| 17.1°C Dublin

Mystery Gardaí hopeful new DNA will deliver familial 'hit' and help solve Baby John murder case

A post-mortem revealed the five-day-old infant had suffered a total of 28 stab wounds and a fractured spine

Close

Baby John’s grave in Cahersiveen, Co Kerry

Baby John’s grave in Cahersiveen, Co Kerry

Baby John’s grave in Cahersiveen, Co Kerry

Gardaí are hoping the new DNA sample taken from exhumed remains of 'Baby John' will deliver a familial 'hit' that will help close the book on the 37-year-old Kerry Babies mystery.

Detectives hope the case will finally be solved not through a direct identification of the mother or father involved, but rather by a familial hit or DNA match with a close relative of the parents of Baby John.

Such DNA tests are now so sensitive they can deliver hits from relatives as distant as second cousins.

One Kerry Garda source insisted the answer to the tragedy remains firmly in the local community and not, as some have suggested, overseas.

Almost 100 DNA samples have been collected in Kerry over the past three years in a bid to cross-match them with old samples taken before Baby John was buried 37 years ago.

Close

Innocent woman Joanne Hayes

Innocent woman Joanne Hayes

Innocent woman Joanne Hayes

 

However, an old DNA sample taken from the infant was not of optimal quality for recent advances in genetic testing.

Gardaí believe the fresh sample - obtained after the exhumation of Baby John from Holy Cross cemetery in Cahersiveen on September 14 and the examination at University Hospital Kerry - will deliver significant developments.

Any familial hit obtained will then allow a focus for the Garda investigation.

Such familial DNA links have been instrumental in solving many cold case crimes across the UK, US and France over recent years.

The remains of Baby John were found at White Strand outside Cahersiveen on April 14, 1984.

A post-mortem revealed the five-day-old infant died after a horrific assault - and had suffered a total of 28 stab wounds and a fractured spine.

The bungled investigation became one of Ireland's major Garda scandals and resulted in a formal State apology and the payment of damages to Kerry woman Joanne Hayes and her family.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

She had repeatedly insisted she had no connection whatsoever to the White Strand infant and DNA tests subsequently proved the truth of her case.

However, gardaí wrongly focused their attention on her.

Ms Hayes had given birth to a baby boy, named Shane, on April 13, 1984, on the family farm, but that child died of natural causes and was buried on the property.

The controversy was deepened by the mistaken findings of the Kerry Babies Tribunal.

The grave of Baby John was vandalised a number of times over the years.

The marble headstone - which bore the inscription 'I Forgive' - was paid for by local undertaker Tom Cournane, who insisted on repairing it after each attack.

Gardaí insisted the case is now at "a very sensitive stage" - with detectives awaiting the result of DNA cross-checks.

The exhumation was carried out by Killarney District gardaí with assistance from the Garda Technical Bureau, a forensic anthropologist, and personnel from Kerry County Council and the HSE.

Gardaí have now obtained almost 100 DNA samples from the wider public in a campaign launched in Kerry in 2018.

Killarney Garda Superintendent Flor Murphy said the latest development was an "important and necessary" step.

"It's part of the ongoing investigation, it's an essential part of the investigation and this wouldn't have been embarked on if this wasn't very important and necessary," he said.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices


Privacy