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Thursday 8 December 2016

'Tell us where our beloved Jo Jo's body is', says grief-stricken family

Jo Jo Dollard
Jo Jo Dollard
Jo Jo Dollard's sister Mary Phelan

The family of a young woman who went missing 21 years ago have said they do not want revenge - they just want to know where her body is.

Jo Jo Dollard was only 21-years-old when she disappeared on November 9, 1995.

The single woman was making her way from Dublin to her home in Callan, Co Kilkenny.

Jo Jo, who had missed a direct bus home, managed to thumb several lifts before being dropped off in the village of Moone in Co Kildare, where she was last seen alive.

Monument

She made a call from a telephone box in the village that night, but never arrived home.

Her sister Kathleen Bergin has campaigned tirelessly for information on Jo Jo and her family managed to get a national monument erected in the grounds of Kilkenny Castle, to remember all missing people.

Kathleen and her family were driving forces behind Operation Trace, set up by former Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne in 1998 to investigate the cases of six young women who disappeared from the Leinster area over a five-year period.

"In the early years we never thought it would go on this like. Words would never describe what this is like. We can't close the door and say this all has gone away. It has had a devastating effect on our family. It's torture, it's affected not only the family but also her friends. Two of her friends now have babies and they make us think that Jo Jo should be alive to see and experience this.

"Jo Jo was a tomboy growing up. She lost her parents very young. Dad passed away before she was born and Mum when she was 12-years-old. She had it tough, but she was always so kind and was the baby of the family - Jo Jo was the youngest of five. We all admired her because she had a hard start in life.

"We try our best to keep this campaign alive. We know in our hearts that someone has information. This just hurts so much and is so difficult that someone knows more than we do.

"We've gotten so much great support and it's difficult to keep this search alive. We continue to cling on to hope for Jo Jo. We want her to be found before all of us (family) pass away.

"It's just to know where she is and that she is not out there all alone. It's time she was brought back to us - her family."

The family claim that gardai told them several years ago that they had "specific information" about a chief suspect.

Fr Willie Purcell from Callan, and who has been vocal in his hope for Jo Jo's return, added: "They have done so much to survive through this. Not only the family but everyone involved in the search are constantly hoping a phone call will be made or a door bell will ring with someone telling us where she is.

"We will never give up on Jo Jo, not just for her family but for Jo Jo herself."

Remembered

Jo Jo will be remembered at 2pm on Sunday in the grounds of Kilkenny Castle, where the missing persons monument was unveiled in 2002 by former President Mary McAleese.

Local Fianna Fail TD John McGuinness added he hoped the fresh appeal will be followed through by the gardai.

"When Jo Jo went missing 21 years ago search methods were different. A lot more could be done to find her now and I hope the search will go beyond our legal jurisdiction," he said.

"We want more engagement with the police on this, but the authorities do not seem to be listening to us as we have been appealing for this for years.

"It is deeply unfair for the family to carry this burden. The gardai need to relaunch a more public search for Jo Jo."

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