Family plead for new info 25 years after her disappearance
Speaking softly and quietly into a bank of microphones and under the watch of television cameras and photographers, sister of missing JoJo Dullard, Kathleen Bergin made a simple plea: "You can help JoJo finish her journey".
In the town hall in Newbridge, Co Kildare, gardaí had just announced that they had upgraded the inquiry into the 1995 disappearance of Kathleen's sister, JoJo, to one of murder.
JoJo was only 21 when she vanished, and her name and face remain familiar through many public appeals.
Her name is often mentioned alongside Deirdre Jacob, Annie McCarrick, Fiona Pender, Ciara Breen, and Fiona Sinnott - all young women who disappeared in the same era.
For Kathleen and her family it was a day they knew was coming, but to hear gardaí confirm her fears out loud was still emotional.
Detective Superintendent Desmond McTiernan, head of the Serious Crime Review Team, spelled it out in unambiguous language.
"We're quite satisfied that JoJo is dead, and met her death through violent means," he told the media briefing yesterday.
JoJo had travelled to Dublin from her home in Callan, Co Kilkenny on November 9, 1995.
She had been living in Dublin for a while, but moved back to Kilkenny and was due to start a new full-time job as a waitress in Grainger's café and tea rooms the following Monday.
She had travelled to Dublin to sign off social welfare, but missed her last bus home at Busáras. JoJo did, however, make it on to a bus that brought her as far as Naas in Co Kildare.
With no mobile phones in 1995, she did what many people at that time did, and tried to hitch a lift the rest of the way.
She got a lift to Kilcullen around 12km away, and then another lift to the town of Moone 20km further on.
But she still had a long way to go to get to Callan in Co Kilkenny, more than 70km away.
Probably sensing that people might start to worry about her, JoJo went to a local phone box and rang her friend Mary Cullinane to let her know where she was.
After a car passed by, she stopped the conversation short after telling her friend she had just got another lift.
'God, I have a lift. I'll phone you again at my next stop', she told her friend.
JoJo was never seen again.
The persistence of her family in seeking information and keeping JoJo's name in the public consciousness was the driving force behind the setting up of Operation Trace by then garda commissioner Pat Byrne in 1998.
As the years went by, JoJo's family grew to accept the fact that they would never see her alive again, but the quest to find her, and give her a Christian burial with her mam and dad kept driving them forward.
"We agree with the decision that has been made here to upgrade JoJo's case to a murder investigation," said Kathleen yesterday.
"They are not words that you want to hear about someone you love, but as the years went by, and after this length of time we have known in our hearts and accepted that she's not alive," she added.
"We know something sinister happened her that night and we are hopeful that the team will be able to move this case along further and maybe, please God, find answers to our questions," she explained.
Kathleen said it is known JoJo got to Moone, and they are trying to piece together what happened to her after that.
"If somebody somewhere has information about JoJo's disappearance, and for whatever reason they have felt unable to come forward up until now, we are praying that their circumstances have changed for whatever reason, and we know and we understand that fear has been holding them back, and please believe us when we say we just want to have JoJo brought home," she added.
"You will not be judged. No matter how small that piece of information is, please bring it forward to the team that are working on our case, and let them decide," she explained.
Superintendent Martin Walker made a specific appeal about a black Sanyo Walkman music player and headphones that JoJo had on the night she disappeared.
This is new information that has not been in the public domain until now.
"JoJo had her black Sanyo stereo cassette player with her.
"Did anyone see this cassette player after November 9, 1995, did anyone receive such a cassette player from a friend or person that could not tell you from where they received it?" he asked.
He also said JoJo had been in Bruxelles Bar off Grafton Street in Dublin on the night she went missing, and appealed for anyone who saw her there, or on her way to Busáras, Naas and onwards, to get in touch.
"An Garda Síochána is appealing to any person who was hitch-hiking in the immediate area around Moone, Co Kildare at the end of October 1995 or the start of November 1995.
"Or did you give a lift to a hitchhiker around the same time in the Moone area. If you did, please come forward and speak to our investigation team," said Supt Walker.
"Gardaí continue to appeal to any person who may have previously come forward who felt they could not provide gardaí with all the information they had in relation to this matter, to contact the investigation team again," he added.
"Today marks another traumatic day for JoJo's family as her case is publicly confirmed to be now an active murder investigation."
Anyone with information is urged to contact Kildare garda station on 045 527 730 or any garda station, or anyone who wishes to provide information confidentially should contact the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111.