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'Time now to bring Jojo home': cold case reviewed by gardai

 

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Jojo Dollard's sister Kathleen Bergin

Jojo Dollard's sister Kathleen Bergin

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Jojo Dollard's sister Kathleen Bergin

The sister of missing Kilkenny woman JoJo Dollard has revealed An Garda Siochana's Serious Crime Review Team are investigating the 1995 disappearance of the 21-year-old as part of a new cold-case review.

A team of investigators are examining all the evidence with fresh eyes, and JoJo's sister Kathleen Bergin has appealed to them to ques- tion again everybody who was interviewed in an effort to find the body of the young restaurant worker.

"JoJo was in the wrong place at the wrong time and somebody saw an opportunity and acted on it," said Kathleen.

In-depth

"The meetings with the gardai over the last while have been good. There's a whole new team in there now and they're working on JoJo's case.

"Me and my husband met Commissioner Drew Harris last year and the meetings went well.

"He told us they were going to start the review. They are doing that at the moment but it will take some time. We are trying to keep an open mind," she told the Herald.

"They are doing an in-depth review and won't be speaking to anyone else who was working on it in the past.

"It will be a new set of eyes, to see if things could have been done differently.

"We are hoping they will come across something but really need people to come forward.

"This will be a timely opportunity for somebody to come forward and help us.

"Someone has that information and for whatever reason they've been withholding it. We urge them to come forward now.

"Maybe their circumstances have changed in 24 years. It has been a long time.

"It must be an awful burden for them to have to hold information like this, to keep it to themselves over the years.

"We just want our JoJo back, that's all. It would be a gift to us, to be able to put all the pieces together and bring JoJo home. That's all our family wants.

"I want to give the review team a chance and see what comes out of it. We are hopeful. This is an in-depth investigation and maybe they will see something that could be done in a different way using today's techniques.

"Definitely I feel they need to re-question people again. That has to be done. To go out and question people in person again.

"Because if somebody doesn't want to go to a garda station, they have a chance to open up and tell them what they know.

"Especially after all these years, it would be a big opportunity for them to do that now and help. We need the public's help."

Kathleen remembers her last interaction with JoJo vividly. It was a phone conversation the night before she vanished.

"It was on the Wednesday evening, I was speaking to JoJo on the phone. She had moved down to Callan and was working in Graingers' restaurant there. She said she was going to Dublin in the morning," Kathleen said.

"She wasn't fully sure and I said 'if you don't [go] we can meet up for a cup of coffee when my lads are gone to school'.

"She said, 'If you don't hear from me, Kathleen, you'll know I'm gone on the early bus'.

"So when I didn't hear from her that Thursday morning I thought, 'OK, she's gone up to Dublin'."

It is known JoJo missed her last direct bus home on the Thursday evening and got as far as Moone in Co Kildare - she got a bus to Naas, hitched a lift to Kilcullen and then another lift to Moone.

While in Moone she called her friend Mary Cullinane from a phone box to tell her where she was.

"When she was on the phone to Mary a car passed and she obviously flagged him down.

"She just came back to Mary and said, 'God, I have a lift. I'll phone you again at my next stop'," said Kathleen.

"Thank God she made the phone call in Moone because it was from that phone call we were able to verify she was there. We are 100pc she got to Moone.

"It's after Moone that we are trying to put the pieces together."

JoJo and Kathleen's other sister Mary spent years campaigning for JoJo and never gave up their fight up to Mary's death from cancer two years ago this month.

"Mary always felt JoJo is near to where she went missing. She had never budged from that.

"She just felt like she was coming up against a brick wall and felt very let down and disheartened by everything," said Kathleen.

"Mary was determined, God love her. It took a toll on her.

"She had given so much of herself to try to find out what happened to JoJo. It took everything she had. It wore her down.

"That became her life. She wanted to bring her back home, even up to the very end, in the last moments of her life.

"JoJo's picture was beside her. I know she's with her now but she would still want her brought home.

"I see the two of them together. Mary has her answers now. We need hope. We need something to believe in.

"Help us fulfil Mary's wishes. There is a confidential helpline if someone just wants to leave a message.

Crime

"Finding her would be enough. Just to bring her back home. We won't judge anyone. We just want to put her with Mam and Dad and be able to sit down beside her knowing she's not out there on her own any more.

"I think JoJo deserves that after all this time. She's out there too long now on her own. We know we'll never be able to hug her again.

"A crime has been committed somewhere and they are still out there. As time goes on the fear is they will strike again. You just don't know and that's frightening.

"Where are the years gone? It's there in your mind the whole time -My God, she's still missing. There's never a day goes by you don't think of JoJo. I still think of her the age she was.

"I often wonder what would her life have been like if this had not happened? She was 21 and her life was just taken from her.

"She could be married now with her own family. All her dreams and hopes were taken.

"Ireland is such a small country but to have someone vanish without a trace, it's unbelievable."