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Mary Phelan, who died in 2018, holds a poster of her sister Jo Jo Dullard at a demonstration in 1997. Leon Farrell/

'A young woman disappeared without a trace': What happened to Jo Jo Dullard?

Gardaí today confirmed they have upgraded their investigation into the disappearance of Josephine ‘Jo Jo’ Dullard to a murder inquiry.

GARDAÍ HAVE UPGRADED their investigation into the disappearance of Josephine ‘Jo Jo’ Dullard 25 years ago to a murder investigation.

An Garda Síochána’s Serious Crime Review Team recently examined the case and recommended upgrading the investigation.

Jo Jo’s family have been campaigning for information since her disappearance in November 1995.

Jo Jo was born in Callan, Co Kilkenny, on 25 January 1974 and was 21 years old when she went missing.

She left her home in Callan at 8.30am on 9 November 1995 to travel by bus to Dublin.

She met some friends in Bruxelles Pub on Harry Street, just off Grafton Street, and stayed with them for the afternoon.

Jo Jo went to Busárus bus station at approximately 10pm. She missed the last bus home, so boarded a bus to Kildare instead and arrived in Naas at around 10.50pm.

Jo Jo hitched a lift from a driver in Naas who dropped her off in Kilcullen, Co Kildare, near the edge of the motorway. At about 11.15pm JoJo hitched another lift from here and was dropped off in Moone in Co Kildare at around 11.35pm.

She called her friend from a phone box in Moone and explained that she missed her bus and was going to hitch her way home. She interrupted the conversation briefly and when she returned to the call she told her friend that a car had pulled up and offered her a lift. She was never heard from again.

There were unconfirmed reports of a woman matching Jo Jo’s description being seen in Toyota Carina-type car that night.

file-photo-gardae-have-upgraded-their-investigation-into-the-disappearance-of-josephine-ojo-joo-dullard-25-years-ago-to-a-murder-investigation-the-21-year-old-missed-a-direct-bus-home-from-dublin-to A memorial to missing woman Jo Jo Dullard in Moone, Kildare.

A major search was launched in the days and weeks following her disappearance.

In an interview with RTÉ News broadcast on 14 November 1995, five days after Jo Jo’s disappearance, Garda Superintendent Vincent Duff said: “We are naturally very concerned. She is 21 years of age but she did leave home on Thursday morning and didn’t indicate to anybody that she didn’t intend on returning home that day and the expectation was that she would.”

Jo Jo’s family have campaigned continuously for information on her disappearance in the last 25 years, working with gardaí and holding protests outside Leinster House and elsewhere.

Jo Jo’s sister Mary Phelan and brother Tom Dullard died in 2018 and 2001 respectively, never knowing what happened to her.

‘Disappeared without a trace’

In a fresh appeal in November 2019, their sister Kathleen Bergin issued the following statement:

“Twenty-four years have passed and there is still no sign of Jo Jo. There were no mobile phones or tablets in 1995, there were no texts or apps to contact a friend or a family member, to tell them, ‘I’ll be home soon’ or ‘I love you’, no way to trace where a person is.

“Twenty-four years ago a young woman disappeared without a trace, a young woman who was starting out on a new adventure in life, a life that was stripped away. Can you see her?

“A beautiful young lady, dark shoulder-length hair, a beautiful smile and looking forward to her future. Can you picture her? Can you see her? Can you imagine if that was your daughter, your sister, your niece or your best friend? Can you see her now?

“Can you imagine not being able to reach out and touch that person’s hand anymore, not being able to give that person a hug anymore, not being able to tell them you love them anymore?

“When someone goes missing, it has a devastating effect on the family, her friends and the community. Our brother Tom and sister Mary have passed away not knowing what happened to Jo.

“She poured her heart and her soul into trying to find her, even up to the last moments of her life. It’s time for Jo Jo to come back home to her family and be laid to rest with her Mam and Dad.”

Kathleen and her family were driving forces behind Operation Trace, set up by former Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne in 1998 to investigate the cases of six young women who disappeared from the Leinster area over a five-year period: Jo Jo Dollard, Fiona Sinnott, Deirdre Jacob, Ciara Breen, Fiona Pender and Annie McCarrick.

Gardaí held a press conference in Kildare today, confirming that the investigation has been upgraded to a murder inquiry. 

“Today marks another traumatic day for Jo Jo’s family as her case is publicly confirmed to be now an active murder investigation. An Garda Síochána is resolute in our determination to provide answers for Jo Jo’s family and bring her murderer to justice,” a spokesperson said. 

Anyone with any information, “no matter how small or insignificant they might believe it to be”, have been asked to contact Kildare Garda Station on 045 527 730 or any garda station. Anyone who wishes to provide information confidentially should contact the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111.

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