herald

Monday 17 December 2018

Flanagan backs probe into garda handling of Kerry babies case

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has said there is "merit" in setting up a new investigation into the garda's handling of the Kerry babies case.

It comes as the woman wrongly charged with the murder of Baby John, Joanne Hayes, could now receive compensation from the State.

"I think it's important we proceed along these lines, towards the matter of compensation, and that we do so in a way that's discreet, in a way that's private and in a way that's speedy," Mr Flanagan said.

Any investigation would probably look at how Ms Hayes and her family came to sign false statements admitting involvement in the murder.

Evidence

The minister pointed out that some officers involved in the initial investigation had since died, while others were retired.

"It may be difficult to provide a conclusive level of evidence," he said, speaking of an investigation into how gardai handled the case.

Officers will be knocking on doors and seeking new witnesses as part of the fresh investigation.

A local detective inspector has been assigned as the senior investigating officer and will lead the inquiry, which is being treated as a live investigation.

Members of the Garda Serious Crime Review Team are also working with local detectives to establish the identity of the infant's parents.

A post-mortem examination carried out by then State Pathologist John Harbison in 1984 estimated that the baby was around five-days-old when he was found. He had been stabbed 28 times, with four wounds penetrating his heart.

The autopsy also revealed he had been dead for around two days when his body was discovered by a local man on April 14.

Gardai will be seeking witnesses as well as reviewing statements taken during the initial investigation. Officers also want local people to come forward and voluntarily supply their DNA.

Scientific advances mean that a familial DNA match could help identify the mother and father of Baby John.

Apology

"A person may not even know that they are closely related to Baby John's parents, and gardai are appealing for people in the area to come forward and assist the investigation," a senior source said.

Detectives are seeking DNA samples from people living on the Iveragh Peninsula in south Kerry as part of the new probe.

Officers have confirmed that they are not following a definite line of inquiry, but that a number of people have contacted the incident room at Caherciveen Garda Station since the fresh investigation was launched on Tuesday. Ms Hayes has received a verbal and written apology from the force.

Due to significant advances in DNA testing, it was confirmed that Ms Hayes was not Baby John's mother, and searches of a national DNA database have failed to yield any matches to other people's samples.   

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