herald

Wednesday 26 June 2019

Gardai dig up bog in search for doctor who vanished 10 years ago

A garda stands at the site near Kerrykeel where officers are
searching for the body of doctor Deirdre O’Flaherty (inset)
A garda stands at the site near Kerrykeel where officers are searching for the body of doctor Deirdre O’Flaherty (inset)

Gardai have started a dig for the remains of a missing doctor after a letter was sent to them claiming to know the exact location of her body.

The excavation, which is expected to last up to five days, is taking place between Rathmullan and Kerrykeel, in Co Donegal.

A number of gardai using a mini-digger moved to the site yesterday.

A letter received from a person some weeks ago claims to know the exact place where 46-year-old Deirdre O'Flaherty is buried.

Remote

The dig is taking place in a remote area of bogland popular with dog walkers.

Dr O'Flaherty, from Strabane, Co Tyrone, was reported missing on January 11, 2009, at Moville.

It is understood that gardai are treating the letter writer's claim as genuine.

Officers had initially considered using geothermal imaging in an attempt to locate any body.

However, because of the rocky nature of the terrain, they have decided to scrape away layers of soil using a smaller digger.

Gardai have cordoned off the area to prevent members of the public from accessing the site while the excavation is being carried out.

Mystery has always surrounded Dr O'Flaherty's sudden disappearance.

Her car was found at Kinnego Beach and she was known to have suffered from depression, leading to suspicions that she had taken her own life on February 11, 2009.

She had been staying at a holiday home with her husband and their children.

In February 2012, the High Court in Belfast ruled that it was satisfied that Dr O'Flaherty had died. The judge used new legislation for the first time in the North to declare that he was satisfied that she drowned after going into the sea off Co Donegal.

The Presumption of Death Act 2009 was introduced to clarify the law and speed up the process by which a missing person may be officially declared dead.

Unused

Before that, the family of a missing person had to wait seven years before obtaining a declaration of death.

Dr O'Flaherty's disappearance featured on RTE's Crimecall but there were no positive sightings of her.

Following her disappearance, her credit cards and bank accounts have remained unused.

A garda family liaison officer has been appointed during the latest search for Dr O'Flaherty.

The search will be carried out by members of the Donegal Divisional Search Team and Garda Technical Bureau, along with private contractors.

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