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Seeking justice Family of young woman whose body was found in burnt out caravan 17 years ago issue new appeal

In a new post on the 'Justice for Emer O'Loughlin' page this week, her family said they felt her case was finally getting the attention it deserved

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Murder victim Emer O'Loughlin and suspect John Griffin

Murder victim Emer O'Loughlin and suspect John Griffin

Murder victim Emer O'Loughlin and suspect John Griffin

A new appeal has been issued by the family of a young woman whose body was found in a burnt out caravan on the Galway-Clare border 17 years ago. 

Emer O'Loughlin (23) had just finished a year-long trip across the world with her long-term boyfriend Shane and was living with him in a mobile home on land owned by his family.

They planned to live at the caravan site in Ballybornagh until they could afford to build their own house.

On 8 April 2005, Shane received a call to say his neighbour John Griffin’s mobile home was on fire. When he arrived at the site, Emer was nowhere to be found. The electricity in their caravan had not been working that morning and she had talked about finding somewhere to charge her phone.

Human remains were visible in the burnt wreckage of the caravan and DNA results later confirmed it was Emer.

A post-mortem, however, was unable to determine her cause of death. It was not until 2010 – after her body was exhumed – that it was concluded the young woman had suffered a violent death before the fire.

The Irish Independent reported at the time that she had died of severe head and back injuries. A traditional Nepalese knife was recovered from the remains of the caravan.

Griffin, the owner of the mobile home Emer’s body was discovered in, was nowhere to be found when the fire was first reported. Gardaí later traced him to Galway City, and when interviewed he said he had stayed with a relative the night before Emer’s death and knew nothing about the blaze.

Two days after gardaí tracked him down, Griffin barricaded himself inside Dun Aengus fort on Inishmore. After a nine-hour stand-off with gardaí he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for five days.

On 18 April, after having shaved his head and beard, he boarded a ferry to Inis Mor. A pile of his clothes were later found folded on the edge of a cliff on the island.

Gardaí believe Griffin faked his death and fled the country. He is believed to be hiding under an assumed name in Europe and there have been a number of reported sightings over the last decade.

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An Interpol notice says he is suspected of murdering a young woman and of setting fire to the caravan after assaulting her.

A Crime Stoppers Appeal was launched in November 2011 by investigating gardaí who said they were hoping that the public could assist them in their efforts to trace Griffin, who they believe “may have information that will assist them in progressing their investigation”.

Despite a number of reported sightings over the last decade Griffin has never been found and is now believed to be hiding under an assumed name somewhere in Europe.

However, a new TG4 documentary that is due to air in May of this year is set to reveal new details on the unsolved murder, according to an update on a Facebook page set up by Emer's family.

In a new post on the 'Justice for Emer O'Loughlin' page this week, her family said they felt her case was finally getting the attention it deserved..

They revealed how their “little sister Emer O'Loughlin was murdered on the 8th of April 2005”.

“She was 23 years old,” it reads. “She had been living in a mobile home in a very rural spot in County Galway on the west coast of Ireland.

“On any other week day Emer would have been at college but on this particular day she was at home due to the funeral of Pope John Paul II. The electricity supply to her mobile home had failed and her phone battery was dead.

“Her boyfriend suggested that she ask a neighbour in a mobile home in an adjoining field to charge it for her, he then left for work. That was the last time Emer was seen alive.

"Later that day human remains were found in the burnt out shell of the neighbour’s mobile home. It took a week before DNA confirmed that the remains were those of Emer, we then buried our little sister."

The post adds: "Right from the beginning, myself and my younger brother have done our best to push the case along.

"We used the media to keep the interest in Emer's case alive and to keep the pressure on.

"We met with the investigating police force as often as we could to enquire if there had been any new developments and we constantly questioned why a photo and name of the neighbour was not released to the public."

The post continues: "There have been a couple of TV programs made featuring Emer's case and crime stoppers offered a reward for information on the whereabouts of John Griffin, this has gone some way to making us feel that Emer's case is finally getting the attention and resources that it deserves.

"The past few years have been filled with many ups and downs, we have had our hopes lifted and then dashed, we have had half-truths told and been plain lied to by some, we have witnessed potentially vital information not being immediately passed onto the police and all the time there is the feeling that in an effort to protect themselves the whole story is not being told by some."

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