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Exhumation of Baby John could give gardaí final piece of the DNA puzzle to solve 1984 mystery

A DNA sample from Baby John will be cross referenced with 2018 samples from the community.

White strand where Baby John's body was discovered.
White strand where Baby John's body was discovered.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

GARDAÍ BELIEVE THE exhumation of the remains of Baby John in Kerry could give them the final piece in the puzzle as they bid to solve the mystery of his death. 

The young boy’s body was found with multiple injuries on White Strand beach in Cahersiveen on April 14 1984.

It is the latest phase in the fresh probe following a review of the case by senior gardaí which began in 2017.

In 2018, gardaí took DNA samples from locals in the region in the hope of potentially tracing the baby’s parents. 

Sources have said that a large amount of samples were processed and once that work was complete the investigation team then sought an exhumation order under the Coroner’s Act. 

“There was a sample available from the time but that was taken in 1984 so it would be best practice to get another more recent sample. 

“That sample will now be tested and compared with the samples gathered in 2018. It is a huge investigation and a lot of work has gone into it but gardaí are hopeful of resolving this once and for all,” a source explained. 

Case review

The re-examination of the Baby John case, led by the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI) and local gardaí in west Kerry, was accompanied with an apology from senior officers for the way the force handled the original case. 

In 2018, gardaí confirmed that a formal apology was offered to Joanne Hayes for the stress and pain she was put through as a result of the original investigation. She had wrongly been accused of murdering the baby. 

Sources have said that one major driving force behind the work on the Kerry Babies case was the success of Operation Runabay.

“There’s a big move at the moment to identify unidentified remains and this has proven successful previously with other cases by using DNA.

“It brings the remains home and has given families some kind of solace that their loved ones have been found,” the source added. 

In a statement yesterday, gardaí said the baby’s remains were taken to the morgue at University Hospital Kerry in Tralee for examination as part of the ongoing investigation.

A Garda spokesperson said the exhumation “commenced at first light and was conducted on foot of a ministerial order granted in accordance with the Coroners Act 1962 as amended”.

The baby’s remains were then re-interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Cahersiveen.

view-from-the-hillside-surrounding-cahirciveen-co-kerry-ireland View from the hillside surrounding Cahirciveen, Co Kerry. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

“Investigating Gardaí continue to believe that there are members of the public who have information in relation to the death of Baby John in April 1984 and we are appealing to those people to come forward and help us,” the Garda spokesperson added.

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Joanne Hayes was accused of being the mother of the baby boy found stabbed to death on a beach in Cahersiveen 37 years ago.

A High Court judge said last year at the time the findings made in the original Tribunal of Inquiry against Ms Hayes and members of her family were unfounded and incorrect.

The court also said their questioning, arrest, charge and prosecution in 1984 were in breach of their constitutional rights.

joanna-hayes-kerry-babies-tribunals Joanne Hayes at the hearing at the Kerry Babies Tribunal. 1985. Source: Eamonn Farrell

In a 2018 statement, Joanne Hayes said she wanted to acknowledge those who supported her over the years, including the people of Abbeydorney and its surrounding parishes.

She said: “I would particularly like to thank my friends who, with their support and kindness, gave us hope and strength through the darkest moments of this ordeal. 

“It is my sincere hope and belief that, after 36 years, the suffering and stress of this ordeal is now finally behind us,” she said. 

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