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Notorious predator Long read: Larry Murphy and Ireland's missing women

Convicted rapist Larry Murphy has been linked to a series of missing woman in the Co Wicklow area.

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Larry Murphy

Larry Murphy

Larry Murphy

The man pacing up and down the car park was around 6ft tall with strawberry blond hair, a round face and sickly white skin.

It was dark - after eight in the evening on Friday, February 11, 2000 - but 'Jill' (not her real name) could just about make him out under a street light.

He looked to be mid-thirties, with his hands stuffed in a pair of scruffy jeans, and a dark fleece zipped up to the neck. The hairs on the back of her neck bristled. He was standing about 20 feet away from her car, with a fidgety edge of someone growing impatient waiting.

Jill drew a deep breath. She was 28, had looks, brains, a steady boyfriend, her own place and her own business.

She wasn't physically frail or easily fazed.

She weighed it up - men didn't normally hang around here like that - but she wanted to go home. It had been a long day at work and she'd spent it on her feet. Hers wasn't the only car left.

Tightening her grip on her black handbag containing the day's takings, she hurried across the tarmac, clicked the central locking and tugged the handle. Suddenly he started towards her.

"Give me the money!" She pulled the door open quickly. His fist rose. With a crack, warm blood trickled down her face. "Help!"

A second punch came smashing into her face and made her legs go from under her. With a hard shove, he pushed her on to the driver's seat. Jill lurched back up to grab the handle, trying to pull the door closed. He leaned between her and the door, gripping his fingers around her throat.

"Move over."

His lashless eyes were full of hate.

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Jill scrambled backwards over to the passenger's seat with a wail, frantically scanning the car park for any sign of life. No-one.

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Larry Murphy in Amsterdam

Larry Murphy in Amsterdam

Larry Murphy in Amsterdam

He was in the driver's seat, had pulled the door closed behind him before she had a chance to turn for the passenger handle. His left arm stretched across and grabbed her by the hair.

He slammed her head sideways, cracking her cheekbone off the metal handbrake. After giving the car park the once over, he gunned the engine, put the car in gear, revved a few times, and took off.

He was really good at this.

Larry Murphy swerved to a space 25 yards away, pulling up at a secluded point in the car park alongside a block of flats.

"Take your bra off!"

He yanked the bra off her, clamped her wrists together with one hand, and jerked it around them, knotting it so tight her hands turned puffy.

"Take off your boots!"

She leaned forward but her hands were bound so tight she couldn't get at the zips.

He leaned across and scooped her boots off, dropping them to the foot-well. Her eyes bulged in terror.

Opening the driver's door he climbed out, checking over his shoulders to see if the coast was clear, before pacing over to a Fiat.

Her face began to contort again on the other side of the glass as he headed back and swung open the passenger door.

She was kicking so much he had to drag her out.

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Larry Murphy leaving Arbour Hill Prison after his release. Pic Steve Humphreys

Larry Murphy leaving Arbour Hill Prison after his release. Pic Steve Humphreys

Larry Murphy leaving Arbour Hill Prison after his release. Pic Steve Humphreys

Gripping her at the back of the neck with one hand, he kept the other flat on her back as he directed her towards the Fiat boot.

He guided her head in and the rest followed with a hard knock. Slamming the boot shut, he headed back to the driver's seat and had one more scope that no one was around.

Satisfied, he drove off. He'd decided to take her to a place that meant a lot to him, Beaconstown, 14.5 km away.

The disco in the grounds of Kilkea Castle was his old stomping ground. He used to go there all the time.

Couples travelled from all over the world to get married there.

Personally, he remembered it as somewhere where he'd been ritually humiliated by women who turned him down because he wasn't good enough, at least until he met his wife.

Curled in the foetal position with her wrists bound, Jill couldn't protect herself from the metal tools bouncing around the boot as the car sped.

She tried to concentrate on breathing but he'd broken her nose so the air wasn't travelling in that way either. If she could just free her hands and pull the gag down… but it was useless, her hands were tied too tight.

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Larry Murphy

Larry Murphy

Larry Murphy

Larry pulled her out of the boot. She looked in a state as her bare feet landed in the boreen and she stood upright. Blood had congealed in her nostrils and on the front of her teeth.

He pulled the gag off her mouth.

"Please. Will you bring me home after?" her voice was so hoarse it was a whisper.

"Kiss me," he said.

Jill lay underneath the man, frozen with dread. She thought of all the people she loved who did not know where she was.

She should be home by now. They would soon start to worry. Tears streamed down her face. She could see a child's car seat in the back - this was a family car.

There'd be all kinds of proof in the car that she'd been her - hairs, fibres, bodily fluids.

He was never going to let her go. If he could do this to her, he could do anything. She wailed. She knew he was going to kill her.

A grunt, and then he was still.

This is it. Her eyes were glued to him as he climbed out of the car, zipped himself up.

"Please take me home now, please."

"Are you married?" His rage had evaporated, he was acting like he hadn't a care in the world. His voice sounded chirpy like he wanted to make conversation, like this was a casual fling.

"Yes," Jill lied. If he thought she had a husband, maybe he'd think someone was out looking for her. It felt safer.

"Please, take me home?"

He might as well not have heard. He wanted to talk about himself. He was a married man, he explained, sounding apologetic. He'd two sons aged four and two. His wife was pregnant with their third.

Jill felt the life drain out of her. He was telling her things that would make him identifiable if he let her go. She held up her hands. They'd turned blue.

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Rapist Larry Murphy

Rapist Larry Murphy

Rapist Larry Murphy

"Please, the pain, it hurts so much, please?"

"Back in the boot," he said.

"Please, no, not back there, you said you'd take me home, please!"

"You'll make too much noise."

"I'll be quiet, please, take me home, please?"

He shook his head, then tied her bra around her mouth. Jill got into the boot, naked this time.

Larry set off on the 14-mile journey home to Baltinglass, Co Wicklow, turning on to the Dublin-Carlow road after 5.6km, then crossing in the direction of the Glen of Imaal on the Blessington to Baltinglass Road.

Twenty minutes later the car slowed to a snail's pace and began to climb a hill. Jill could hear water. Was he going to drown her?

The car stopped. She stopped breathing to try and hear what he was doing with the handbrake. Her heart was thudding too loud. She couldn't tell. She kept pulling at her wrists. The boot clicked open. He hauled her out again. Jill looked around frantically.

A wood this time, but there was a light in the distance - a house. He led her back to the front of the car and indicated to the passenger seat. He pulled the gag down, took the bind off her hands and lay down.

"Make love to me."

"Please, will you bring me home, please?"

"I will."

Jill had been numb to the pain, but now there was no keeping it from breaking through. He raped her orally and anally.

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The woods in Kilrenagh where Larry Murphy attacked his victim.

The woods in Kilrenagh where Larry Murphy attacked his victim.

The woods in Kilrenagh where Larry Murphy attacked his victim.

"If you have a gun, use it now, because I can't take it any more."

The words were out before she could take them back. But they had the opposite effect. It was like she'd flicked a switch. He started to feel sorry for himself. One of them had to be a victim.

"I'll never see my wife and children again," he said.

Jill felt a glimmer of hope. But within seconds he had talked himself back up. His name was 'Michael' and he was from Baltinglass.

Her blood ran cold - these were details that if he let her go would lead back to him.

"Can I have a cigarette, Michael?" If she could only get the bind off her hands… he switched the overhead light on.

"Back in the boot…put your clothes on first."

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Larry Murphy

Larry Murphy

Larry Murphy

Jill became hysterical. He dragged her out, pulled her trousers on, and led her back around. She climbed into the boot backwards. As the boot closed she thought 'this is it - he's going to kill me'.

Then one of the hands she'd been pulling slipped free of the binding. Jill couldn't believe it. She pulled the bra off her mouth. If she could grip one of the metal tools she could try to hit him when he came back…

Suddenly, the boot clicked open. She froze. She hadn't found anything. Had he seen her moving?

"Turn around," he told her. He wanted her to face in rather than out. He started pushing her to turn around. Her hand found a bottle of Pledge polish. She raised her arm, pointed it at his face and pressed the nozzle.

Silence.

Nothing happened.

The spray didn't work.

He was furious. He punched it out of her hand and slammed the boot shut. And then - nothing.

Jill crouched, trying to hear over the thud of her heart, but nothing - no engine revving, no car starting. The boot clicked open again. He burst in with a plastic bag and put it over her head.

The stink of fumes was overpowering. She tore it off, legs flailing to get out. He stuffed the plastic in her mouth, pulled the bra that had slipped around her neck tighter. The smell of chemicals off the plastic made her head lighten. She couldn't breathe. With the last kick, her feet somehow landed on the ground. Air flooded back into her lungs. He'd let go of her neck.

Her vision was dazzled by blinding lights. She covered her eyes, coughing for air. She could hear him slamming the car door. Jill collapsed on both knees and crawled for her life.

A ditch of barbed wire stopped her in her tracks. The more she moved, the more the spikes tore into her flesh. There was so much blood.

She knew he was gone. She'd seen him over her shoulder as she crawled away - he'd turned the Fiat, the tyres screeched as he sped away. But now there was another car, a jeep.

Two more men were coming. She clamped her jaw to stop her teeth chattering and tried to push on past the wire. If she could just get to the house with the light…

"Are you alright?" - a man's voice in the dark.

Jill wailed. They were getting closer. She put her hands over her mouth so they wouldn't hear and crouched down into the ditch. "Are you OK?" another voice called. "Are you alright?"

She tried to bolt, but the metal was carving into her. She couldn't get out.

"We want to help."

They'd been out 'lamping' foxes, he explained. The lights stun the animals, making them easier to hunt. That's how they'd spotted her - her legs were sticking out of the car boot. It was by chance they were here. They wanted to help, not hurt her.

The other man was back. He shone the torch in Jill's direction. She saw the horror in their faces as they glanced at each other.

"Did he hurt you?" the first one asked.

"...he raped me," she bawled.

Inside the jeep, there were rifles with telescopic sights and powerful lamps. Their names were Trevor Moody and Ken Jones. She was going to be alright, they told her. They needed to go to a garda station. Trevor looked at Ken, and Ken gave a quick nod of approval.

"We know who he is," Trevor said.

*****************

The jeep sped to Baltinglass garda station in around ten minutes.

It had been four years previously, Trevor Moody recalled. A female acquaintance of his was in the Donard Arms, a pub in the Glen of Imaal village at the edge of the Wicklow mountains. This man kept staring at her in a freaky, pervy way. Next thing, he just leapt at her and groped her. The guy actually sexually assaulted her in a public place, where people knew who he was. He had to be pulled off her. His name was Larry Murphy.

That was the man who'd just attacked Jill. It was the same man.

Ken Jones knew Larry Murphy too. Murphy was a carpenter. He had a reputation for having a terrible temper. You couldn't haggle a price with him or he'd lose it. It was Larry Murphy who'd raped and tried to kill her alright. They were both sure.

Larry's wife was waiting in the kitchen when he got home. She was nearing the end of her pregnancy and had spent the day looking after her two young boys.

Their house was a dormer bungalow with a separate garage, 4.8km outside Baltinglass, on the Boley Road.

He was well oiled and had kept drinking the whiskey by the neck on the drive home.

Larry walked her down the corridor to their bedroom at the end of the hall. He took off all his clothes, climbed into bed and had sex with his wife.

*****************

At 8.20am the next morning, Larry Murphy answered his front door to seven gardai. Murphy had a licence for a shotgun. The gardai were not taking any chances.

"Are you Larry Murphy?" Detective Sergeant James Ryan from Carlow asked.

"I am." Larry turned his back and leaving the door ajar, walked into the living room. The seven gardai followed.

"Larry Murphy," DS Ryan said, "I am arresting you under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act for rape. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to a solicitor. If you cannot afford a solicitor, one will be provided for you."

*****************

Early signs in Baltinglass station were that Larry might be on the verge of holding his hands up to his crimes. The atmosphere was on a knife-edge as he emptied a pocket before his interview and placed £700 on the counter.

"The girl's money," he said. He put his hand in another pocket and pulled out £444. "That's mine."

He removed his clothes so they could be forwarded to the forensic lab in Dublin for analysis, changing into a set of clothing his wife had organised for him.

They'd find the girl's handbag in the back of his car, he said. But all hope he was going to spare his victim any further trauma faded the second he got into the interview room. He was saying nothing without his solicitor present. He'd clammed up.

*****************

By 2.30pm, having conferred with his solicitor, Larry began to give his version of events. He'd gone into Carlow for chips, he told his interviewers, Inspector Patrick Mangan and Detective Garda Mark Carroll, who were hanging on his every word.

"I was walking down the path and I saw this girl walking towards me," he said, speaking in a flat tone, without making eye contact. "I had never met the girl in my life. I don't know what came over me. I just flipped. I said to her 'Give me the money'. She said 'F**k off'.

"I hit her then. She had stopped to open the door of her car. I hit her with my hand on the side of the face.

She stumbled back to the seat in the car. I pushed her over on to the other seat, the passenger seat. I asked her where her keys were. I found her keys on the seat.

"I moved her car over to where my car was. She was sitting in the car beside me with her head on my knee.

At that stage, I tied her arms. I asked her to remove her bra. I used the bra to tie her arms. At that stage, I took her out of the car. She walked out. I told her to get in the boot of my car and she sat in. At this stage, I took off up the road. I don't know why I did. I don't know. I suppose I drove for about 20 minutes.

"I travelled out the Athy Road. I stopped in a lane. I raped her. First I took her out of the boot of the car. I put her in the seat of the car. I removed her trousers. I just raped her.

"When I stopped the car the second time I took her out and sat her in the car.

She started talking to me. I told her I had two kids and she said she would like to have kids herself some day. She asked me to take her home and said she would do anything I wanted if I took her home. I told her I would leave her home. So she told me she would make love to me.

"I had sex with her but that was her own choice. We made love in the car. I didn't try to kill her at all," Larry went on. "I had sex in two places with her but the second time was her own choice."

Inspector Mangan and Detective Garda Carroll glanced at each other in disbelief.

At 8.05pm that evening Larry Murphy was formally charged in the station with rape and abduction. But an attempted murder charge was going to require a different file for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

*****************

Assistant Commissioner Tony Hickey was thin with a shock of white hair, a dapper dress sense and a terrier-like reputation for getting his teeth sunk into a case.

Briefed about the events in Baltinglass, his alarm bells started to ring.

The savagery and the brazenness of the abduction, rape and attempted murder suggested an accomplished killer.

Hickey was head of Operation Trace, set up to Trace Review And Collate Evidence on Ireland's missing women. Six women aged between 17 and 28 had disappeared in less than six years between 1993 and 1998.

Hickey (inset right) picked up the phone and dialled the number of one of his right-hand men during the Veronica Guerin murder investigation - Superintendent Jerry O'Connell, now based in the Trace office in Naas, Co Kildare. "You'll need to keep a watching brief on this one," Hickey explained. "But keep an open mind."

If Larry Murphy was their man, it was the answer to the Operation Trace team's prayers in Superintendent O'Connell's view.

In September 1998, two months after a sixth woman vanished into thin air in less than six years, Commissioner Pat Byrne had given instructions to put together a squad designed to find out if all or any of the women were the victims of the same serial killer.

On the display board at the top of the room, the faces of the women in question stared back, full of life, unlike the usual posthumous pics seen in incident rooms. None of their bodies had ever been recovered.

*****************

Victim #1 was an American waitress with long, wavy brown hair bundled up on the top of her head, last seen on a bus to Enniskerry, Co Wicklow at around 4pm after telling friends she was going for a walk. Annie Bridget McCarrick disappeared on Friday, March 26, 1993.

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Annie McCarrick

Annie McCarrick

Annie McCarrick

Victim #2 was a freckle-faced lounge girl with a shy smile who'd vanished trying to hitch-hike home after missing the bus. Jo Jo Dullard (21) from Callan, Co Kilkenny, disappeared in Moone, Co Kildare, some time after 11.30pm on Thursday, November 9, 1995, and was believed to have been later seen hitch-hiking 7.2kms away in Castledermot, Co Kildare.

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Missing JoJo Dullard. Photo: Crimestoppers Trust/PA Wire.

Missing JoJo Dullard. Photo: Crimestoppers Trust/PA Wire.

Missing JoJo Dullard. Photo: Crimestoppers Trust/PA Wire.

Victim #3 was a long-haired blonde hairdresser and heavily pregnant mum-to-be last seen in her bedsit. Fiona Pender was 25 years old and had disappeared from Tullamore, Co Offaly, on Friday, August 23, 1996.

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Fiona Pender

Fiona Pender

Fiona Pender

Victim #4 was a baby-faced brunette who had been the subject of a previous missing-persons inquiry after running away. FAS student Ciara Breen was only 17 when she disappeared for good on Thursday, February 13, 1997, after sneaking out of her bedroom window.

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Ciara Breen (17) went missing in February 1997

Ciara Breen (17) went missing in February 1997

Ciara Breen (17) went missing in February 1997

Victim #5 had the look of a rock chick with long brown hair and a tattoo on her right arm. Fiona Sinnott from Wexford was the only mother among the missing girls and vanished from the house she was renting near Rosslare, Co Wexford, on Sunday, February 8, 1998. Fiona had been the subject of previous violent attacks before she vanished.

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Missing Wexford woman Fiona Sinnott.

Missing Wexford woman Fiona Sinnott.

Missing Wexford woman Fiona Sinnott.

Victim #6 had rosy cheeks and a black bob and had disappeared walking back to her parents' house in Newbridge, Co Kildare. Eighteen-year-old Deirdre Jacob was studying in St Mary's Teacher Training College in Twickenham, London. She was home for the holidays and due to start a receptionist's job when she disappeared on Tuesday, July 28, 1998.

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Deirdre Jacob

Deirdre Jacob

Deirdre Jacob

The definition of a serial killer did not require a particular body count. It did need a 'cooling off' period in between slayings and a particular method to the killings. But without a body or a crime scene, the TRACE team could prove neither.

They'd consulted the FBI on 'victimology' - to turn what they knew about the victims into information about who must have killed them.

In theory, a murdered professional would have a different profile to a murdered sex worker, because a low-risk victim is more likely to have been the target of someone who set out to kill them versus a killer with a bloodlust making the most of an opportunity to kill a stranger.

Technically, three of the women, Fiona Pender, Fiona Sinnott and Ciara Breen, theoretically fell into the 'low-risk' category because they were last seen at home, where they should have been safe.

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Fiona Pender

Fiona Pender

Fiona Pender

The science said that made it more likely they were killed by people they knew, and that tallied with the findings of the investigations carried out on the ground. In each of these women's cases, there was also a prime suspect and in each case, it was someone known to them.

But Annie, Jo Jo, and Deirdre were all walking alone when they disappeared, and within a 30-mile radius of each other around the Wicklow-Carlow-Kildare borders.

Research suggested serial killers always operated in or around work or home, a territory known to them.

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Deirdre Jacob

Deirdre Jacob

Deirdre Jacob

The information was forwarded to Naas where the TRACE team were frantically reviewing what they knew about Annie, Jo Jo and Deirdre, looking for any parallels.

There was great satisfaction as the Trace team discovered in the files their first very strong lead. Larry Murphy had been named as a suspect in one of the women's cases. A sergeant nominated him after Jo Jo's disappearance because he was a local and he had a reputation for violence towards women.

After some more enquiries, TRACE discovered Larry was living in Castledermot with his wife at the time, in the same location where Jo Jo was believed to have continued hitchhiking.

The incident room to investigate her disappearance was the same one in Baltinglass, now set up to deal with the rape inquiry.

*****************

Superintendent O'Connell brought a stack of files containing summaries of the missing women's cases on a visit to the UK's National Crime Faculty in Bramshill College in Hampshire. With him was Detective Garda Alan Bailey.

They planned to use the facilities there, at the forefront of groundbreaking research into geographic profiling. The theory is that criminals reveal who they are and where they live not just from how they commit their crimes but also from the locations they choose.

In the files, one piece of information was about to become more relevant than all the others. It was a breakdown of the distances by road between the locations where the missing women disappeared, and Larry Murphy's home in Baltinglass.

(Annie McCarrick) Enniskerry to Baltinglass - 75.6 km;

(Jo Jo Dullard) Castledermot to Baltinglass - 13 km;

(Fiona Pender) Tullamore to Baltinglass

- 95 km;

(Ciara Breen) Dundalk to Baltinglass - 145 km;

(Fiona Sinnott) Ballyhitt to Baltinglass - 96.5 km;

(Deirdre Jacob) Newbridge to Baltinglass - 32 km.

The question now was whether science could yield a similar breakthrough for the Irish women.

In the UK, the opinion of the geographic profiling experts was that Larry Murphy was more likely to have killed the victims nearest to him. In order of likelihood that meant Jo Jo, Deirdre, and Annie.

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Missing Fiona Pender poster

Missing Fiona Pender poster

Missing Fiona Pender poster

There were whoops of delight in the incident room in Baltinglass when news broke that they'd found a witness who'd seen Larry in the car park, five minutes before he'd snatched Jill. A woman remembered checking her watch as she climbed into her car and was certain the time was 8.10pm.

The woman's information meant Larry had been lying in wait, showing pre-meditation, and that directly contradicted his own spur-of-the-moment version of events.

*****************

In Naas, the Trace detectives were working round the clock comparing records of every car that had ever been registered to Larry Murphy with any witness sightings of vehicles seen in the vicinity of Moone on the night Jo Jo disappeared.

The Trace team were looking for one car in particular. Two motorists who'd given Jo Jo lifts in Naas and Kilcullen had come forward. But whoever drove her from Moone to Castledermot was unknown. It seemed reasonable to assume it must have been Jo Jo hitching in Castledermot, since no other woman ever came forward to say she'd been hitching at the same time, in the same direction that night.

But why had the motorist who dropped her there not broken his silence? There'd been a lead that she'd made it that far. A farmer had found a woman's watch in a ditch in Castledermot. Jo Jo's sisters remembered her getting a watch as a present from her ex-boyfriend, Mike.

The original inquiry had tracked the American down to Spain, but when showed the watch he couldn't remember if it was the same one. She also had a black Sanyo walkman with her, which has never been found.

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Missing JoJo Dullard. Photo: Crimestoppers Trust/PA Wire.

Missing JoJo Dullard. Photo: Crimestoppers Trust/PA Wire.

Missing JoJo Dullard. Photo: Crimestoppers Trust/PA Wire.

Of most significance, was the statement of a taxi driver who'd come forward in February 1997, a year and three months after Jo Jo disappeared.

He said he was driving along the main Waterford Road at Kilmacow 4.8km north of Waterford and 80km from the phone box in Moone.

It was about 1.20am on November 10, 1995, less than two hours after Jo Jo disappeared.

He said he saw a red car parked on the side of the road and a man urinating beside it. Suddenly, a woman had burst out of the left-hand rear door and started to run. She was in her bare feet. A man jumped out of the back of the car and ran after her, grabbing her by the hair.

He'd put both arms around her to restrain her as he lifted and dragged her back to the car. The car took off in the direction of Waterford.

Detectives were also trying to establish if Larry Murphy had been driving a red car in 1995 when they discovered he had scrapped a perfectly good car in an illegal dump around Christmas of that year. What had he been driving when Jo Jo disappeared?

In October 2020, after a lengthy review of her case, gardai upgraded it from a missing person case to a murder case, concluding that she "met her death through violent means".

*****************

On Friday, May 11, 2001, Larry Murphy was led by a prison officer into the belly of Dublin's wood-panelled Central Criminal Court, sitting in court number two.

He was about to discover what punishment the courts considered appropriate for raping and trying to murder a woman 15 months earlier.

Murphy had been brought to the court in a prison van, having been previously remanded in custody by Judge Thomas Ballagh on April 26 at Naas District Court, where he'd replied "guilty" when each of the charges - false imprisonment, assault, four counts of rape, and attempted murder - were read.

Judge Paul Carney then, in a matter-of-fact fashion, handed down a sentence of 15 years with an additional four years for the assault and three for the robbery to run concurrently with the 15-year sentence, to start from February 11, 2000.

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Mr Justice Paul Carney

Mr Justice Paul Carney

Mr Justice Paul Carney

The judge said he would suspend the final year of each sentence due to Murphy's guilty plea.

Larry Murphy collapsed in a heap on the courtroom floor. He had fainted.

*****************

Operation Trace closed its door in Naas in 2003 and was subsumed back into the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI) in Harcourt Square. The filing cabinets with all the missing women's cases were relocated there.

The claim that Larry Murphy might have worked or socialised in Johnnie Fox's pub, where Annie McCarrick may have been last seen, could not be made to stand up.

The investigation into her disappearance followed several leads. Following a tip-off, the pet cemetery in Powerscourt, Co Wicklow, was dug up after someone had reported seeing suspicious activity on the day. Another tip led to a search of Crone Wood 4.8km south of Enniskerry. In 2008, two men who had no convictions were re-interviewed about what they knew about the case.

In 2020, US investigators said they had identified the main suspect in her murder.

Michael Griffith, a New York-based lawyer hired by the McCarrick family in the 1990s to assist with the investigation, travelled to Dublin that September to meet with members of An Garda Síochána about the investigation.

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Annie McCarrick's father John

Annie McCarrick's father John

Annie McCarrick's father John

Griffith said that he was hopeful he could finally get justice for the McCarrick family after several people contacted him and Kenneth Strange, an ex-FBI agent, with new evidence which could potentially lead to a breakthrough in the 27-year-old case.

"In the case of this person, the details provided could lead to the breakthrough we need. They gave specifics relating to one individual that warrants careful investigation," he said.

A woman who has since died is believed to have seen McCarrick with a man in Poppies Cafe in Enniskerry on the day of her disappearance.

The woman told gardai at the time that she saw a man approach McCarrick in the cafe and offer to buy her a slice of cake.

She never gave a formal statement about the incident but told her daughter about what she saw. This led the team of private investigators to think that this piece of information could be crucial to solving the mystery of her case, which remains a missing person case.

The investigation into Jo Jo Dullard's disappearance followed many lines of inquiry, including one on two Englishmen who passed along the route, breaking into phone boxes in small villages.

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A memorial at the last known spot where Jo Jo Dullard was seen in Moone (Niall Carson/PA)

A memorial at the last known spot where Jo Jo Dullard was seen in Moone (Niall Carson/PA)

A memorial at the last known spot where Jo Jo Dullard was seen in Moone (Niall Carson/PA)

Jo Jo's sister, Mary Phelan, and brother-in-law are convinced that the son of a well-known public figure was responsible for her disappearance. The family campaigned repeatedly for land belonging to the suspect's family to be searched.

Although Larry Murphy could be linked to a job in Newbridge at the time of Deirdre Jacob's disappearance, without a body or a confession there was no proof that he had anything to do with her case until years later when gardai would get the lead they were desperately searching for.

*****************

While serving out his sentence in Arbour Hill, Larry Murphy spent his days in the prison joiner's shop, where he made podiums for the 2003 Special Olympics and made rocking horses that he sold to prison officers for their children.

Murphy was considered a 'model prisoner'. This safeguarded his automatic entitlement to have a quarter of his sentence shaved off for good behaviour, meaning he was only required to serve 10-and-a-half years.

With his release date set for August 12, 2010, there were many questions about whether or not Larry Murphy would have to register as a sex offender - as per the Sex Offenders Act - following his release from prison.

Despite the reassurances, as Murphy's release date approached, fears grew amongst the community of Baltinglass as well as the wider area of the so-called vanishing triangle.

As his release date loomed officers decided that they had to front up Murphy and see if he would speak to them about any of the missing girls or his plans for his release.

In the prison, they were told, he had been a bit of a loner, although he had spent time with his old pal David Lawler and killer Frank McCann, who killed his wife and child in a fire in the family home in an effort to cover up an affair.

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Arbour Hill Prison

Arbour Hill Prison

Arbour Hill Prison

Behind bars, Murphy was in no mood to talk and refused to co-operate in any way with the officers - even by way of telling them his plans on his release.

While he had been unlucky that night when the hunters found him in the woods attempting to kill his victim, he had dodged a few bullets ever since - none more shocking than the Sex Offenders' register.

Despite lots of debate over whether or not he was to be placed on the register and a spokesperson for the Department of Justice stating that he would, it seemed that Murphy's timing had been impeccable.

As he had been sentenced for his brutal crimes one month before the Act was introduced, it was decided that it would not apply to him as the law is not retrospective.

Gardai reassured the public that he would be subject to post-release supervision, however, with many sources saying that given the brazenness of Murphy's attack it was unlikely to be his only offence.

But most people knew that wouldn't be feasible given the manpower it would take and the fact that Murphy would have served his time and be free to do as he wished.

When the focus turned to Murphy's family and their likelihood to give him refuge, his brother Tom made it clear that his disgraced brother would not be welcome in his home.

"I want to make it clear to the locals in my villages in Co Wicklow that Larry will not be living with me, my partner and my kids," he said.

Tom also said he had received numerous threats, including one to burn down his home, should Larry be staying at his house.

Thursday, August 13, 2010 and at 4am outside Arbour Hill prison gardai arrived to erect barriers on the road. Behind the high gates, Ireland's most infamous rapist was spending his final night of sleep on the inside.

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Larry Murphy leaving Arbour Hill Prison after his release. Pic Steve Humphreys

Larry Murphy leaving Arbour Hill Prison after his release. Pic Steve Humphreys

Larry Murphy leaving Arbour Hill Prison after his release. Pic Steve Humphreys

Ten years and six months after his brutal sex attack on Jill, the time had finally come for him to be free again and at 10.17am Murphy emerged from the darkness.

Eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses, a navy and white baseball cap pulled firmly down around his ears, he remained unshakable as a crowd of onlookers shouted 'rapist' and 'dirty scumbag' as he walked out of the prison gates.

Even though he held his head high, Murphy didn't so much as glance at the press photographers with their cameras held imposingly in his face trying to get a picture. Nor did he speak a single word.

His attire, a black hooded sweatshirt with a gold New York Yankees logo emblazoned on the front, baggy jeans and Nike runners looked dated in the cold light of 2010.

His mouth a thin line as he concentrated on his walk, Larry was alone in the world and had lost everything - his children, his wife, his friends and family.

Nobody showed up to collect him from prison and so he hopped in a grey taxi as a garda helicopter hovered overhead. As the car took off, three motorcyclists, gardai, and various journalists followed in hot pursuit.

Everyone wanted to know where he was going and what he intended to do next. Previously a hunter, he was now the prey.

What came as unexpected was his first stop - Coolock garda station.

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Coolock Garda Station. Photo: Google Maps

Coolock Garda Station. Photo: Google Maps

Coolock Garda Station. Photo: Google Maps

He made a complaint that he was being harassed by members of the media, but did not disclose to officers where he was planning to live.

By 1pm, Larry was on the run again as media and unmarked garda cars followed, him to Grafton Street where he jumped out of a taxi and towards St Stephen's Green, vanishing from view.

He quickly shed his hat and hoody as he blended in with other people in the busy shopping district. Despite his attempt to escape, his whereabouts were quickly re-established by gardai.

Later that evening, a public meeting was held at Grangecon Boxing Club in west Wicklow to discuss concerns about Murphy.

"We knew where he was for the last 10 years. We don't know where he is now and we want to know at all times," one man told the crowd of up to 100 terrified locals.

"I have had nightmares thinking about him and I couldn't sleep last night," one woman said. "I'm living in fear. I am 31 years old and I feel I need a chaperone to go out at night. It's really, really frightening."

Meanwhile, over 70km away in north county Dublin, a crowd had gathered outside a Government-run halfway house for ex-convicts amid speculation that Murphy was staying there.

Outside Priorswood House they began chanting 'get him out'. However, the director of the house denied he was staying there.

Murphy's family would land the final blow of the night by distancing themselves from the predator, calling him out for his indecency and reminding him he was not welcome back home.

"He hadn't even the manners this morning, or the decency, when he came outside that prison gate to say sorry to the poor girl," Thomas Murphy told the media.

"I want nothing to do with him ever again. I don't want to see him and I don't want to hear from him."

When Larry Murphy went missing off Grafton Street on the day he was released from prison, he disappeared from the public eye, managing to go incognito for many months.

As journalists pieced together bits of information from sources, a picture emerged of a predator well able to live independently and to move about with confidence.

He'd spent time in a bedsit in Dublin for three weeks before he fled Ireland for France, where he was closely monitored by French police.

Next he moved on to The Netherlands where he settled into the buzzing city of Amsterdam, sampling many of its seedier delights.

At the start of November 2010, a man was sitting in an Irish pub in the city when a pale faced man with a beard caught his eye.

They began to chat and the man said he was a carpenter and spoke of how he had been in the city for five weeks and was staying in a local hostel.

He also mentioned that he had been in France and had plans to soon move to Germany.

The man was Larry Murphy and it wasn't long before the media were in hot pursuit.

After being photographed in the Netherlands, he moved again and by the following year he was living in Barcelona, taking casual labour as a carpenter on boats.

Little is known about his time there or who he was in contact with, but Irish authorities were made aware of him when his passport was robbed by a prostitute near the infamous Las Ramblas and he had to return to Ireland to get a new one.

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 Larry Murphy

Larry Murphy

Larry Murphy

It was May 2011 when he flew back to Dublin amid another media frenzy, but he managed to lay low in hotels and B&Bs while he waited for new documents.

In June 2011, Murphy boarded a ferry in Rosslare in Co Wexford and headed back to Cherbourg in France, taking a train from the port to Paris where he disappeared again.

A year later he was tracked down to Holland, this time spotted with a friend, a notorious Irish double rapist who he had met behind bars. Together they were living in Amsterdam and working at a logistics company with plenty of money to spend on booze and women.

*****************

With Operation TRACE disbanded, Detective Garda Alan Bailey had been charged with managing all the files as part of his new brief at a city centre station. He'd later be handpicked for the newly established Garda Cold Case Unit and on the day he started his new role he brought the boxes with him.

He'd long hoped for a breakthrough in any of the cases which had taken over the latter part of his career. As he sat in an interview room across the table from an inmate who had befriended Murphy behind bars he wondered was this finally it.

The lag had agreed to speak to cops about a haunting night he'd spent in the company of Murphy some years previous before his release from jail.

They'd been cellmates, he told Bailey, and had got boozed-up behind bars on prison-made vodka. As the drink flowed, conversation followed and a chilling picture began to emerge as Murphy loosened up, let down his guard and started to brag.

"I killed Deirdre Jacob with a hammer. That's what he said," the prisoner told Bailey and his colleague.

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Former Detective Sergeant Alan Bailey. Picture by Caroline Quinn

Former Detective Sergeant Alan Bailey. Picture by Caroline Quinn

Former Detective Sergeant Alan Bailey. Picture by Caroline Quinn

Confessions from a convicted criminal aren't too reliable but Bailey couldn't imagine what this one had to gain.

He wasn't going to get early release or any benefits from the tale he was telling the detectives and was worried sick his fellow inmates would know he was a 'rat'. But still he revealed the details of his night with Murphy.

After allegedly following Deirdre Jacob to her parents' home on the afternoon of July 28, the prisoner told the officers, Murphy pulled over and asked her for directions.

The details were specific, which made Bailey think he was telling the truth. He had scattered children's toys on the back seat of his car, he drunkenly told the man, so that his victim would be more comfortable talking to him through the passenger window.

Once Deirdre leaned in he knocked her unconscious and dragged her into the front seat of the car, his cellmate claimed.

The story went on. Murphy, he claimed, went on to detail how he intended to bring Deirdre to the mountains to rape her - as he did with Jill - but that he couldn't control her when he took her out of the car and she had regained consciousness.

After putting up a good fight, Murphy ended up grabbing a hammer and hitting her with it, killing her before dumping her body in a lake.

The information was still sketchy but was worth acting on. In December 2012, a specialist team with the assistance of the Garda Sub-Aqua team trawled parts of a Wicklow lake looking for the missing student's body. However, nothing was found. Without a specific location it was like looking for a needle in a haystack.


By summer 2014, Larry Murphy, who had begun going by the name Lawrence, found love with a well-to-do, highly respected jewellery designer in his new base in London.

'Liz' (not her real name) had enjoyed a romance with 'Lawrence' over several weeks and he had regularly stayed over at the posh London home where she lived with roommates.

Two of her roommates, an Irish businessman from the Midlands and his partner, had regularly told Liz to bring her boyfriend over for a glass of wine. But their invites were always turned down.

Then, during a spell of good weather in May 2014, Lawrence arrived at a barbecue at the property. He was introduced to the Irishman and his partner, who owned the house.

The Irishman was unable to take his eyes off the 'odd-job' man who had introduced himself as Lawrence from Mayo. After a few glasses of wine the penny dropped and rushing inside he pulled pictures of Larry Murphy from the internet, only to find news stories about the rape in Carlow and how he was the suspect in the disappearances of Deirdre, Jo Jo and Annie.

Shane called his partner and Liz into the house on the pretence of helping with food, but instead held a crisis meeting about Lawrence's real identity.

"I recognise you. You're Larry Murphy," the man said as he stormed outside.

"No, you're wrong. I'm not Larry Murphy and I can prove it," he argued.

But as he realised the gig was up, Larry grabbed his things and was escorted out of the house.

Later, the group decided to contact the police to inform them of the incident and give them what information they could about the predator's life in London - but cops couldn't arrest him as he hadn't done anything wrong. But they did caution the man to lock his doors and windows and keep watch and said that now that officers knew where Murphy was, they could monitor him.

In 2018, the case of Deirdre Jacob's disappearance was upgraded to murder with gardai saying that they had received vital new "credible and corroborated" information that led to Larry Murphy becoming the chief suspect in the murder of the 18-year-old.

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Preparing to get a lift on a motorcycle

Preparing to get a lift on a motorcycle

Preparing to get a lift on a motorcycle

By February 2020, gardai prepared all their evidence in the case and sent a file linking Murphy to the murder of Deirdre Jacob to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Last year, the DPP sent their file to a specialist barrister for a "second opinion" on the case. Sources said the case is at a critical point as they await specialist legal review, and if the DPP finds Murphy has a case to answer, gardai will seek his extradition to Ireland.

While officers keep their cards close to their chest, they are working with police in the UK to discreetly monitor Murphy as he has been working on building sites.

Last year a dig took place at a wooded area in Brewel East after a witness told gardai he saw a car with an open boot reversing into the area, almost 18km from Newbridge, on the day Deirdre vanished. Nothing relating to the case was found during the excavation.

According to sources, Larry is currently in the UK where he has been living and working between London and Birmingham. He has not come to the attention of police in the UK for any criminal offences.

Should the DPP order him to answer for the case of murdered Deirdre Jacob he will be brought before a court but it is likely he would plead not guilty. Without Deirdre's body, it will be harder for prosecutors to secure a murder conviction.

As of March 2022, Larry Murphy has been ruled out as a person of interest in the cases of Fiona Pender, Fiona Sinnott and Ciara Breen. With circumstantial evidence linking Murphy to the disappearances of Jo Jo Dullard and Annie McCarrick, he remains a suspect in those cases.

- Predator was developed from the original Sunday World booklet by Niamh O'Connor and up-dated by Clodagh Meaney.

Predator is a podcast from Crime World.

It is produced by Ian Meleney and read and edited by Nicola Tallant.

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