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Never found: Schoolboy Philip Cairns went missing 30 years ago today

A social media campaign has being growing in momentum about Cairns’ disappearance.

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PHILIP CAIRNS WAS on his way back to school one afternoon 30 years ago when he disappeared without a trace.

On 23 October, 1986, Philip came home for lunch from Coláiste Éanna school in Rathfarnham at 12.45pm.

The 13-year-old schoolboy left his home on the Ballyroan Road at about 1.30pm to go back to the school. He was never seen again.

A search was launched for Philip once it was discovered that he was missing. One week after his disappearance his schoolbag was found in a laneway close to his house.

It had been raining over the week and the schoolbag was dry and placed in a very visible spot, leading gardaí to believe to it had been planted.

download (3) The laneway from Anne Devlin Road to Anne Devlin Drive where Philip's bag was found.

Philip has never been found and the investigation into his disappearance has been ongoing for the past 30 years.

Throughout the years there have been many new leads and reported sightings that the gardaí have followed up on, but never to any avail.

Detective Sergeant Tom Doyle who has been in charge of the case for the past 20 years spoke to TheJournal.ie last year in relation to the investigation.

“We don’t know what happened, it’s a total mystery but I’m satisfied people still have information,” he said at the time.

New developments 

The case has surfaced and resurfaced in the media throughout the years since Philip went missing.

In 2002, the Sunday Independent published an article which claimed that Philip was being abused by somebody outside his family and was murdered after he confided in another man about the abuse.

The article claimed that this man was also abusing children and alerted Philip’s abuser, who took against Philip.

It stated that Philip was buried in a pond that is now built over with a tennis court and nursing homes.

In 2009, the entrance to a wooded area on Whitechurch Road in Rathfarnham was sealed off and searched when gardaí received a new lead. However, nothing was discovered.

download (43) Gardaí searching in 2009 Source: James Horan via RollingNews.ie

In June of this year the case was brought into the spotlight again as fresh information around Philip’s disappearance emerged.

RTÉ reported that gardaí had linked the disappearance of Cairns to the convicted paedophile Eamon Cooke – who operated a pirate radio station in Dublin at the time.

Superintendent Peter Duff would not confirm that Cooke was being actively investigated by gardaí, but said that there were multiple lines of inquiry open.

At a later press conference, gardaí said that shortly after an appeal for information on the case in 2011, a woman had come forward.

However, it had taken until May of this year for the woman to give information to the gardaí in relation to the investigation.

Gardaí would not confirm, but it was reported that the woman – who was a child at the time of his disappearance – had come forward with new information linking Cooke with Cairns.

download (44) File photo of Eamon Cooke at the Clondalkin headquarters of his pirate radio station.

RTÉ reported at the time that gardaí believed that a number of children may have been coerced into placing Philip’s bag in the laneway after his disappearance.

Cooke was questioned by gardaí at a hospice before his death about the incident. He was thought to have confirmed aspects of the woman’s statement, but refused to say where Cairns was buried.

The bag was tested for DNA, but it was announced in August that no forensic evidence was found that could link Philip to Cooke. However, it is believed that he is still a suspect in the case.

Gardaí issued a fresh appeal this weekend for anyone with information on Philip’s whereabouts to come forward.

“From our recent enquiries I believe there are people who were young at the time and may have information in relation to Philip’s school bag and for whatever reason did not come forward,” Superintendent Duff said.

I am conscious that following to the passage of time and changing circumstances that these people may now be in a position to assist us. I want to reassure anyone who comes forward that they will be treated sensitively and discreetly by investigating Gardaí.

Social media campaign 

Since the case of Philip going missing returned to the media spotlight early this summer, a social media campaign around his disappearance has been gaining increasing momentum.

The campaign and those supporting it believes that a narrative around Philip’s disappearance has been suppressed by powerful people.

The campaign, spearheaded by 4fm radio presenter Gareth O’Callaghan, alleges that a paedophile ring that was active in south Dublin at the time of Philip’s disappearance was involved with his disappearance.

O’Callaghan – who is a distant cousin of Cairns – alleges that a cover up into his disappearance took place, due to the high profile nature of some people he says were involved.

30 years after he went missing, many unanswered questions and mystery remains around the disappearance of Philip Cairns.

His family has had a tough life in the years since Philip went missing. Two years ago, Philip Cairns senior passed away without ever finding out what happened to his son.

download (42) File photo of the parents of Philip Cairns in 2004 when a computer generated image of what their son would look like was released to the public.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie last year, his brother Eoin said the family may never find out what happened to him.

“It’s always going to leave a mark, a shadow that he is not there to share the big celebrations – weddings, graduations, christenings – but you do have to try to build and get on with your life,” he said.

We’d dearly love Philip to come home but in some ways you have to get on with the business of living, I’ve been very thankful for the life I had.

Anyone with information can contact gardaí on the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666111 or any Garda station.

With reporting from Cliodhna Russell

Read: 29 years on: The unsolved mystery of 13-year-old Philip Cairns

Read: No forensic link found between Philip Cairns and Eamon Cooke

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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