Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said he “stands by” the decision to arrest and question a man and woman as part of the investigation into the murder of ‘Baby John’ in Co Kerry almost 40 years ago.
Mr Harris said the arrests were carried out in south Kerry as part of a murder inquiry and followed a review of the original investigation into the death of the infant, who was found on White Strand near Cahersiveen in April 1984.
The commissioner defended the decision to arrest the couple and the manner in which they were interviewed while in custody, saying he had been “fully briefed and informed” about the operation.
“We launched a serious case review you in 2018 and that was appropriate given concern which was raised in respect of the original investigation,” Mr Harris said on Tuesday.
“That has carried on and we have conducted numerous enquiries, taken statements and then also pursued a forensic strategy...Ultimately that led to the action last week where there were two arrests.”
The man, aged in his 60s, and woman, aged in her 50s, were arrested last Thursday and detained at garda stations in Listowel and Castleisland under section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act. They were released without charge pending further investigations and analysis of evidence, including DNA samples taken from them.
The couple’s solicitor, Padraig O’Connell, has stressed that his clients deny having anything to do with the murder of the baby, who the then State pathologist Dr John Harbison said had lived for three days before he was killed and his body dumped into the sea.
Mr O’Connell said his clients were “in a state of shock” when they were arrested but had complied fully and voluntarily gave their DNA samples to investigating officers.
He said “there isn’t a scintilla of evidence to justify” them being arrested on suspicion of murder and that even if a DNA match is found, this would not prove that they killed the baby, who was found with 28 stab wounds and a broken neck.
Samples taken from the couple have been sent to Forensic Science Ireland to be tested and these will then be crosschecked against samples taken from ‘Baby John’.
Speaking to the media at a road safety event in Dublin Castle on Tuesday, Mr Harris reiterated the force’s appeal for information about the murder. He said he believed some people in Kerry, or perhaps “further afield”, still had “information which would be essential to our investigation”. He appealed to them to come forward.
He added that others may also have information about the disappearance of American student Annie McCarrick from Dublin on March 26th, 1993.
Asked if a new suspect had emerged, and if that was why it had been ungraded from a missing persons inquiry to a murder investigation, Mr Harris replied that “people make all sorts of assumptions”. He insisted that the Garda had an “open mind” about the circumstances of Ms McCarrick being “inexplicably lost to us and disappeared”.
Mr Harris was speaking at the launch of BikeSafe 2023, which offers expert safety training to motorcyclists. Road Safety Authority (RSA) chair Liz O’Donnell told the event that motorcyclists account for 2 per cent of the traffic on the roads, but make up 12 per cent of road deaths.