Mother of murdered Baby John could solve Kerry Babies mystery

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’.

Kerry Babies Joanne Hayes with Patrick Mann
Joanne Hayes arriving for the Tribunal hearings with her lawyer, Patrick Mann, 1984. Copyright: RTE Stills Library.

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associated with the brutal death of one of the babies to come forward since charges in connection with that death were withdrawn against a Kerry woman accused of his murder in 1984.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The charges were later withdrawn after the baby she gave birth to but which had a different blood type to Baby John was found on her parents’ farm at Abbeydorney, some 70km away from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.

Kerry Babies Tribunal
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. Continue reading Mother of murdered Baby John could solve Kerry Babies mystery

Christchurch earthquake victim buried in Monaghan today

Owen McKenna

THE FUNERAL of one of the two Irish victims of the New Zealand earthquake will take place today.
Owen McKenna, whose remains arrived back in Ireland on Sunday, will be buried in his native Monaghan.
The 41 year old was crushed to death in the February 22 quake while sitting in his car moments after speaking to wife Sarah to tell her he was shopping for a meal he had been due to cook later that evening.
At the time, she was visiting relatives with the couple’s two children, Grace, six, and Tadhg, five.
He had moved to Christchurch to live shortly after marrying Sarah about six years ago.
His mother Theresa and brothers Ciaran and Brendan had travelled to the city more than a week ago to repatriate his body.
It was his ‘express wish’ that he was to be waked and buried in his native Monaghan.
Large crowds in the close- knit Truagh parish visited the family home throughout Sunday evening and Monday to express their sympathies to Eoin’s family.
He will be buried after a 12 noon requiem mass today at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Carrickroe Emyvale, near his family home house at Bracagh.
A marquee has been erected in the church car park for mourners unable to fit into the church, where loud speakers will be erected over the front door.
The service -which will be co-celebrated by a number of priests – will also be streamed live on the internet.

The homily will be read out by Fr John Skinnader, who lives next door to Mr McKenna’s family.
Neither his wife nor his two children will be coming over for the service.
Parish priest Fr Sean Nolan said last night: ‘It was considered that it would be far too traumatic for the two young children.
‘They will all be coming over later but when things are calmer.’
It is not known when Kerry accountant John JJ O’Connor will be buried.
His body was found in the Pyne Gould Corporation building where he had been working in his first-floor offices when the 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch.
The news was broken to devastated family, who had mounted a vigil outside the building which had been badly damaged in the February 22 quake.
It is not known if the 40-year-old father-of-one from Abbeydorney will be brought home for a burial.
Mr O’Connor moved to New Zealand late last year after a long stint working in London.
As well as having a two-year-old son, wife Sarah is pregnant with the couple’s second child.
The two Irishmen are among the 166 fatalities officially registered but there are still a further 122 missing people.
The dead include Julie Wong, who had been living in Lisburn in Northern Ireland before she emigrated to New Zealand five years ago.
She had been living there with her husband David and four-year old son Ethan.
Mrs Wong, who was in her mid 30s, had been working in Pyne Gould Corporation building when the quake struck.
In a statement released through the Presbyterian Church, Julie’s father and mother, Robin and Eunice Johnston, paid tribute to her on Saturday.
“In her short life she was a joy and inspiration not just to her family and friends but to everyone who knew her.
“We are so sad that her life has been cut short along with so many others in this tragic way but find strength in our Christian faith that was such a part of Julie’s life too. We know that everything is in God’s hands.”
The couple also encouraged people “to pray for all those linked by this awful earthquake that they would know comfort and healing at this difficult time”.
Her funeral will also be held today, but in New Zealand.

Body of second Irish Christchurch earthquake victim found

THE body of Kerry accountant John JJ O’Connor has been found by crews
searching the ruins of buildings hit by the earthquake in New Zealand
last month.
His body was been found in the Pyne Gould Corporation building where
he had been working in his first-floor offices when the 6.3-magnitude
earthquake hit Christchurch.
The news was broken to devastated family, who had mounted a vigil
outside the building which had been badly damaged in the February 22 (12.51pm local time) quake.
It is not known if the 40-year-old father-of-one from Abbeydorney will
be brought home for a burial or whether a date has been set for his
funeral.
A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said last night: ‘We can
confirm that John’s body has been found and identified.
‘We are giving his family every assistance we can at this time.’
Formal confirmation that Mr O’Connor died in the quake brings to two
the number of Irish victims in the disaster.
The first victim to be identified among the dead was Monaghan man, Eoin McKenna.
The 41 year old was crushed to death while sitting in his car in a car
park moment after speaking to his wife Sarah top tell her he was
shopping for a meal he had been due to cook later that evening.
At the time, she was visiting relatives with the couple’s two
children, Grace, six, and Tadhg, five. He had moved to Christchurch to
live shortly after marrying Sarah about six years ago.
His mother Theresa and brothers Ciaran and Brendan are currently in
the city arranging the repatriation of his body.
It was his ‘express wish’ that he was to be buried in his native Monaghan.
His body is expected to arrive back in Ireland on Sunday with a
funeral expected to be around Tuesday.
Mr O’Connor moved to New Zealand late last year after a long stint
working in London.
As well as having a two-year-old son, wife Sarah is pregnant with the
couple’s second child.
The two Irishmen are among the 166 fatalities officially registered
but there are still a further 122 missing people.
The discovery of Mr O’Connor’s body brings to an end the prolongued
anguish the family suffered after there were reports that he was among
a group of people in the PGC building who were alive and talking to
rescuers.
Retired priest, Fr Ned Barrett – who is filling in for the current
parish priest – said last night: ‘This is news to me as I had only
been talking to members of John’s family at mass on Sunday.
‘Then they were still very anxious about finding him as he was still
reported as missing.
‘Our prayers are with his family at this very sad time.’

ends.

Hopes fading for Abbeydorney man trapped building hit by New Zealand earthquake

HOPES for the recovery of an Irish man trapped for hours in a Christchurch office building were fading last night.

The 40-year-old married father of one was reportedly in contact with a search and rescue team searching for victims of the New Zealand earthquake.

The team had been searching the ruins of the Pyne Gould Corporation building in the city centre, where John JJ O’Connor is believed to be an employee.

It is thought that his wife, who has been maintaining a vigil at the PGC building since Tuesday, is pregnant with the couple’s second child.

Mr O’Connor, who already has a son, is believed to have joined Perpetual Wealth Management after a recent move from London.

He is one of ten trapped in the ruins of the building and one of 17 Irish people who were still unaccounted for late yesterday.

Last night his mother, Sheila, was unavailable for comment as she was said to be visiting one of her daughters in London.

A relative at her house just outside the Co. Kerry village of Abbeydorney said the family did not wish to make any comment but that they were ‘anxiously waiting news, as you can imagine’.

Mr O’Connor’s father, Donald, who is believed to have died more than ten years ago, was a well-known farmer in the area.

A neighbour said last night: ‘I’ve only just heard and don’t know what to make of it. But I just hope he is okay and they get him out alive.’

Patrick Middleton, Mr O’Connor’s boss at Perpetual wealth management, said last night: ‘I can confirm that John O’Connor is working for Perpetual.

‘And our understanding is that he is in the building but at this stage, our key focus is on supporting his family.

‘The rescue operation continues on that building, but they are still working on the site and we just have to keep our hopes up.

‘We are holding out for hope as much as we can.’ He added: ‘The emergency services have been great.’

However, a spokeswoman for the New Zealand Fire Service last night played down reports of about survivors in the building.

She said: ‘Reports about a rescue are incorrect. There have been no indications of survivors in Christchurch since Wednesday.’

Elsewhere, the Department of Foreign Affairs say they are not ‘seriously concerned’ about the remaining 16 Irish citizens who have not yet been located.

But the Department’s Peader Carpenter said last night of Mr O’Connor’s situation: ‘We have a name of an Irish person who would be there.

‘The New Zealand crisis centre have told us they will advise us immediately there is official confirmation with regard to one Irish citizen who is supposed reported to be in a building where some people are alive.’

He added: ‘They have been talking to people in that building.

‘(But) we just have no (official) confirmation that he is definitely there or that they have spoken to them or that he is alive.’

Little is known about Mr O’Connor other than the fact that he is believed to have only moved to New Zealand two months ago.

He is said to have been working on the first floor of the PGC building when the quake struck.

He has been reported missing ever since.

Last night, the number of those officially declared dead following the disaster rose to 113.

Meanwhile, Pyne Gould Corporation bosses last night said they have been advised by emergency services that while they continue to search for people at its premises on Cambridge Terrace, Christchurch, the focus has shifted from rescue to recovery mode.

Fourteen people remain unaccounted for and are believed to still be in the building.

PGC chief executive Jeff Greenslade, said: ‘Our thoughts are with our missing colleagues and their families.’

So far, Monaghan-born psychiatric nurse Eoin McKenna is the only officially confirmed Irish fatality from the stricken city hit by Tuesday’s lunchtime 6.3-magnitude earthquake.

The 41 year old was crushed to death while sitting in his car in a car park moment after speaking to his wife Sarah top tell her he was shopping for a meal he had been due to cook later that evening.

At the time, she was visiting relatives with the couple’s two children, Grace, six, and Tadhg, five. He had moved there to live shortly after marrying Sarah about six years ago.

Members of his distraught family are expected to make their way to New Zealand either today or tomorrow, according to a friend of the family, to arrange for his body to be flown back to Ireland.