Fears as father in snatch alert goes missing
A DAD who sparked a major garda manhunt after he went on the run with his children is feared dead today.
Gardai believe that the father-of-3 may have taken his own life after walking out of a medical facility.
His car was found at the pier in Wicklow harbour with the keys still in the ignition and photographs of his children scattered around the seats.
A major search involving gardai, the coast guard and local lifeboats resumed at first light today.
A source close to the family told the Herald: "He tried to take his life last weekend. Everyone is devastated."
The man caused a massive garda search on Wednesday when he took his three children -- aged seven, nine and 12 -- out of school and sped away.
Teachers alerted gardai who immediately issued a public appeal, set up roadblocks and launched a helicopter search.
Officers said that they were extremely concerned for the welfare of the children and warned members of the public not to approach the man.
After a pursuit along the N11 near Rathnew in Wicklow, he crashed into a roundabout and was detained under the Mental Health Act.
However, the case took a tragic twist yesterday when the man's car was found on the pier in Wicklow town near the local sailing club.
The keys were still in the ignition and there were photographs of his three children on the seats but there was no sign of the dad.
Gardai, backed up by the coast guard units from Wicklow and Greystones, a rescue helicopter from Dublin and the local lifeboat, began searching for the waters after the alarm was raised at 8.30am.
That search was called off in fading light at 5pm yesterday and was due to resume at first light today. A local source described the man as a "very good father who gave his children all the things he never had himself".
Early indications are that the man had sought medical treatment after Wednesday's incident, but then left the facility of his own free will.
"The car he crashed in on Wednesday was not his own, and it was his own car that was found by the pier yesterday morning," explained the source.
During Wednesday's incident he borrowed a relative's car in what is believed to have been an attempt to thwart gardai.
They asked the public not to approach the driver of the Nissan Almera as its description was circulated to all garda units in Wicklow and surrounding counties.
As gardai stepped up their search, one of their patrol crews spotted the car on the N11 road near Rathnew village and went in pursuit.The man left the N11 outside Rathnew but the car ended up crashing on top of the roundabout.
An eyewitness at the time said: "It was a serious wallop and it's lucky that no one was injured. The children seemed a bit shaken but were otherwise fine."
Gardai established that the children were unhurt and they were taken away from the scene.