We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

social media campaign

'Callous and hurtful': Sister of missing Philip Cairns on online claims

Sandra Cairns spoke of the pain her family has endured after false claims about Philip were made online.

philip cairns1 Garda Press Office Garda Press Office

THE SISTER OF missing schoolboy Philip Cairns has described conspiracy theorists discussing his disappearance on social media as “deeply disrespectful and disturbing”.

Sandra Cairns spoke yesterday at National Missing Person’s Day at Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park.

Describing her brother, who disappeared in 1986, as “a kind and thoughtful child who got on with everyone”, Sandra said she was horrified to discover what was being said online about his case and what might have happened to him.

She spoke of her fears that with so much inaccurate reporting on social media, those who may have the information to solve the case could now be apprehensive about coming forward.

She said: “There has been a campaign on social media which has been shocking and deeply distressing for our family. Individuals who don’t know Philip have tried to establish themselves as an authority on every aspect of his life. They have attempted to link Philip to individuals and groups who have no connection to us.

He has been inaccurately described as a troubled, distressed and vulnerable loner. A disturbing narrative has been created which casts a sinister shadow over everything he loved and enjoyed.

Sandra said that some people online had given a “callous portrayal” of her brother, one that bears no resemblance to the boy she knew. She added that the online campaign “maligns Philip and his family”.

File Photo As part of the on-going investigation into the case of missing person Philip Cairns in 1986, a 30 Philip's parents Alice and Philip Snr look at a computer generated image of what their missing son might look like

On 23 October 1986, Philip went to the nearby Coláiste Éanna Secondary School in Rathfarnham in Dublin like any other day.

At 12.45pm he returned to his home on the nearby Ballyroan Road for his lunch. He left the house at 1.30pm and was never seen again.

Almost a week after Philip went missing, his schoolbag was found in a laneway that links Anne Devlin Road and Anne Devlin Drive.


Philip’s geography book and two religion books were missing from the bag.

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.

7/6/2009 Philip Cairns Missing People Searches Site of 2009 search by gardaí following tip-off.

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.

Cooke died earlier this year.

Over 400 sightings of Philip were reported after he went missing and all of them were followed up.

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.

Sandra concluded at the event that the family fears they may never find out what happened to Philip, but that anyone with information, no matter how small, should come forward.

She added: “My fear is that someone who has potentially valuable information might be dissuaded from disclosing it to gardai, which could then be lost forever.”

Anyone with information can call the garda confidential line on 1800 666 111.

Read: All children to have access to music lessons under ambitious new Irish culture plan >

Read: ‘He called my son a monkey and black b****rd’: Rise in reports of racist incidents >

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.