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Tragic tot 'Exhume my murdered baby': House of Horrors victim Cynthia Owen's desperate plea

Cynthia was just 11 years old when the body of her newborn infant was discovered with horrific stab wounds and dumped in a laneway in Dun Laoghaire.

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 Cynthia Owen is a survivor from the Dalkey House of Horrors

Cynthia Owen is a survivor from the Dalkey House of Horrors

Photocall Ireland

Cynthia Owen is a survivor from the Dalkey House of Horrors

House of Horrors victim Cynthia Owen has appealed to the coroner to grant an exhumation order for baby Noleen Murphy so DNA can confirm she is her mum and identify Cynthia’s abuser.

I believe that this would be something that could give me closure after so many years. I could bury baby Noleen and know I had done my very, very best for her,” she said.

Gardai have said that an independent forensic archaeologist has confirmed the exhumation is possible.

However, they say that considerations of the executive at Glasnevin cemetery, which previously raised concerns about the collateral impact on surrounding graves, have to be considered.

The issue of an exhumation has been an ongoing controversy in the 47-year-old murder mystery. At one point it was suggested that the remains of hundreds of infants in the Holy Angels plot would have to be disturbed.

But the facts are the grave of Baby Noleen is clearly marked, her remains are in a coffin and an exhumation would have minimal effect on the plot.

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Gardai at the house in Dalkey where it is believed the newborn baby of Cynthia Owens (inset) was violently killed

Gardai at the house in Dalkey where it is believed the newborn baby of Cynthia Owens (inset) was violently killed

Collins Dublin, Colin Keegan

Gardai at the house in Dalkey where it is believed the newborn baby of Cynthia Owens (inset) was violently killed

Earlier this week, an appeal for anyone with information about Baby Noleen to come forward featured on RTE’s Crimecall.

Cynthia was just 11 years old when the body of her newborn infant was discovered with horrific stab wounds and dumped in a laneway in Dun Laoghaire.

She was named as the mother of the baby at an inquest 13 years ago, more than 20 years after she first came forward to gardai.

The baby, she told the inquest, was taken from her at birth and stabbed to death with knitting needles by her mother Josephine, who then dumped her in a bag in the laneway.

Despite the horrific inquest findings that the child was murdered in the Murphy family home in Whyte’s Villas in Dalkey, scientific proof has never been sought to link the baby’s remains to Cynthia Owen and therefore her allegations of a catalogue of abuse.

Her repeated calls for an exhumation over the years have been refused by Glasnevin cemetery, where baby Noleen was interred in an unmarked grave, despite being a murder victim.

“I was named as the mother of baby Noleen Murphy at the Coroner’s Court in February 2007, which also established that Noleen died at my family home in Dalkey.

“That inquest also concluded that Noleen was stabbed to death. She was born in 1973,” said Cynthia.

“I understand that the scientific evidence is available to back this up if the body of Noleen is exhumed and DNA can be taken from her. Several test excavations were carried out at Tuam on infants born many years before Noleen.

"There was a Stratigraphic Survey in October 2015, which identified an area of interest. Then further test excavations in November/December 2016 and January/February 2017 were quite successful.

“The infants’ remains were removed and taken for analysis where experts used dating and radiocarbon techniques to discover their ages and discovered they were between 35 weeks old and 2/3 years old. It was also established they had been buried there from 1950.

“So these tests carried out on infants at Tuam buried 23 years before Noleen were successful from a scientific basis.

“I was 11 years old when she was taken away from me. She was callously murdered in front of me by my mother and her body dumped in a laneway.

“Glasnevin Cemetery ignored the protocols for burying a murder victim and they are now refusing to allow me to exhume my daughter, while recently they sought permission to exhume over 1,000 bodies of infants and adults to build a memorial chapel. But they tell me the ground cannot be disturbed.”

Cynthia and her lawyer Gerry Dunne have conducted their own research over the years about the area where Noleen is buried.

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Cynthia Owen leaves Dublin County Coroner’s Court after the 2007 inquest into the death of her newborn daughter, Noleen Murphy (Julien Behal/PA)

Cynthia Owen leaves Dublin County Coroner’s Court after the 2007 inquest into the death of her newborn daughter, Noleen Murphy (Julien Behal/PA)

PA

Cynthia Owen leaves Dublin County Coroner’s Court after the 2007 inquest into the death of her newborn daughter, Noleen Murphy (Julien Behal/PA)

“We know exactly where Noleen is buried. It has never been moved or the ground excavated and is still intact. They did grass the area in 2013 but no graves were disturbed.

“While it is called a mass grave, that is technically not true. It is a very large area where thousands of babies are buried but there are individual graves holding around 20 babies and each marked and sectioned out.

"There is nothing whatsoever haphazard about it.

“Glasnevin records are meticulous so we know exactly where she is, who is buried with her and the names and dates of each infant and their parents’ names. I have been visiting Noleen’s grave for more than 20 years.

“Beside Noleen’s grave to the left is a grassed area with no other graves. Gardai have told me if they got the exhumation order they would go into the grave from the left causing minimum disruption. We think she is fourth or fifth in the grave but the undertaker confirmed that she is buried in a wooden coffin so would be easily found.

“I remain hopeful that the exhumation can occur for two reasons – to confirm I am her mother so I can give her a Christian funeral that we were both denied at the time. But also there is an opportunity to establish who her father is in the hope that, if still alive, he could be charged in relation to me giving birth at age 11.

“This is the time to remedy all the mistakes of that past made with Noleen’s murder and I would truly welcome an exhumation.”

And Cynthia urged anyone to come forward now and help solve the murder of her child.

“I would really beg people to go to the gardai if they have any information whatsoever. I am appealing to those who knew my family when I was growing up in the Dalkey and Dun Laoghaire area to think if they might know anything of help. Or to those who attended school with me at Loreto Abbey in Dalkey when I was a young child, pregnant.

“Or any adults at the time in the area with connections to the school, be it a doctor or nurse or a teacher or parent taking their kids to school.

“Were you an old neighbour of mine and did you see anything suspicious around my family home?

“Did you see men regularly visiting my home who perhaps had no real reason to be there? Especially late at night or in the early hours of the morning?

“Did you live in Dalkey and see my mother and I out walking late at night or see either of my parents visiting other properties with myself or any of my younger siblings that you thought seemed odd?

“Do you have any information around either of the pregnancies I suffered as a child when I was 11 and 14 years of age?

“Locals have told me that our family home was nicknamed ‘the brothel’ at the time I was growing up. This is not a crime that went unnoticed.”

And she said: “I attended school on both pregnancies and even attended a family doctor on the second pregnancy after being admitted to hospital for a threatening miscarriage at the age of 14.

“I attended school right up until the day I gave birth to Noleen. I don’t hold anything against anyone. I just want justice for this little forgotten baby who is Ireland’s youngest murder victim. This is a homicide and the gardai are duty-bound to collect the very best evidence, which in this case includes DNA examinations.”

In 2007, the then coroner Dr Kieran Geraghty applied for an exhumation order which the then Minister for Justice Michael McDowell refused.

“I am appealing to the coroner to re-apply for that exhumation order. Times have changed. Attitudes are different now. And it is time for justice and for closure.”

Files have been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions six times in relation to the Dalkey House of Horror allegation but have been persistently returned for no prosecution.

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