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'I believe he was abducted': Brother of Philip Cairns says DNA could be key to finding the truth

The 13-year-old went missing 29 years ago this month. Gardaí are still actively investigating his disappearance.

File Photo Philip Cairns who has been missing nearly 29 years this month. Philips brother Eoin was on the Ryan Turbidy radio show today talking about it. Eoin Cairns, pictured here with his mother, brother of Philip.

ON 23 OCTOBER 1986, Philip Cairns disappeared without a trace in the Rathfarnham area of Dublin.

The 13-year-old had gone to school like any other day and returned home during his lunch break. However, Philip never returned to school. The last person to see him was his grandmother.

It’s been 29 years since he went missing. His brother Eoin Cairns, who was just 11 at the time, told RTÉ Radio One’s Ryan Tubridy today that he believes his brother was abducted by someone that day.

I do believe he was abducted, it could have been pure opportunism by somebody, because I don’t think that somebody had tried to gain his trust in some way or try and lure him away. I do think it was a simple case of snatching, an abduction.

Eoin said that day was like any other. They got up, got dressed and went to school.

His mother, who would usually be home by tea time, was a little late that evening having brought his sister to an appointment in the dental hospital in Dublin.

He never returned home 

Philip_Cairns Source: Wikipedia

Upon returning home, she asked where Philip was. “We said we didn’t know, we didn’t see him,” said Eoin.

“She was a little bit anxious really, thinking, well, that’s not really like Philip, usually he would check in and say where he was going,” said Eoin. He said it wasn’t like his brother to go “off on a whim”.

Philip had just started secondary school, so his father said he was probably just out making friends and that he would no doubt be back when he got hungry.

However, Eoin said his mother’s intuition got the better of her and she decided to ring around some of his friends. One of the mothers of his friends told her that Philip had not returned to school after the lunch break.

“This was completely out of character for Philip, he hadn’t missed a day of school. It was completely off the wall,” said Eoin.

That night the school and the local football field was checked, but nothing was found. It wasn’t until a week later when a school bag was found in a laneway, was any hope given to the family.

File Photo Philip Cairns who has been missing nearly 29 years this month. Philips brother Eoin was on the Ryan Turbidy radio show today talking about it. 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.

Discovery of the school bag

The bag was apparently bone-dry, despite being found in a wet laneway, which begged more questions.

Eoin says he remembers when the gardaí arrived at their door to tell them about the bag.

“They said he could be in the area and we could find him in maybe a matter of hours,” said Eoin.

Then it was really a case of waiting for more information, but nothing came of it, there was no further breakthrough. We thought this would be the key unlocking the mystery.

Eoin said it was a “crushing disappointment” for the family. 

However, at the time of Philip’s disappearance, the science behind DNA was relatively new.

At the time, the science behind DNA was only in its infancy so they would have need quite a sizeable uncontaminated sample to do a proper analysis of it. Now DNA is much better in terms of profiling, so there is a much better chance of them being able to identify different persons based on a small sample of DNA.

He said DNA evidence could be the key to unlock the mystery of who abducted Phillip.

The typical older brother 

Eoin said Philip was like a typical older brother in many ways.

We used to play football together. We’d have these ridiculously long football competitions. The crazy stupid things. We had an interest in sea fishing. My father was a member of Dublin Sea Anglers Club and Philip was very interested in it. Philip loved that… he was great fun to be around.

Last year, Philip Cairns senior passed away. The disappearance of his son was something his son, Eoin, said his father “compartmentalised”.

After Philip’s disappearance, his father had to get on with things, get back to work and raise his four daughters and son.

He had a very close bond with Philip… he rarely discussed the disappearance of Philip with me. It was difficult for him to talk about. He loved fishing, but for years he couldn’t go near a fishing rod. When he retired, he went back to it. And I think that helped him to deal with things and a sense of him remembering his relationship with him.

Eoin said he likes to think that Philip is still alive.

I’d like to think so. I like to think that he would just return to us. My mum obviously hopes that he will return to us, but really, after 29 years more than likely, the thinking is that we would just like to know where he is, where he remains really.
If he is alive, I hope he’s well. I would love if he’d contact us and let us know he’s well, I would love to see him again, of course. I know really, deep down, that the likelihood of it, the possibility is very remote.
You have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. More than likely there won’t be a happy ending.
After 29 years we just want an ending. It is still an open investigation and every couple of years, we sit down with the guards to see if there are any new developments. The guards have been fantastic.

The case is still open and gardaí are actively investigating Philp’s disappearance.

Read: Seven years on, Gavin McCarthy’s murderer has never been brought to justice>

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