weeks away from the release of documents from the National Archives.
What gardai described as her ‘unnamed male infant’ was found on White Strand in Cahirciveen, Co Kerry on April 14 that year.
Later baptised ‘John’ by an undertaker before his lonely burial, his neck had been broken and he had been stabbed repeatedly in the heart.
Detectives at the time were convinced Ms Hayes was both his mother and his murderer and charged her accordingly.
This was partly because she had given birth to a baby around the same time Baby John was found but there had been doubts about what had subsequently happened to her baby.
The charges were later withdrawn after the baby she gave birth to but which had a different blood type to Baby John was found on her parents’ farm at Abbeydorney, some 70km away from Cahirciveen.
The case ended up a watershed moment in Irish history as it shed light on both questionable garda investigation and interview tactics at the time along with Ireland’s attitude to unmarried mothers.
A tribunal was subsequently set up to examine garda handling of the case but ended up more of a probe into Ms Hayes’ perceived morals by an all-male panel of inquisitors.
Both Baby John’s true identity and the person who actually killed him has been a mystery ever since.
So too is the identity of the person who has repeatedly attacked his secluded grave in the cemetery on Waterville Road, Cahirciveen.
The last main attack was in 2004, when someone smashed Baby John’s black marble gravestone with a sledge hammer.
Ms Hayes’ long-serving lawyer Patrick Mann has urged anybody who knows anything to come forward and solve the mystery once and for all.
‘It has been just over 30 years now and we are all still none-the-wiser,’ he said.
Lawyer Patrick Mann: ‘Technically, there is still a killer out there.’
‘Repeated appeals for further DNA investigations have fallen on deaf ears so far but one thing that could really crack this case is if someone associated with Baby John’s murder were to come forward.
‘Nobody is assuming that it has to be the baby’s mother who killed him.
‘It could have been the mother’s father, or maybe a lover who didn’t want the child.
‘Maybe the baby was the result of an incestuous relationship and the baby died after a fit of rage.’
He added: ‘But whether or not she is responsible for that baby’s death, I am encouraging the baby’s mother to come forward and make some kind of a statement using, perhaps, the garda confidential line.
‘Let’s clear this up once and for all.
‘My client was accused of murdering Baby John.
‘Despite her not being in any way responsible for his death, certain detectives who were involved in the case are convinced she was involved.
‘Meanwhile, there is a killer out there who will be haunted by what they did. There is also a woman out there who will also be haunted by this.’
He said that more than 30 years on, his client Ms Hayes is still very keen to help solve the mystery of who killed Baby John.
And he urged gardai to say whether they still have tissue samples taken from Baby John in 1984, where they are and whether or not his case is still open given that nobody has been convicted with his murder.
Mr Mann said last night: ‘I would urge garda to once and for say if they have preserved the evidence from what is an unsolved murder.
‘They also need to come out and say whether or not this is still an active case, even in the Cold Case section.
‘Technically, there is still a killer out there.’
Last year, one of the detectives involved in the original case called for the exhumation of the remains of both Baby John and Ms Hayes’ baby so that their DNA can be fully analysed.
Retired Detective Inspector Gerry O’Carroll remains convinced that Ms Hayes gave birth to twins – a view she has consistently denied.
His view also flies in the face of one of the conclusions of the Kerry Babies Tribunal, which was that Ms Hayes only gave birth to one baby.
But to this day, Mr O’Carroll believes Ms Hayes buried one of her babies on her parents’ farm and had the other baby dumped into the sea before it washed up on White Strand.
Baby John had blood type A, while Ms Hayes’ baby had blood type O – as does both Ms Hayes and married Jeremiah Locke, who had fathered the baby.
Mr O’Carroll however believes there was a mix-up over the blood samples taken at the time and that new DNA tests will show Ms Hayes gave birth to both babies.
According to the Kerry Babies Tribunal report, no blood sample was directly taken from Baby John. At the time, it was not standard practice to take blood samples in suspected infanticide cases and it had initially been suspected that his injuries were consistent with him having been attacked by ‘sea creatures’. Instead, a sample of his lung was taken and then sent for testing. From that section of lung, testers were able to say he was not Ms Hayes’ baby. Mr Mann believes that exhumation is not needed and that the tissue sample taken in 1984 should be enough.
But he says Ms Hayes is prepared to provide a blood sample to assist any comparison needed.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said last night: ‘The Kerry Babies Tribunal of Inquiry concluded that that Cahirciveen baby was not the child of Joanne Hayes and the question of revisiting those findings does not arise.’
Queries regarding the custody of evidence gathered during the original investigation are a matter for An Garda Síochána.
‘Of course anyone who has any information in relation to the death of this child should bring it to Garda attention.
‘The question of revisiting the outcome does not arise and the Department (of Justice) has no function in relation to initiating any further inquiries into these issues.’
The gardai were asked if any tissue samples still in existence from Baby John could be matched with DNA taken from Ms Hayes.
And they were asked if his murder is a closed case or could it be opened again at a future date.
A Garda spokesperson said: ‘(This) is a really a question for a scientist.
‘But there have been cases in the past, notably the murder of Phyllis Murphy in Kildare, where DNA from historic cases was used.
‘If new evidence were to come to light in relation to any investigation then that information would be assessed and acted upon.’
Do you know who killed Baby John? Call the Garda Confidential line on 1800 666 111.