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Tragic mystery Fresh appeal for info on Priscilla Clarke who vanished while horse-riding in 1988

Priscilla’s disappearance and death of her employer and friend Lynda Kavanagh in the Dargle river close to Enniskerry, Co Wicklow on May 3, 1988 captured the nation’s attention.


Priscilla Clarke

Priscilla Clarke

Priscilla Clarke

A fresh appeal for information concerning the disappearance 33 years ago of a young Louth woman who went missing while out horse-riding with her employer whose body was found in a river several days later has been issued.

A garda file still remains open due to 25-year-old Priscilla Clarke being classed as a missing person. A cold case review of her disappearance was re-opened in 2008 and up to 87 people were re-interviewed but while fresh information was received no new leads came to light.

The National Missing Persons Helpline, a support network for the families of missing people, on Monday marked the 33rd anniversary since she was last seen and appealed for anyone with information to contact them.

Priscilla’s disappearance and the death of her employer and friend Lynda Kavanagh in the Dargle river close to Enniskerry, Co Wicklow on May 3, 1988 captured the nation’s attention.

The Kavanaghs had only lived at Ballyorney, a Georgian mansion in Enniskerry, since November 1987, six months before that tragic day.

It had been raining heavily for some days prior to the day the women disappeared. When the rain finally eased off on that afternoon Mrs Kavanagh called her husband at work in Dublin at about 4pm to say that she and Priscilla were going horse-riding.

Four hours later it became apparent that the women were missing when the Kavanaghs’ eight-year-old son Michael was dropped home by a neighbour. It was 8.15pm. When Michael realised no one was in the house he called his father.

On that Tuesday two persons were sighted on horses going into Charleville Estate, one was recognised as Mrs Kavanagh, the other person was not identified. A full-scale garda investigation and search and rescue mission launched.

Two days later Mrs Kavanagh’s body was recovered from the River Dargle. Priscilla’s body was never recovered and her family were never able to bring closure and finality to her disappearance.

A nursery nurse, Priscilla trained at Temple Hill Hospital in Blackrock and worked as a live-in nanny for Mrs Kavanagh and her husband Mark as they had three children.

Mr Kavanagh was a well-known developer, and entrepreneur. With his wife he set up Captain America’s restaurant on Dublin’s Grafton Street. He was a friend of singer Chris de Burgh who wrote the song “Carry Me Like a Fire in your Heart” in her memory.

He had links to a number of influential political figures at the time. During that time IRA kidnappings of rich and powerful people for ransom was becoming all too common. The thinking at the time was that the family had been targeted.

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A spokesperson for the Helpline said: "Priscilla was aged 25 at that time and was approx 5’ 7” tall, and about nine stone. We ask people to cast their minds back and remember this bright energetic, red-haired, smiling young woman.

“(We are) particularly asking people in the Enniskerry area to come forward with any information or details that might have aroused their suspicion around Powerscourt Estate on the day of the 3rd May, 1988.

“Anyone with any information on this case is asked to contact Bray Garda Station, telephone 01-6665300 or the Garda Missing Persons Bureau, telephone 01-6662615.

“Alternatively you can contact us The National Missing Persons Helpline Ireland on 1890 442 552, email info@missingpersons.ie, or our Bring Them Home free phone Confidential Line on 1800 911 999.”

A sister of Priscilla’s, Claire, has been involved with the Helpline, for many years.

The garda file, details Priscilla as being originally from Edmondstown, Ardee, Co Louth, but at the time she went missing she was working at Ballyorney House, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow.

The file adds: “On the day in question it is known that she went out horse riding near the Dargle River and is believed drowned and lost in the Dargle River near Powerscourt Estate.

“Ms Clarke was accompanied at the time by another female whose body was recovered from the river on May 5, 1988.”

Her family described Priscilla as a, “strong swimmer and a certified lifesaver.

“Children and animals, they were her two passions."

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