Murder probe | 

Kerry Babies: Solicitor says there is ‘no reason’ for arrests of ‘Baby John’ couple

The couple have not yet returned to their home

Baby John's grave in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Cahersiveen, Co Kerry. Photo: Domnick Walsh Photography

High-profile Kerry solicitor Padraig O’Connell. Photo: Don MacMonagle

Sinead Kelleher and Conor

The lawyer representing the couple arrested on suspicion of murder in the Kerry Babies case has questioned the validity of their detention and said he expects them to be exonerated.

Speaking in the aftermath of the release without charge of the man in his 60s and woman in her 50s, high-profile Kerry solicitor Padraig O’Connell also urged the Director of Public Prosecutions to make a decision on their case as soon as possible.

Gardaí sent a file to the DPP after the arrests, questioning, and release of the couple at two Kerry garda stations on Thursday evening.

The woman was released from Castleisland garda station on Friday evening, and the man was released from Listowel Garda Station in the early hours of Saturday ­morning.

They were arrested at their home on suspicion of murder.

Gardaí believe they are the parents of the child who became known as Baby John, who was found on White Strand Beach near Caherciveen, Co Kerry, with stab wounds and a broken neck.

“I want to see a file sent to the DPP and for the DPP to make a decision as immediately as possible so that they can be exonerated and I expect they will,” Mr O’Connell said.

He said the couple are innocent and that he “would question the validity of their arrest”.

“I believe there is no reason for their arrest,” he said.

DNA has been taken from the couple and has been sent for analysis, the Sunday World understands.

This, however, will only prove whether they have a DNA link or are the parents of Baby John.

The couple’s home has also been searched by gardaí.

“Proving they are the parents is one thing. Providing DNA that is a match, so be it, but that doesn’t prove anything,” Mr O’Connell said.

“Since when did having matching DNA allow someone to be an alleged murderer?”

“This case needs to be ­expedited,” he said.

High-profile Kerry solicitor Padraig O’Connell. Photo: Don MacMonagle

There is no time-frame for when DNA results would be expected.

The body of five-day-old Baby John was found on White Strand Beach in April 1984.

The resulting flawed garda investigation which relied on false confessions from Joanne Hayes and her family, led eventually to a tribunal.

This turned out to be shameful in its treatment of Ms Hayes, who had given birth to a stillborn baby about the same time as Baby John was killed.

What was supposed to be an inquiry into how Joanne Hayes confessed to the killing of a baby she could never have given birth to turned into a spotlight on her personal life.

She was publicly cross-­examined for five days, often while in tears, and forced to reveal details about her sex life and use of contraception.

The tribunal lasted 82 days and eventually found that Joanne Hayes could not have been the mother of Baby John.

Ms Hayes received an apology from the State in December 2020, 36 years after Baby John was found.

A cold-case review launched in 2018, and the exhumation of Baby John’s remains in 2021 to obtain a new DNA sample, brought local and national attention to the case again.

It was believed improved scientific procedures could advance the investigation.

The passage of time had led to assumptions that gardaí did not have enough new evidence to advance the case.

But the announcement of the arrests last Thursday evening took locals by surprise, and suddenly the spotlight turned on the couple.

It is understood the Kerry couple have never had any dealings with gardaí or solicitors until their arrest on Thursday evening.

They have not yet returned to their home.

Meanwhile, local councillor Norma Moriarty has asked if it would have been better if gardaí had called to the couple quietly first with whatever information they had, rather than move to quickly arrest them.

“People know who the arrested couple are now,” she said. “A lot of families are impacted by the arrests.

“We need to learn from the past and ensure mistakes that were made back then are not repeated in the current investigation.

“Would the gardaí have been better to approach the couple discreetly first to see what direction it might take the investigation.

“There is a lot of empathy for the couple in the area.”

Ms Moriarty also said DNA evidence could only take the investigation so far, and nobody should make any assumptions or suppositions even if it did identify who Baby John’s family are.

“Nobody can pre-judge in this case,” she said.

Today's Headlines

More Irish Crime

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

WatchMore Videos