Forest search as gardai assist in hunt for missing woman Saoirse
Gardai have started searching a forest in Co Louth as part of a PSNI murder investigation into the disappearance of Saoirse Smyth more than two years ago.
Ms Smyth was aged 28 when she went missing in Belfast on April 11, 2017.
It is believed that she may have returned to the house where she was living at Essmor Cottages in Omeath.
Yesterday's search operation focused on a wooded area near that village.
"This is an operational search rather than an intelligence-led search," a senior source told the Herald.
Gardai announced details of the operation, which follows the forensic examination of a house in Omeath last July by officers in a search for DNA or fingerprint evidence.
That search lasted for two days but no trace of a body has yet been found.
"The search is being conducted by detectives from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI), supported by the Louth Divisional Search Team, garda Technical Bureau, specialist forensic archaeologists and specialist cadaver search dogs," a garda spokesman said.
"Investigators from the Police Service of Northern Ireland will also be assisting."
The suspected murder victim had distinctive red hair and was around 5ft (1.52 metres) tall and of slim build.
Last July, the PSNI arrested a 40-year-old man on suspicion of Ms Smyth's murder in the Newry area but he was released without charge. A 48-year-old woman was also arrested and released by the PSNI as part of the investigation.
It has also been reported that the PSNI want to question a Northern Irish drug dealer currently serving a jail sentence in Mountjoy Prison.
Speaking last year, Ms Smyth's family appealed for anyone with information to come forward.
"Somebody out there must know something about what has happened to Saoirse and we would plead with anyone who knows anything to contact the police," the family said.
PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Geoff Boyce said the investigation into Ms Smyth's disappearance "has progressed, and while keeping an open mind, I now believe that the potential exists for Saoirse to have sadly been murdered".
Urging anyone with information to come forward, Mr Boyce said: "Her family deserve to know what has happened to her.
"I have been in contact with her family, who understandably have been left devastated, and trained police family liaison officers are supporting the family at this very difficult time,"he added.
Gardai are asking anyone who has information to contact Dundalk Garda station at 042 9388470 or get in touch via the Garda Confidential Line at 1800 666 111.
Anyone with information can also contact the PSNI at the incident room at Ladas Drive on (0044) 28 9070 0355.