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How DNA breakthrough led to arrest of man (60s) and woman (50s) in Kerry Babies case

Man and woman arrested on suspicion of murder and are being questioned by gardaí The remains of Baby John were found on White Strand in Cahersiveen in April 1984

The grave of the Kerry Baby named John in Cahersiveen, Co Kerry. Photo: Mark Condren

Robin Schiller and Ralph

A man in his 60s and a woman in her 50s have been arrested in connection with the Kerry Babies case after a DNA analysis enabled a breakthrough in the tragedy.

The dead infant was found with multiple injuries at White Strand, Cahersiveen, Co Kerry, almost 40 years ago in April 1984.

The mystery child was later given the name Baby John. The subsequent bungled investigation eventually led to a State apology and compensation for local woman Joanne Hayes, who had also given birth to a baby who died.

In a statement last night, the force said the man and woman had been arrested in the Munster region “on suspicion of the offence of murder and are currently detained at garda stations in the south of the country under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984”.

The tragic newborn’s remains were exhumed in 2021 to allow for a new, better-quality DNA profile to be analysed.

This was subsequently tested against samples collected in the south-west of the country in recent years as well as profiles already available on databases.

It is understood the testing of this DNA led to a significant breakthrough resulting in the identification of suspects and yesterday’s arrests.

A senior source described it as a “sensitive” investigation following the arrest of two suspects in the south-west yesterday afternoon.

The man and woman who were arrested had not come to adverse garda attention prior to their detention and were last night being held at different garda stations in the Munster region.

Investigators are still attempting to establish the events leading to the discovery of Baby John

“To reach this stage after nearly 40 years required serious and really thorough policing from local, regional and national garda units,” a source said.

“It also gives hope for other cold cases around the country.”

The development follows an extensive investigation into the incident by the Garda’s Serious Crime Review Team and gardaí from the Kerry division in which hundreds of people have been interviewed and more than 560 lines of enquiry have been followed.

Superintendent Flor Murphy, who has been leading the investigation, said: “The arrests are a significant development in this investigation in an effort to establish the truth surrounding the death of Baby John in 1984 and deliver justice for Baby John.

“I am again appealing to the public for any information in relation to the death of Baby John in 1984. Anyone who comes forward will be treated with sensitivity and compassion.”

Anyone with information can contact Killarney Garda Station at 064 667 1160, the Garda Confidential Line at 1800 666 111, or any Garda Station.

In January 2018, gardaí launched a review into the death of Baby John.

Speaking previously, Supt Murphy said: “On April 14, 1984, on White Strand Beach in Cahersiveen the lifeless body of a newborn baby boy was found in a bag. The baby was called Baby John and he is buried here in Cahersiveen. We have never found out the full circumstances of the death of Baby John.

“We need the public’s help to change that.

“Someone is Baby John’s mother. Someone is Baby John’s father. Someone knew his mother or father. People have carried a lot of pain and hurt over the last 30 years.

“This is an opportunity for them to help bring closure to this terrible event and ensure that Baby John receives justice.

“Our strong belief at the current time is that the answers to this are in Cahersiveen and the close surrounding areas. We would ask anyone who was living in Cahersiveen and surrounding areas around the time of April 1984 to speak to us.

“Even the smallest piece of information could be vital.

“After all these years, Baby John deserves the truth.”

Detectives believed the murder case would finally be solved not through a direct identification of the mother or father involved – but rather via a familial “hit” or DNA match with a close relative of the ­parents of Baby John.

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

The investigation became one of Ireland’s major police scandals and resulted in a State apology and the damages for Kerry woman Joanne Hayes and her family.

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

Ms Hayes had given birth to a baby boy, named Shane, on April 13, 1984, on the family farm.

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 subsequently vandalised a number of times over the years.

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