Sunday, March 6, 2011

Missing Without Trace In Ireland by Barry Cummins

This book tells the stories of seven people--five women and two children--whose mysterious disappearances remain unsolved to this day. Some may be connected, the work of a serial killer perhaps, others are most likely isolated cases, but all have one thing in common--all left behind grieving family and friends gnawed by the anguish and uncertainty of not knowing a loved one's fate.

Between March 1993 an July 1998 six women aged between 7 and 26 vanished in Ireland, all most likely abducted and murdered. Despite exhaustive investigation by the Gardai (Ireland's police force) and extensive media coverage, searches of land, water, buildings, and arrests and interrogations of possible suspects, all six disappearances remain unsolved.

Annie McCarrick was the only American among the missing women, of Irish-American heritage, she fell in love with Ireland, it's people and culture, and decided to make her home there and continue her studies to become a teacher. On the day she disappeared she set out to take a walk in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains. If witnesses who later came forward are correct, Anne was last seen in Johnnie Fox's Pub listening to the Jolly Ploughmen in the company of an unidentified man in his mid-twenties. Annie was never seen again and her remains have never been found.

Jo Jo Dullard vanished on a cold November night while trying to hitch a ride home after spending the day in Dublin and missing her bus. She paused at a phone booth to call a friend and explain her predicament, she asked her friend to hold on when a car stopped, then came back on the line to say she had a ride, then Jo Jo was gone...forever.

Fiona Pender was a beautiful blonde model, seven months pregnant, and eagerly anticipating her baby's birth when she inexplicably vanished form her flat in Tullamore. There were no signs of violence or a struggle at her flat, no one reported seeing her leave, she was just gone and, to this day, remains among the missing.

Ciara Breen was a month shy of her eighteenth birthday when she snuck out her bedroom window one night to meet someone, most likely an older man her mother did not approve of. She was never seen again. To compound the tragedy, twelve hours after her disappearance, her mother received the results of medical tests confirming that she had cancer. Ciara would never know this or that her mother had arranged a surprise visit to Disney Land in Florida for Ciara's 18th birthday.

Fiona Sinnott was the only one of the missing women to leave behind a child, an 11 month old daughter named Emma, when she vanished. Though Fiona had been the victim of an abusive boyfriend in the past, and had to seek medical treatment for these injuries multiple times, it remains unknown if domestic violence played a role in her disappearance. At the time, she was complaining of not feeling well, of pains in her arm and chest, and had told her baby's father, from whom she was amicably separated and remained good friends with, that she planned to go into town to see the doctor that day, but, if she did indeed set out to see the doctor, she never arrived at his office.

The case of Mary Boyle remains Ireland's oldest unsolved missing persons case. The six, almost seven, year old girl vanished on a March afternoon in 1977 when she turned back, balking at the depth of the mud, while following her uncle across a muddy field. She has not been seen since.The two most likely theories are that Mary was either abducted or she might have stepped into what locals call a "swallyhole" deceptively firm ground which conceals a deadly bog that can swallow a person whole.Despite extensive searches no trace of Mary was ever found, not even the wrapper from the packet of sweets she had been eating at the time.

The second missing child story is that of Philip Cairns who vanished in 1986 while walking back to school after going home for lunch. Somewhere between his home in the suburbs of Dublin and his school, a fifteen minute walk, he vanished. A week later his schoolbag was found deposited in a lane a short distance from his home, intentionally placed there,though it is not known if this was done by whoever took Philip or someone who found it but did not want to get involved for whatever reason. This person has never come forward, though authorities still hope they will as this might provide a vital clue.

Though the stories chronicled in the pages of Missing are sad, it is a brisk and interesting read about these mysterious disappearances that still haunt many, whether they be family and friends of the missing, investigators, or simply those, like myself, who have an interest in these things, all of whom still hold out a candle of hope that these mysteries may be solved someday and the question marks about their fates will be erased.